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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.

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Key industry trends appear to be similar to those of U.S. counterpart spas, according to this same study. Thirty-three percent of spas surveyed stated that the industry is becoming more competitive due to the inception of new facilities, and 26% of respondents observed that clients were seeking health benefits rather than just pampering.

As for treatment trends, it comes as no surprise that, according to the study, Thai massage is provided by 96% of the spas surveyed. This was followed by aromatherapy in 92% of the facilities, reflexology in 56%, stone therapy in 42% and mud treatments in 32%. This trend toward massage and body treatments is quite evident in the United States, as well. Today’s American spas no longer rely on facials for their bread and butter. The new mainstay is full-body massage—experienced by 27.1 million spa-goers this past year.1

Spa journal

After discovering these figures, I decided to experience the Thai spa industry firsthand this summer, and had the pleasure of visiting some of the top spas this beautiful country has to offer. According to all of the professionals I met, the study’s figures are on the mark. One of the most popular treatments on all menus is Thai massage. “Thai massage is as innate as a mother’s care for her child that goes back thousands of years from generation to generation,” says Williams. “This service was developed by monks to heal disorders, as well as to ease discomfort. There also is a royal Thai massage called Rajanumsak that was available only to the royal family. It differs slightly from the temple style in that it was designed only to pamper and relax.”

He continues, “Just as the various types of Buddhism in Asia stem from the same foundation, Thai massage also has its own indigenous flavor. However, its anatomic and physiologic background is similar to that of its neighbor’s services, such as tuina, shiatsu, jamu and acupressure.”

At Chiva-Som, massage therapy of any kind is among the top picks by its guests. “Industry statistics inform us that the average ratio in regard to treatments in the spa is 60% massage/body services and 40% facial/esthetic services,” says Williams. “At Chiva-Som, the most popular massage is the signature Chiva-Som Massage, a classic oil-based service that combines the familiarity of a Swedish treatment with the ability to request the amount of pressure and body area needing to be addressed. Identifying guests’ needs is an essential trait for a body therapist, so this massage suits our clientele quite well.”