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International Spa Trends: Thailand

By: Melinda Taschetta-Millane
Posted: June 11, 2008, from the October 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

The spa industry is here to stay, and not just in the United States. A recent trip to Thailand proved that spas are a hot commodity on the other side of the globe, as well. There, it is all about culture and remaining true to the land.

“Those fortunate enough to have experienced the warmth and hospitality of Thailand will know all too well the genuine care and excellent service that are delivered here,” says Richard Williams, spa manager at Chiva-Som in Hua Hin. “As a culture that lives from the heart—even having ‘heart’ words in their vocabulary—therein lies the unique advantage to spas developed in Thailand. To have team members who take a genuine interest in their clients, care about their jobs and are proud to work in their respective fields is certainly a plus to the spa industry. All who return to Thailand will be welcomed with the warm wai, which is a prayerlike greeting—just like namaste in India—that offers respect and warmth to all who visit.”

The Thai culture also is well-known for its reputation in the service industry. “Thai spa culture offers alternative therapies with its inherited tradition of herbal practice that has been proven to give excellent results for health and well-being, both holistically and scientifically,” notes Sarah Kajonborrirak, president and founder of Sivalai Spa. “It’s part of a variety of spa treatments from the genuine tradition of the Thai people that has been practiced for more than 3,000 years.”

Facts and figures

Indeed, the spa industry is a profession that still is going strong. According to the Spa Industry Survey Thailand 2004, conducted by Intelligent Spas Pte Ltd, Singapore, Thailand is home to approximately 320 spa facilities. It is important to note that this statistic only includes spas that offer water-based body treatments, such as scrubs and wraps. The majority of Thai spas, 28%, are located in the capital city of Bangkok, which boasts a population of approximately 7 million. The second-largest concentration is in the resort area of Phuket, claiming 19%. Of these, resort spas make up 46% of the spa types, with 30% being day spas.

This same study states that about 5,260 people are employed by the industry. And international tourists paved the paths to the spas, accounting for 78% of all visits. Domestic tourists accounted for 10%, and local residents contributed 12% of total Thai spa visits, on average. Together, this totaled a whopping 3.6 million combined appointments with Thailand spas between July 2003 and June 2004. And this number continues to climb.