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South African Spa Industry Matures

By: Denis Gathanju
Posted: April 28, 2010, from the May 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
Librisa Spa treatment room

Indigenous essences are often used in the services offered at Librisa Spa.

With stress levels progressively rising during the past few months as world economies shrink and jobs are lost in record numbers, spas have provided an oasis of comfort and relaxation for many throughout the world.

The situation has been no different in South Africa, as the continent’s largest economy bore the full brunt of the economic slowdown. But the spa industry in South Africa has remained strong and continues to show great growth potential as the nation draws closer to hosting the Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup for soccer in June and July of 2010.

“Sure, the economy has generally not performed well during the past few months. At first, people were hesitant to book appointments at a spa, considering it to be more of a luxury than a necessity, but then our clients realized that discovering a way to find peace and calm became a necessity. This, I guess, is what has been the determining factor that has helped the industry survive the economic downturn,” notes Katy Low, director of Zau Spa in the small township of Cullinan, sandwiched between Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Growth and development

Although it is in its beginning stages of growth and development, the South African spa industry is the largest and most developed of its kind south of the Sahara. However, it is progressively coming under pressure from the Mediterranean region, comprised of countries in North Africa, as well as from emerging markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique. The industry is less than a decade old in South Africa, but is quickly learning from more developed spa markets in Europe and North America, and coming up with innovative product and service offerings derived from its unique location and culture with the intention of creating a niche market. Also, as the focus on global climate change grows substantially, the South African spa industry has been quick to adapt to changing trends throughout the world. Many of the country’s resort and day spas are opting for eco-friendly products, as well as designing eco-friendly spas that utilize renewable energy.

According to Nadine de Freitas, executive director of the South African Spa Association, an umbrella body for spa and wellness centers operating in the country, the South African spa business has been quick to recognize the significance of forging a lasting relationship with its vibrant tourism industry, as well as its wellness, health and skin care, healing and medical, and spa sectors, in order to provide a quality experience to spa visitors. See The South African Spa Association for more information. Following are some examples of spas in the region.