On the other side of the world, spas are taking root and evolving. Incorporating a host of global influences, the burgeoning Australian spa industry is coming into its own. Although much of the focus up until this point has been on providing a pampering experience, the industry is now moving in the direction of wellness, as evidenced by the growing number of health retreats. However, the idea of the urban oasis is also flourishing in two of Australia's biggest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, which have several high-end hotel spas that recognize the appeal of a luxurious and indulgent experience. With a growing emphasis on the use of indigenous products and treatments, Australia's spa industry is poised to capture the attention of spa-goers everywhere and emerge as a prime spa destination. From pampering to holistic treatments, Australia's spas offer a broad range of experiences that cater to a variety of tastes. Here's a look at a few and the array of approaches they are taking.
The Park Club pool area features a domed ceiling, colonnaded sandstone interior, and Grecian mural
Park Club Health & Day SpaLocated in Melbourne's historic district, opposite the popular St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Park Hyatt Melbourne hotel attracts a number of Australian corporate travelers and international leisure guests from the U.S. and Southeast Asia. In 1999, the Park Club Health & Day Spa opened. With 20 staff members, the spa treats between 20 and 30 guests each day. According to spa manager Roxanne Wild, Melbourne residents make up 60 percent of the spa's clientele and hotel guests account for the rest. "Melbourne residents are attracted to the facility because it is exclusive and offers a sanctuary in the city," says Wild. "They are drawn particularly by the range and quality of the beauty treatments. Hotel guests are predominantly corporate clients who use the gym and pool and tend toward massage for relaxation and stress relief."
The Park Club pool area features a domed ceiling, colonnaded sandstone interior, and Grecian mural.
The spa uses Aveda and La Prairie. "These particular products were chosen because they represent different price points and thus appeal to different markets," says Wild. According to her, the Australian spa industry is still maturing. "[It] markets to those wanting pampering experiences, unlike the European market, which concentrates on wellness and associated health benefits. The Australian spa industry has more in common with the Asian market." Looking ahead, Wild expects the industry to place more emphasis on the health-related benefits of spa treatments and to introduce lifestyle consultations.
Clients can indulge in a rainfall shower at Aurora Spa Retreat.
Aurora Spa RetreatFor those looking for a holistic antidote to everyday life, Aurora Spa Retreat in the Melbourne suburb of St. Kilda is ideal. Founded by Lyndall Mitchell in 1997, the spa has grown into one of the largest in Australia and, with a focus on helping clients achieve a healthier lifestyle, serves as a prime example of the direction many of the country's spas are headed. "I knew I wanted to establish a spa retreat in an urban environment, somewhere people could come to recharge and focus once again on the principles of health and well-being," says Mitchell, who grew up on an organic banana plantation near Camp Eden, a popular Queensland health retreat. While working in radio on Australia's Gold Coast, Mitchell began to realize that the life she was living wasn't providing the well-being she desired. As a result, she returned home and began moving through the ranks at Eden, which ultimately gave her insight into creating her own spa.
The spa's relaxation area relies on a natural color palette.
Today, Aurora Spa Retreat, with its holistic approach, fills a specific niche. According to general manager Jason Cook, the spa's menu features ancient healing modalities that work to bring the body back into balance. Divided into four categories—balance, bliss, vitality, and detox—the menu embraces the four seasons with a range of treatments that recognize seasonal shifts. "By bringing the body into equilibrium with the elements and seasons, we are able to create a balance within and ensure clients get the highest therapeutic value out of the treatments they choose," says Cook. To that end, the spa uses its own Aurora Spa Retreat products, an Australian-based botanical line; Li'Tya, an indigenous plant-based line; and Phytomer, a marine-based line from France.
The Park Hyatt's spa terrace is an ideal place to relax in a busy city.
