McSpa - As a $50 billion+ global moneymaker, spa is already big business, but it's never been an industry that's lent itself to mass marketing ... until now. In 2006 many large spa companies will continue their evolution from physical places to precisely defined corporate brands - e.g., Bliss Spas = "hip," Six Senses = "barefoot luxury," Golden Door = "prestige" - to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Also watch for the rise of the retail spa as product companies like La Prairie, Sothys, Jurlique, Avon, etc. introduce spa settings to market their wares. Traditional luxury brands like Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, meanwhile, will continue to grow the spa components of their businesses, while new models like Best Buy's "eq-life" will integrate spas into big box mega-stores.
"Spa I.Q." on the Rise" - With another year of spa experience under their belts and easy access to spa information (courtesy of Spa Finder and other popular spa media sources), spa-smart consumers will become even savvier in 2006. More people will go to the spa with a clear idea of what they want to experience, and many will even request off-menu treatments of their own design. (In fact, some will know more than many industry pros when it comes to product ingredients, cutting-edge spa treatments, and the latest medical spa modalities.) While these 'high-I.Q.' spa-goers may initially put some spas on their heels, they will ultimately compel the industry forward in terms of quality, service and innovation.
Spa consumers will also demand more information than what many spas - which have thrived on an aura of mystique - are used to providing. What's in the lotion? What's in the water? What are the credentials of the spa and its medical professionals? Spas should be prepared with answers, and smart marketers will use up-front information to build trust and loyalty. As more spa-goers gain experience, they'll begin to see beyond the glamour of ambience, develop an appreciation for high-quality services, and reward skilled therapists.
"Home Sweet Spa" - The home spa phenomenon has not crested and will continue to gain momentum in the year ahead as more empty nesters re-cast those unused bedrooms as spa-inspired spaces for fitness, meditation and massage while transforming traditional bathrooms into spa bathrooms. Watch for the spa lifestyle to enter every room of the house with indoor/outdoor workout areas; oxygenated, Feng Shui'd gyms; and meditation spaces.
This blurring of living/spa environments will also play out in hotels, which will bring more spa elements (massage tables, Jacuzzis) into their rooms, and more room elements (TVs, fireplaces) into their spas. The ultimate example of the integration of home and spa, the spa lifestyle community (think Canyon Ranch Living and Ritz Carlton fractionals) will continue to attract retirement-aged baby boomers focused on healthy living. And spa facilities will continue to replace golf courses as the must-have luxury real estate amenity.
Water, Water Everywhere (Again- The word "spa" is an acronym for the Latin phrase "Sanus Per Aquam" --"health through water"), reflecting spas' origins as centers for bathing and water treatments. In 2006 spas will return to their source by rediscovering traditional water therapies and re-imagining them in new ways, such as color hydrotherapy baths, vapor caves, liquidsound, watsu, deluge showers, and spa water parks. Also look for a revival of traditional natural thermae, thalassotherapy, Japanese onsen, Russian banyas and old-world bathhouses.
In keeping with this return to tradition, the Bath Spa Project in England is slated to reopen; many natural springs in former Eastern Bloc countries are being privatized and refurbished; and initiatives are underway to resurrect the famed wellness resorts at Saratoga, NY and Desert Hot Springs, CA.
Medical and Sanctuary Tourism - New Reasons to Travel - Spas worldwide will continue to sharpen their focus on wellness and renewal, providing stressed-out travelers with a chance to go on spa getaways and soak in local wellness and relaxation traditions. More Americans, in turn, will travel out of the country for alternative (or lower priced) medical and aesthetic treatments. In general, spa-goers will opt for more mind/body/spirit experiences, including labyrinth walks, energy work, chakra balancing, acutonics, meditation - and good old fashioned rest and sleep, aided by plush bedding and blackout shades. In keeping with this trend toward tranquility, knitting will continue its ascendance as the "new yoga." More couples, meanwhile, will opt for "spa honeymoons" and romantic vacations, foregoing the traditional travel whirlwind in favor of a bonding sanctuary-style spa experience.
The Yin of Luxury and Yang of Discount - The spa industry will continue to expand at both ends of the market, with luxury vacations and experiences becoming even more opulent and expensive, and a new breed of discount spas and spa chains offering high-quality beauty and body work at extremely low prices. While luxury resort and hotel spas roll out $1,000/night suites, private yachts and 6-hand massages, corner massage parlors and discount chains will offer an hour of quality massage for as low as $39 - without an appointment. And it's not an either/or situation. As spa-going becomes a more integral part of peoples' personal regimens, the trend will be to complement special luxury travel experiences with regular discount spa visits.
Macho, Macho Spa - Men, who now comprise over 30% of all U.S. spa-goers (and an even higher percentage in many other countries), are no longer content to be pandered to in feminized spa environments with concessions like "sports massages" and "men's facials." Instead, they want a spa where a man can be a man. In 2006 that wish will finally come true, as more men-only spas and grooming products are introduced and more co-ed spas cater aggressively to men with old-school amenities like traditional barber services, boxing robes, bars, sports viewing, cigar rooms, pool tables and hardcore gyms. For more stout-of-heart men, destination spas will offer testosterone-charging adventure experiences and extreme boot camps.
The Pendulum Swings Back to a Pure Spa Experience - Recently, many genre-defining destination spas like Miraval, Red Mountain and Cal-a-Vie, have sought to broaden their markets by loosening up their diet, alcohol and minimum-age and length-of-stay restrictions, in effect offering a more resort-like spa environment. By year's end, however, look for the pendulum to begin swinging back toward a more traditional spa experience where temptations are limited. On the other end of the stay spa spectrum, resort/hotel spa properties will continue to move beyond beauty and pampering to offer more rigorous programs with an emphasis on fitness, health, diet and wellness.
"Ohmmm" Online - With health-focused chat rooms, information-rich websites and e-newsletters, spas will transcend their physical walls to form virtual communities focused on healthy spa living. More and more spa websites will complement traditional property/marketing information with real age medical tools, nutrition advice, spa recipes, etc. while also hosting spa lounges and blogs that enable former and future guests to share experiences and insight (while helping spas maintain a valuable connection with their guests).
Fun on the Spa Menu- Somewhere along the line spas took on an almost monastic ambience. In the year ahead, however, you'll be more likely to hear human voices - and even the occasional peal of laughter - intermingling with that tranquil spa music. That's because more and more visitors to day and stay spas will arrive as a group and more of those who show up solo will be looking to meet new friends or that special someone. Look for more spas - for better or worse - to become social scenes, with some going so far as to offer group-friendly activities/programs like Tango-Zen lessons, Texas Hold'em, group mud experiences, party packages and day spa singles' nights.
About Spa Finder, Inc.:
As the world's largest spa marketing and media company, Spa Finder reaches millions of health conscious consumers via its award-winning website, Spafinder.com. The company publishes Luxury SpaFinder Magazine, the trusted authority on luxury spas and associated lifestyles; The Spa Enthusiast®, a leading publication for active spa-goers; as well as its annual Spa Finder Worldwide Directory, the ultimate spa-goers' resource. Spa Finder also operates the world's largest spa gift certificate and incentive programs as well as the Spa Distribution Network, the Internet's first online spa booking program. www.spafinder.com