Spa Finder, Inc., the global spa resource, has just released the results of its first annual "State of Spa Travel" survey* of travel professionals, providing a unique perspective on the impact that spas are having on today's travel industry and emerging spa travel trends. Here's a quick look at some of the survey's key findings:
65% of travel agents say that spa bookings were up in '06
Travel agents report that 2006 was a strong year for spa travel and
bookings. In fact, 65% of the travel professionals polled report that spa
travel (i.e., "client bookings for travel/vacations/packages with a strong spa component") increased either significantly or somewhat versus 2005, while only 4% reported that spa travel decreased during the year. The remaining 31% indicated that spa travel among their clientele remained roughly stable year over year.
Travel agents themselves appear to be a major force behind this increase in spa travel, with 90% reporting that they regularly recommended spa vacations and packages to their clients — and 19% of that group indicating that they did so "all of the time."
Spa access is travelers' #1 consideration when making travel plans
Selecting from a list of popular vacation destination activities and
offerings, travel agents named "spa facilities/access to a spa" as their
clients' most important consideration when making their vacation plans in 2006 ahead of proximity to a beach, sightseeing, shopping, nature-based activities (e.g., hiking, etc.), golf facilities and skiing.
Facilities and amenities are more important than location or price
Fifty-three percent of travel agents reported that a spa's facilities and
offerings (accommodations, spa offerings, cuisine, activities, etc.) were
the most critical considerations for their spa vacation clients last year.
Twenty-four percent indicated that spa location was the most important factor (i.e., desirable region, proximity to sightseeing, shopping or cultural attractions). Only 23% named price as their spa travel clients' top-line concern.
Traditional pampering is still the most important component of the spa
The travel agents who participated in the survey were presented with the basic components of the spa experience pampering, health/wellness, spirituality and outdoor activities and asked how important each was to their booking clients. According to travel agents, traditional pampering was still far and away the biggest draw in '06, with 84% describing it as "very important" for their spa vacation clients and an additional 14% saying it was "somewhat important." The next most important elements, according to travel agents, were health and wellness programs (48% "very important," 42% "somewhat important"); spiritual activities such as yoga and meditation (20% "very important," 54% "somewhat important"); and nature activities like hiking and water sports (15% "very important," 54% "somewhat important").
THE CHANGING FACE OF SPA
Baby Boomers making room for Gen-Xers at spasSpa Finder and other industry analysts have long known that health- and age-conscious Baby Boomers have been critical in fueling the current spa industry boom. So it should come as no surprise that 52% of the travel agents surveyed say that, among all of their clients, those aged 46-60 were the most interested in spa travel in 2006. More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that nearly as many travel agents (42%) report that their clients aged 30-45 were the most interested in spa travel.
Is the spa gender gap closing?
Although Spa Finder research shows that, across the spa industry, men
represent nearly 30% of all spa clientele, the survey suggests that there may more of a gender lag for spa travel booking specifically. Fifty-two percent of the agents surveyed say that less than 10% of their 2006 spa travel clients were men, 25% say that between 10%-19% were men, and 14% say that 20%-29% were men. In other words, only 23% of agents report that over 20% of their spa traveling clients are men.
Family spa travel on the rise
Spas have historically been a couples vacation destination, but according to the survey, they're also becoming a more popular choice for families. While 68% of travel agents report that family spa booking remained basically flat in 2006, 21% say that family spa travel increased, either "significantly" or "somewhat."
I wish they all could be California spas
Given the global diversity of the spa industry, it's not surprising that
travel agents report a wide range of popular destination regions for spa
travelers in 2006. According to the survey, however, the West Coast was the most booked spa travel destination, followed by the Southwest, Mexico, the Southeast, the Northeast, and Europe.
The price is right ... at $250-299 a night
The largest bloc of travel agents (29%) report that the most frequently
booked per-night price for spa travel destinations fell in the $250-$299
range. Twenty-five percent estimate that most of their spa travel bookings fell into the $200-$249 range, while 17% said most of their spa clients spent $300-$349 a night. Only 11% report that most of their spa clients paid $400 a night or more. (NOTE: Destination spas often offer all-inclusive per-night pricing, including meals, lodging, activities, etc.)
A LOOK AHEAD AT 2007: FORECASTS AND TRENDS
- 84% of travel agents predict increased spa travel bookings in 2007
- Coming off a strong year for spa travel, agents are bullish on 2007, with 84% anticipating increased spa travel bookings in the year ahead.
- 24% predict "significant" growth in spa bookings, less than 1% expect a decline.
Top trends to watch in '07 include special occasions at spas and social spa travel
When asked to rank which emerging spa trend they expect to have the
biggest impact on booking in 2007, there was an exact tie between people choosing spa destinations for special occasions (like honeymoons, weddings, anniversaries, etc.) and the 'social travel' trend (social groups/friends traveling to spas together). An increased interest in wellness and health programs at spas ranked third, followed by people traveling 'solo' to spas, an increased interest in spa travel to
global/international locations, more men participating in spa travel, and
increased family travel to spa locations.
*Spa Finder's '2007 State of Spa Travel' survey was conducted with 335 travel agents in January 2007.