With clients ranging in age from twenty-one to seventy, Aurora caters primarily to locals. Its clientele is closely divided, with women making up a 60 percent majority. The spa's most popular treatment is its Kitya Karnu Signature Treatment ($119, 60 minutes). Taking place in a steam room, the treatment features the application of a client-chosen essential oil blend; desert salt exfoliation; the placement of cool river stones over the meridian lines of the body; and a facial, hair treatment, scalp massage, and spritz of Wild Rosella Mist.
In prime spa country, the Lake House features a newly added spa.
Five-day retreat programs (starting at $1,424) are also available for spa-goers interested in achieving long-lasting healthy lifestyle changes. Says Cook, "Our spa menu has evolved over time, and while it continues to change, it still encompasses the traditional therapies that we know work for our clients."
Victoria's Spa CountryApproximately 80 minutes outside of Melbourne, the sister towns of Daylesford and Hepburn Springs are home to Australia's largest concentration of naturally occurring mineral springs. Garnering a reputation as one of Australia's most popular spa destinations, the region welcomes visitors with a roadside sign attesting to the fact that they are entering spa country. "When the Aborigines inhabited the area, they believed that the land held the power to heal the body as well as the soul," says Larissa Wolf-Tasker, sales and marketing coordinator of the family-run Lake House, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. "When the Europeans settled in the area post-war, their homeland tradition of taking to the waters and drinking and bathing in the mineral water continued."
Guests can kick back with hot mineral baths in the spa's private tree houses overlooking the lake.
Boasting a number of popular day spas and health retreats, the area has proven to be a major draw to therapists as well. "The fresh air, the waters, and the beautiful Wombat State Forest all contribute to the wonderful sense of relaxation and blissful rejuvenation," says Wolf-Tasker. "It became quite obvious in the nineties that if you were a therapist and wanted to be taken seriously, you considered spending some time in spa country. We now have three hundred masseurs in town and the largest critical mass of holistic practitioners in the Southern Hemisphere."
Salus SpaA recent addition to the region's growing roster of spas, Salus Spa at the Lake House in Daylesford opened after much prodding from guests who didn't want to venture off property for treatments. According to Wolf-Tasker, the family had resisted building a spa for many years because of the large number that already exist in the area. "In a region that boasts such a concentration of quality day spas and retreats, we wanted to offer guests an opportunity to experience a spa with a real sense of place," says Wolf-Tasker. "The worldwide spa industry has grown enormously in the past ten years, but it has become clear that without premium products, therapists, and also a point of difference it is easy to get lost in the crowd."
Salus Spa provides a cozy environment for those guests not wanting to venture off the property.
In an effort to differentiate itself from other spas in the region, the spa uses Elemis products. In a few months, the spa also plans to launch its own product line, which will incorporate ingredients from the Australian landscape. With a hydrotherapy-inspired treatment menu and spa cuisine available at the Lake House, Salus Spa specializes in providing a holistic approach that takes advantage of the area's natural resources. "The state-of-the-art spa is surrounded by waterfall-fed streams and offers nine treatment areas, from hot mineral-water tubs overlooking the lake to the latest in European spa treatments and technology," says Wolf-Tasker. The spa features one of only three HydroCo Hydrostorms—a freestanding unit for one or two bathers that combines aromatherapy, color therapy, oxygen, showers, and steam—found in Australia. According to Wolf-Tasker, the spa chose equipment from HydroCo because of the company's focus on water conservation. Despite the area's numerous mineral springs, the region has been experiencing a severe drought for some time.
The couples suite at the Spa at Four Seasons features a hydrotherapy bath, a steam room, and a shower.
With a staff of six full-time employees, the spa handles anywhere from 12 to 60 guests each day. According to Wolf-Tasker, all the spa's therapists participate in ongoing training through Elemis, HydroCo, and the Australasian Spa Association (ASPA). Thirty percent of the Lake House's market is made up of international visitors. As the popularity of Australia's food, wine, and spas grows, Wolf-Tasker notes that the Lake House is now focusing on reaching out to the Hong Kong, Singapore, and U.S. markets. Says Wolf-Tasker, "In the world's unstable political climate, it is encouraging to see cultures still mixing together."
