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Specialization, Diversity Key Trends in Hotel Spa Growth

Posted: April 2, 2008

Over the last few years, the international tourism industry has been boosted by the spa industry. Within the last 20 years, spas have increasingly gained importance. Yet, spas are subject to constant change, and, according to spa expert Heinz Schletterer, within the next few years, changes will occur at an even faster pace.

“Today’s guests call for high-quality standards and are extremely health-conscious. There is an enormous competitive pressure among spa hotels. Ten years ago, a spa area used to be a competitive advantage. Today, it is just part of the standard equipment," says Schletterer.

Specialization is the key
Schletterer sees two aspects in the future development of spa and tourism companies: One is further specialization, and the other is personalizing the range of services offered. “The spa hotel of the future must be outstanding,” he says.

There are three ways to go for holiday resorts: Hotels built around a central theme, such as health or sports; hotels focusing on a specific target group, such as children or seniors; and low-function hotels addressing a larger, cosmopolitan target group. The latter offers a limited but high-quality product range at a favorable price.

Simultaneously a new trend is emerging. All over the world numerous medical spa hotels are opening. These hotels integrate health and medical care by including specialists in spas. Yet, according to Schletterer, the number of these hotels will be limited due to the high acquisition costs within the medical area. ”No matter which specialization hoteliers choose, they will only be successful if they themselves are passionate about the subject--and if the staff shares this enthusiasm.” In the next 10 years, specialized hotels will obtain a market share of 25 to 30%.

Taking into account cultural diversity to avoid misinvestment
In the future, it will become even more important to have a close look at the target groups´ social backgrounds and their cultural conventions.

In the United Kingdom, for instance, a sauna is a place to communicate. In the Alpine region, however, it is a place of calmness. In Northern and Eastern Europe the sauna is considered a place of body care, whereas the Arabs adhere to a strict gender-segregation. Furthermore, countries have different conventions in terms of which areas of a spa are considered nude areas.

In order to avoid misinvestment it will be important to respond to the guest’s individual needs. This means hotels have to offer various ways of enjoying the sauna experience.

Creating the ultimate spa experience with the help of architecture and design
Architecture and design will also become more and more relevant. The spa of the future will be designed to meet the specific needs of the target groups. The conventional, three-dimensional room experience shall be extended to enable guests to feel, smell and even hear the things they previously merely used to see.

Purist design gives way to natural coziness
The time of purism is definitely over. Architectural trends are returning to making people feel comfortable and at ease. In addition, the interior design will be supported by specific accessories to convey special themes, such as nature. “In the future, nature will literally grow into the hotel and the spa. The interior design will be a perfect combination of natural--to some extent even organic-- materials and artificial trendy products and smart light effects.” Future guests want to get away from the ordinary. They experience their holiday as a form of freedom, which they also want to see reflected in generous concepts of space. In the future, room sizes will be twice as large as today.

Hotel suites with a private spa
Customers increasingly ask for individuality and privacy. Hotels offering special spa suites will gain market share. Guests staying in a hotel suite with a personal private spa enjoy a very spacious ambience. They have their own holiday living area where they can experience numerous services without having to leave the room. Guests are willing to pay for these high-quality standards, especially when there is an ideal combination of design, functionality and ambience.

Medical spas
In the future, those spa concepts will succeed with focus on preventative health care. Medical examinations will soon be part of medical spas. Furthermore, there will be multifunctional concepts that offer a number of treatments and therefore are cost-efficient. Spa equipment shall increasingly address all senses, must be state-of-the art and blend in with the whole concept.

New markets and target groups
There is one thing all future target groups will have in common: They want to get away from everyday life, experience new things and be surprised. At the same time, the general tendency towards mini breaks and vacations as refreshment for body and soul will continue. Due to current medical development and increased life expectancy, one of the most important target groups will be the older generation. Their newly gained agility and cosmopolitanism of make them regulars of future tourism.

Mobility challenges tourism
Increased mobility and globalization will lead to fierce competition on an international level. Especially within the tourism industry, new products and high quality standards are more important than ever. Only if these are guaranteed can regulars be kept and new customers from growing target markets, such as Eastern Europe and Arabia, be turned into regulars.