Long gone are the days of when kids and teens were seen and not heard. In today’s society, youth have more influence and presence than generations past. They’re dictating the clothes they wear, the food they eat, what they want, and how they want it. These choices include discretionary purchases at the mall, at the movies, on vacation, and in the spa. In recent years, an increasing number of kid- and teen-focused services have made their way into the industry. In fact, 29 percent of spas already offer treatments specifically targeted to teenagers, and 12 percent to kids age 12 and under, according to a recent study conducted by the International Spa Association (ISPA). These figures are only set to grow.
Why the burgeoning trend, and is it a viable business option or just a fleeting phenomenon set to pass? “One reason spas are targeting youngsters is so that mom or dad can still come to the spa,” says Lynne McNees, president of ISPA. “Otherwise, they may not make spa appointments for them- selves.” And in the opinion of Laura Tedino, spa manager of the Palace Spa at Gstaad Palace (Switzerland), parents can “share a healthy and relaxing experience and don’t have to look for a babysitter,” while spas double their numbers on a clientele that might not necessarily have walked through the door. Commonly catering to hard-to-maintain attention spans, these treatments are often short and fun-themed. The Spa at Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, A Four Seasons Hotel (CA), for example, rolls out a novelty-, Hollywood-,or current events-inspired menu each year: the Prin- cess ($50, 15 minutes) packages a facial cleanse, makeup application (glistening powders and candy-flavored lip gloss), and a tiara. Meanwhile, the Superhero ($50, 15 minutes) involves a neck, shoulder, and hand massage using a green-colored aromatherapy spray, and the guest leaves the salon (a colorful, eye-catching cabana by the pool) with a temporary airbrushed cartoon-character tattoo.
Another aim of existing kid and teen treatments: building quality family time. Spa director Carol Cox of the Windflower – the Hill Country Spa at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa (San Antonio, TX) makes the observation that families take vacations to be together but all too often spend much of that time apart. Her initiative—the “Spa Family Day”—remedies that problem. For one day a week, the resort turns down sauna, steam room, and whirlpool temperatures to lower, child-friendly levels and offers joint mother-daughter treatments, as well as a Teen Facial Bar ($50, 50 minutes) with individual cleansing stations manned by estheticians who educate teens on healthy skincare with iPads. The event is scheduled during the least busy day of the week, stimulating income opportunities during slow business periods.
Family time is also key at The Spa at Pelican Hill (Newport Beach, CA), which offers the Pampered Moms’ Afternoon Escape during the winter season. Available Sunday through Thursday, groups of five or more moms and their children are invited to receive 10 percent off spa services and Camp Pelican activities. As part of the kids’ program at Camp Pelican, Mindful Octopus is committed to inspiring peace, love, and happiness through a popular yoga program, as well as storytelling and art classes.
In this day and age, youth face an overwhelming number of challenges and issues, including academics, peer and parental pressure, relationship problems, self-image complexes, eating disorders, and hormonal changes. More and more, children, like adults, experience stress and worry (45 percent of teens and 26 percent of tweens, according to the American Psychological Association) to the detriment of their physical and emotional wellbeing. These occurrences have widened the niche for spas to step in to counter the negative effects, and to foster health and wellness among those under 18.
When Maggy Dunphy, spa director at The Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge (VT) conceptualized the Chillax ritual ($25,30 minutes), it’s exactly this idea that she had in mind. Noting that children needed just as much rest and relaxation as adults, she designed a dedicated, stress-reducing treatment that appealed to the senses: touch, smell, sound, and sight. Beginning with a head and hand massage, breathing and visualization exercises then ensue. A foot mas- sage, a warm paraffin wrap, and a coconut oil- and Hershey chocolate-mask conclude the session, after which guests are invited into the Chillax Lounge, a soothing cream-color sanctuary with bamboo massage chairs and Reiki music.
Targeting the Teen Market
While conducting market research for a future teen spa—the winning project at the Global Spa & Wellness Summit’s Student Challenge—the University of Denver team discovered an under- tapped market. With roughly $2,000 to $4,000 in discretionary income each year, teens were found to spend heavily on social experiences and appearance, according to the students’ advisor, professor Cheri Young. The students designed their spa for teen girls accordingly, guided by the motto “empowerment through self-care.” A central lounge, equipped with tablets, would be where girls could socialize and connect; a fitness studio would hold hip-hop, punk aerobics, and other group exercise classes; and enrichment programs—from lectures by CEOs to tips on how to dress for your body type—would be available online to maintain a forum with clients after they left the spa. Mean- while, the length of the treatments would be kept short, and price points accessible; revenue would be made in volume through the accumulation of small purchases—drinks, snacks, and other items, as well as spa services. Perhaps most important, adds Young, was creating and nurturing a parents-free environment where young people could feel com- fortable with themselves—inside and out—enough to build resilience to weather the storms of being a teenager. “Another reason why spas are catering to youth is that they believe in the health benefits of their treatments,” says McNees. “They want to educate people, and if they start when clients are young, the good health habits carry over into adulthood.”