The Spa at Four Seasons SydneyLocated in Australia's most visited city, the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney is ideally situated in the historic Rock's area with breathtaking views of both the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Opened in 2001, the Spa at Four Seasons has six treatment rooms, including one couples suite with two massage tables, a hydrotherapy bath, a steam room, and a shower. The spa caters to locals from the surrounding area as well as international travelers, including a number of U.S. and Japanese visitors staying at the hotel. According to director of public relations Michelle Kosonen, the spa has a growing male clientele, which she attributes to the spa's Fitness Centre and outdoor pool. With 11 staffers, the spa typically treats approximately 40 guests each day.
Elysia's relaxation lounge provides an oasis of calm with its soothing decor.
Offering a variety of his-and-hers packages, the spa is the exclusive provider of Elemis treatments in Sydney. The Four Seasons Sydney Signature Treatment ($150, 90 minutes) provides a journey through the four seasons with an all-over body brushing, a massage, a facial, and more. "Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts endeavor to include many local influences in their properties whenever possible, and while presently we do not offer indigenous treatments, we will be looking into opportunities," says Kosonen.
The spa's retail offerings are found in the reception area.
Having recently relocated from The Four Seasons Spa in Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, assistant spa manager Daisy Tepper is well acquainted with the differences between the Australian and U.S. spa industries. "Many of the top-level spas in the U.S. have embraced the concept of wellness and well-being and are tailoring spa experiences to be a part of people's healthy lifestyles," says Tepper. "In Australia, spas mainly seem to focus on pampering. This is starting to evolve, however, now following in the path of U.S. spas." As for the future, it's only a matter of time before most of the Australian spas go beyond just pampering. "I think there are wonderful opportunities for the Australian spa industry to promote the health and well-being aspects of their services, especially in the big cities, such as Sydney, where people are very busy and there is a definite need for time out and relaxation," says Tepper.
The Golden Door Health Retreat-ElysiaLeading the charge with a more wellness-oriented philosophy, The Golden Door Health Retreat in the Hunter Valley, Australia's famed wine country, specializes in helping guests achieve balance. Not affiliated with the U.S.-based Golden Door, the destination spa opened in January 2004. Unlike its sister property in Queensland, Elysia caters to both independent guests and those interested in its Golden Door Program, which includes exercise sessions, a specially designed low-fat menu, holistic therapies and spa treatments, and sessions with wellness advisors to help them make long-lasting changes in their lives. Each part of the program is designed to help guests achieve goals, such as to stop smoking, to recover from illness or surgery, to lose weight, to improve fitness, and to reduce stress.
Although independent and program guests are pretty evenly divided, general manager Matthew Graydon is seeing the number of independent guests grow. He attributes this increase to the rise in people with limited time wanting more freedom of choice. "For many years, guests in our Queensland property asked if it would be possible to have shorter visits," says Graydon. "With the introduction of the independent stay at the Golden Door-Elysia, we are now able to provide greater flexibility." The average length is four-and-a-half days.
Proving there is an interest in spas that promote well-being, the Golden Door doubled its number of guests in its first six months. Wellness-oriented services, such as Watsu ($115, 50 minutes), are especially popular. The spa treats, on average, 70 to 90 guests each day. According to Graydon, most hail from Sydney, although the numbers from Victoria, a southern Australian state, and New Zealand have been growing as well. "Over the last three months, we have also seen an increase in our business out of the United States and Europe," says Graydon.
Not eschewing the more luxurious aspects of spa, Elysia provides first-rate accommodations with 72 one- and two-bedroom villas and two superior three-bedroom lodges. The villas come with all the comforts of home, such as cable television and DVD players. In the spa, Babor products are used for face-and-body treatments.
Looking to the future, Graydon expects to see more hotel and resort spas built. According to him, "Customers want to participate in spa vacations, a growing concept in Australia." And as the industry continues to mature, chances are a growing number of Australian-based products and treatments will begin making their way to our shores.—Heather Mikesell