Top 10 Spa Trends for the Past DECADE

While SpaFinder has been predicting spa trends yearly for most of the last decade, this is the first time I've had the opportunity to sum up the top 10 spa trends that developed over the past 10 years.

And what a decade it was! From organic to indigenous, social spa-ing to the online spa scene, 'spa' was transformed as the industry met global challenges with innovations that will positively impact us all for years to come.

Our list of the decade's 'Top 10' includes trends that we forecast over the years that proved to be the most enduring. However, I also challenged our team to take a look at some trends we may not have selected for our yearly top 10 list — those that weren't evident, yet in retrospect were a real game-changer. Indeed, we found one 'biggee.'

Here then is what we judge as the top 10 spa trends of the past decade:

1. Indigenous Treatments
While one would see the use of local ingredients and local customs on occasion at spas decades ago, during the past decade this became an almost unspoken rule. Not only do local ingredients and customs provide a healthy native flavor, they are a special experience that could not be easily replicated. From a lomi lomi massage in Hawaii to the Royal Javanese Lular wedding ritual from Indonesia, indigenous treatments gave spas a sense of place that made each spa-going experience around the world truly unique.

2. Medicine and Spa
In the early 90's there was very little overlap between medicine and spas. That has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. With more doctors 'discovering' that spas add to health and reduce stress through their own experience (perhaps a massage after a round of golf at a medical retreat) the spa world and the medical world began talking. Then when Botox arrived in 2002, a new type of aesthetic/medical spa was born and the spa and medicine connection was solidified. Spas also got their act together, becoming more transparent and down-playing the 'woo woo' factor.

3. Organic
This was the big story in spa products for the decade. The popularity of organic and 'green' helped several obscure organic lines make it big, and nearly all spa product companies launched their own branded organic lines. The organic trend also helped open the door for a new eco-friendly, environmentally conscious zeitgeist in the spa arena that while not yet garnering universal praise, at least has gotten things going in the right direction.

4. Men
While the decade saw a range of new demographics enter the spa arena, from teens to pre teens to babies and seniors, it was the steady stream of men who began making spa going part of their lives that has had the greatest impact. While it took some doing to get men to try a spa for the first time, almost universally their first time resulted in a second and third, etc. Men found that there was more to this spa-going thing than just idle pampering — it was, in fact, the quickest way for them to reduce stress (something that there was plenty of in this decade) , help improve their sports performance and a healthy way to move from feeling poorly to feeling great.

5. Wellness
The word wellness was hardly used in the 90's and did not really appear on the scene until after the millennium. Starting in Europe as a term that combined fitness and well being, it gained momentum because for Europeans the word 'spa' had a different connotation (water treatments for sick older people) and the newer spas (ushered in by the swanky Brenner's Park Hotel and Spa in Baden Baden) were associated with expense and pretension. Thus the word wellness was a good word to describe places that offered fitness, massage, medical testing, and healthy nutrition — the very things that spas are known for.

6. Yin of Luxury, Yang of Discount
While the decade may have ended with more emphasis on the yang of discount, the decade definitely spent quite a bit of time in the yin of luxury. The reality is that with over 80,000 spas in the world now, there is plenty of yin and plenty of yang to go around. One can find bargain priced massages and other spa treatments in most countries alongside sky-high-priced options with bejeweled massage oils and exotic over-the-top settings to suit any taste and budget.

7. Spa Comes Home
The influence of spa on the home started at the beginning of the decade as a simple purchase of a candle to use in the bath and perhaps the addition of a loofa sponge. It has blossomed into an entire industry of spa-type products, services, and furniture experienced at home. Taking the trend even further was the birth of 'spa real estate' —luxury high-rises and communities with spectacular spas where one could purchase a residence and truly live the spa lifestyle. Spa-ing burst out of the confines of the walls of an establishment labeled 'spa', and the new term 'spa lifestyle' described a way of living for those looking for a healthy life.

8. Online Spa
I remember lamenting to my husband at the turn of the millennium that I wished there were more spas that had a website. His answer? Just wait, they will all have one soon. Well of course he was right. Today every spa — and even therapists and practitioners — has its own website and consumers can book spa appointments online, buy spa products, review spas and fully engage in spa-related social networking. And with technology solutions for wellness coaching and medical diagnosis, the entire spa experience is becoming available through the Internet. Only the therapists' hands haven't been brought online — yet.

9. Social Spa-ing
While spas put emphasis on the pillars of exercise, nutrition, body and beauty treatments, the social aspect of spa going was not often discussed until recently. Now we know that social spa-ing — just like spa programs for sleep health and brain health — is a recognized contributor to health. From the isolation of a massage therapy room and a whisper-friendly relaxation lounge, has come the idea that mingling and socializing is a healthy thing to do.

10. Gift Certificates, Vouchers, Cards
And finally we come to a trend that was so gradual that we hardly noticed its importance and never even mentioned it in a top trend list. And yet it has probably had more to do with the explosion of spas and the number of spa-goers around the world than almost any of the other trends — or even all of them combined! That is the immergence and popularity of the spa gift certificates, cards and vouchers that introduced so many new people to the spa experience. (In fact, research has shown that approximately 33% of all spa visits are a result of certificates and vouchers.) The spa gift not only gave people permission to pamper themselves, it also ushered in a universal attitude that gifting 'spa' was an expression of true thoughtfulness and care. To put it in perspective: while SpaFinder is the largest retailer of spa gift certifcates, cards and vouchers in the world, we didn't make our first certifcate sale until 1999. Today over 9,000 spas worldwide are part of one of our company's gifting programs and our cards/vouchers are available in virtually every major drug and grocery chain.

It's been quite a decade.
Susie Ellis, SpaFinder Insider