Spa Trends from the GSS 2011

by Catharine Nicol

The Global Spa Summit 2011, recently held in Bali, brought over 200 key industry professionals from some 35 countries together to listen, share and learn. Instigated five years ago, primarily by Susie and Pete Ellis of SpaFinder, this was the first gathering to be held in Asia, with a delegation from China one of the highlights. A number of different comments and trends were discussed - some predictable, some coming from left field.

In a nutshell it’s much about technology and backing up spa treatments with real scientific proof, it’s about targeting relatively new demographics like spa skeptics, families and kids, and it’s about recognizing the current power of day spas and the future power of China.

Here are 10 spa trends to watch out for in 2011:

Social Media -  Social media will continue to play a huge part in the growth of the spa industry. For information, discounts and last minute availability, spas are using Facebook, Twitter, RenRen, Groupon and more, delivering exactly what consumers want into their hand held gadgets.

Medical Tourism goes Spa– Medical tourism, particularly in Asia, is growing at an unprecedented rate. “Asia takes the lead in the cash-based hospital model,” says Ruben Toral of  Medeguide, an online guide to finding doctors by speciality. This model is also seeing hospitals adopt elements of spa with the growth of lifestyle centres (like Vitallife at Bumrungrad Hospital, and TRIA at Piyavate Hospital, both in Bangkok); complementing conventional medicine with alternative wellness modalities and encouraging their patients to look to their holistic health. 

High Tech– As hospitals move closer to spas, spas are also moving closer to hospitals by using high-tech gadgets, like biofeedback machines, for example, to pre-diagnose a potential medical issue years before it becomes a reality. Consumers will see more technology in spas in the future, not replacing high-touch, but transforming the spa experience into a cutting-edge advance warning system, convincing consumers to improve their lifestyles with real scientific back up.

Smart APPS– Kate Ancketill of GDR Creative Intelligence UK bombarded delegates with information on tools that bring spa information and advice into the home: for instance, the Sleep Cycle app that wakes you as you’re coming out of REM, the iHeart pulse reader app, and a smart phone health diagnosis which might, in the near future, have consumers peeing onto a computer chip and plugging it into their phone for an instant diagnosis.

Day spas take over- While hotel and resort spas often hog the limelight with their luxurious design and large marketing budgets, it is the day spa sector that is forging ahead through franchises when it comes to client numbers and revenue. Case in point Massage Envy, which has sold 904 franchises in the US. Nicolas Ronco’s YeloSpa has given day spas a modern day makeover, and Sense of Touch’s Neil Orvay is taking his successful company into China, where companies like Spa Moments rule.

Here are another five spa trends to watch for…

Anne Dimon