Expo PhotoThe Luxury Travel Expo in Las Vegas, December 7th through 9th, featured a breakout session entitled Destination Spas: Understand this Lucrative Travel Niche. SpaTrade's Nancy Griffin moderated the panel of experts, which included Deborah Evans of Red Mountain Adventure Spa, Sheila Cluff of the Oaks at Ojai, Gary Milner of Canyon Ranch, and Michelle Kleist of the Destination Spa Group.

After describing the amenities, services, and programs offered at each individual property, panel members shared the latest trends in destination spas. Top trends included:

- More savvy spa consumers who expect more depth of information

- Broadening base of spa-goers (men, teens, health-seekers)

- Move away from group fitness classes to more individual experiences in spirituality, yoga, meditation, and Eastern disciplines

- Spa-goers wanting to take the spa experience home (design, programs, cuisine)

- Greater emphasis on European spa environments (hydrotherapy, sauna, steam)

- Consumers seeking medical programming at destination spas — everything from diagnostic testing to aesthetic procedures, to behavioral therapy

- A focus on the outdoors and protecting the environment

The panel then offered specific tactics travel agents could use to build, promote, and sell destination spas. "The most important thing a travel agent can do to grow their spa business is to experience a destination spa first-hand,' said destination spa veteran Deborah Evans. "There is something about having a 'Spa-ha' experience that causes and intangible shift. You understand that feeling of having been touched."

Michelle Kleist informed the group of the selling tools offered on the Destination Spa Group's website , including a spa fact sheet, glossary, and questionnaire to help agents identify the correct spa for their clients. She suggested partnering with complementary businesses to reach new customers. "Ideas for spas promotions are only limited by your own creativity," said Kleist.