Despite the pressures of a slow economy, travel agents enjoyed a strong year for spa travel bookings in 2007 and remain upbeat about the prospects for spa travel for the remainder of 2008, according to SpaFinder's just-released 2008 State of Spa Travel survey.
According to the 2008 study, spa travel bookings in 2007 increased for 57% of surveyed agents and remained steady for an additional 29%, while only 13% reported a decline. For 2008, 58% expect there to be growth in bookings over 2007, while an additional 26% expect bookings to remain steady.
"Spa travel is increasingly a fundamental part of the health and wellness regimen for many Americans, young and old, and has evolved significantly from its once narrow association with pampering and the luxury class," said Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder. "While this is helping to keep spa travel strong, the industry has also responded wisely to these challenging times by offering more special deals."
SpaFinder's 2008 State of Spa Travel survey was conducted with travel professionals in June and July of 2008. The annual study is designed to illuminate unfolding trends in spa travel, including consumer adoption, pricing, demographics, and popular locations and amenities.
Other top findingsIn a shift from 2007, 51% of agents now report that travelers aged 35-45 express the greatest interest in booking spa travel, versus 41% for the boomer 46-60 age group. In contrast, last year's study found boomers were the most interested in spa travel, when 58% of spa travelers fell in the 46-60 age group. So, Ellis noted, while baby boomers have traditionally been credited with fueling the spa travel boom, Gen-Xers are emerging as a key demographic as they seek relief from work-related stress.
Agents also reported that social groups such as friends traveling together took the top spot among emerging spa travel trends. Tied for the second slot were: An increased interest in travelers seeking wellness and health elements at spas, and people choosing a spa destination for special occasions such as honeymoons and so on.
Not surprisingly, 70% of agents report that spa resorts are lowering rates and offering more special deals than in years past. And 31% of those surveyed report that spas are either offering 'significantly' or 'historically' more aggressive pricing and deals in 2008.
Agents also found that access to a spas and spa facilities ranks No. 1--by a significant margin--as the top consideration for their traveling clients, followed by proximity to a beach, sightseeing, shopping, hiking and nature-based activities in that order, with skiing and golf taking the last spots.
According to the survey, health and wellness is now one of the most critical considerations for today's spa traveler, with 90% of agents reporting that health and wellness is either 'very' or 'somewhat' important to their vacationing clients.
When booking spa travel, travelers' most important consideration is the spa's facilities and amenities (52%), topping price (27%) or the spa location (22%), agents noted.
Additionally, the survey revealed the West Coast of the United States is still the most popular spa travel destination, followed closely by the Southwest and Mexico.
Twenty-six percent of spa travelers now book in the range of $250-299 per night, followed by $300-349 (23%) and $200-$249 (22%), the report also noted. So, in 2008, travelers are actually willing to pay more compared to 2007, when only 18% booked at $300-349.
And finally, in 2008, 26% of agents are recommending spa travel 'all the time,' up from 19% last year. And 95% now recommend spa travel either 'some' or 'all' of the time.
About SpaFinder, Inc.
One of the world's largest spa media, marketing and gifting companies, SpaFinder, Inc. connects wellness-focused consumers with spas worldwide.