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SpaFinder Predicts 2009 Spa Trends

SpaFinder, a global spa resource, recently announced its "Top 10 Spa Trends To Watch In 2009," the company’s sixth annual forecast of the emerging concepts that will shape the world of spa in 2009 and beyond.

The global spa industry’s extraordinary growth and resiliency has been fueled by important new ideas in health, wellness, fitness, beauty, design, and cuisine. Despite a turbulent economy, SpaFinder president Susie Ellis believes 2009 will prove no exception, with the industry continuing to innovate, including developments such as the in-transit spa experience, new offerings for the exploding Gen X and Y demographic, bolder eco-friendly initiatives, and the ramping up of global spa brands.

In particular, one clear macro trend is emerging: the interweaving of medicine and spas in unprecedented ways, with spas poised to increase their roles in wellness and health care while hospitals evolve to embrace spa-like offerings and hospitality. As the expensive, sickness-oriented Western health care model comes under intense review, spa innovation and influence on both traditional and alternative/complementary medical fronts is growing. With consumers increasingly receptive to preventative wellness solutions and effective non-Western wellness modalities, spas are seizing the opportunity—and the spa-medicine relationship has never been so rich or strong.

As Ellis noted, “In a few short years I’ve watched spas go from a narrow focus on pampering to become a vastly expanded category where dozens of wellness solutions are explored. They’ve become, in essence, our alternative laboratories for testing new health and wellness approaches—from fitness, nutrition, acupuncture and yoga, and more recently, sleep and fertility solutions. And for 2009, whether it’s energy medicine or brain health offerings or the rise of wellness tourism or diagnostics, ;there’s never been more breeding going on in the spa Petri dish.”

As the point of connection between thousands of spas and millions of spa consumers, SpaFinder has a unique vantage point across the world of spa. The company’s annual trends report is based on analyses from a large team of experts who visit hundreds of spas each year, interview top analysts and conduct ongoing research in the consumer, travel and spa sectors.

SpaFinder’s Top Ten Spa Trends to Watch in 2009:

1. Energy Medicine

Everyone’s talking about energy, and in 2009 the spa industry will follow suit, with high-voltage buzz around energy medicine and therapies such as Reiki, Qi Gong, chakra balancing, healing touch, and magnetic, light and sound therapy. While there’s charged debate about how to define these practices, whether they’re actually new and whether there’s enough scientific evidence to warrant attention, energy medicine is a hot topic in both the spa industry and, increasingly, the medical establishment. Discussion on the medical side—centering on electromagnetic forces, laser beams and the like—diverges from concepts such as qi, chi, prana, chakras and doshas used in the spa sector, where the emphasis is on clearing imbalances in a body’s energy field to promote healing.

Interesting examples are emerging: from bite-size doses of energy medicine alongside traditional massage at properties like Conrad Maldives Rangali Island to the extensive use of visiting practitioners at Thai resorts like Trisara, Chiva-Dom and Six Senses to Canyon Ranch’s elaborate ‘Healing Energy’ menu. The enlightened approach? An open mind, with encouragement for scientific verification… After all, there’s a lot we don’t know about the ‘body electric.’

2. Casinos and Spas: A Good Bet

Placing a high-end spa in a casino hotel was once a long-shot idea, but today casino spas are the most profitable spas in the world. These world-class facilities cater to a free-spending clientele that sees the value both of high-octane indulgence and recharging, healthy pursuits. For instance, the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino’s Canyon Ranch SpaClub has expanded to become the largest spa in the world with 90 treatment rooms, and Las Vegas’ forthcoming Fountainbleu—slated for fall 2009—will be one of the most expensive spas ever built. ;And the stakes are rising in Asia: Macao has surpassed Vegas in annual gambling revenue, and the gargantuan Venetian Resort features the impressive V Spa. Singapore, which recently legalized gambling, will see the opening of the Marina Bay Sands in 2009, which will no doubt breath new life into the award-winning Sentosa Resort & Spa, and there’s also talk of Banyan Tree opening a casino-spa resort. Some casino operators are designing fun, more approachable facilities catering to first-time spa-goers, such as the Northern Quest Resort in Washington State, opening late 2009, and Ameristar Resorts of Black Hawk and St. Charles, MO. Look for more blending of casino excitement and the luxury spa experience in 2009.


3. The Medical and Spa Tourism Shuffle

Watch for the line between spas, medical spas and hospitals to become ever more creatively blurred as the phenomenon of medical or wellness travel evolves. Global consumers are increasingly journeying to access the services they want, need and can afford. This trend is fueled by rising costs in the traditional health care system; the emergence of a more consumer-centric model revolving around greater choice and price transparency; and fluctuations in international currencies opening up attractive new markets—even in the U.S. Hospitals are unleashing programs to attract not only the sick and old, but also the young and well: from integrative programs, prevention centers and executive physicals to aesthetic procedures. At the Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan, the patients have become guests, health care and hospitality are united, and spa elements—serene gardens, feng shui design, organic local cuisine, on-demand massage and alternative therapies— have invaded the once-drab hospital walls. At the same time wellness diagnostics are on the rise within the medical spa environment, with services such as imaging, genomics, stress tests, blood and urine analyses, and futuristic offerings that allow people to bank their own stem cells.

4. Eco-Embedded Spas: A Deeper Shade of Green

The eco-embedded spa embraces environmental processes that are quietly and meaningfully enmeshed throughout the entire spa, so there’s no demanding efforts required by the spa guest, who is, after all, there to relax. Consumers in general are suffering from green fatigue and sustainability stress, so say goodbye to showy, loud and superficial green gestures, and hello to initiatives that are both subtler and far bolder than ever before. Examples are endless: across European spas, hotel room key slots trigger time-delayed sensors to turn off lights and air-conditioning in rooms. RockResort Spa at Keystone Lodge in Colorado is built from the earth up with sustainability in mind, using wind-powered electricity and building from recycled wood. And one of the most innovative 21st-century eco-destination spas? Six Senses in Thailand, where guests can eat any and all of the resort landscaping.

5. Trains, Boats and Planes: In-Transit Spa-Going

Spaing while traveling is reaching a whole new level: trains with fully equipped gyms and spas, planes with spa showers and massage treatments in-flight, health and wellness-oriented cruises, and more. What began as a novelty has turned into big business that uniquely targets today’s captive, over-stressed traveler. Southern India’s Golden Chariot train already features an onboard Ayurvedic center with a fully equipped gym and spa. Almost every major airport now boasts a spa; London’s Heathrow Airport alone has four to choose from. And cruise ships are broadening their health and wellness options beyond the spa facility itself: Crystal Cruises offers Mind-Body-Spirit cruises and Disney has joined the trend by offering a “Detox for Weight Loss” program.

6. Brain Health and ‘Mind Gyms’

Brain health is on spa-goers’ minds today, with a vast, aging baby boomer population, an Alzheimer’s pandemic and medical reports touting the need to keep the brain active to avoid decline. As a result, brain work-outs are popping up on both the day and stay spa menu, with activities, education, technologies and therapies that function like gyms for the mind. Mind Spa Mental Fitness Center in Florida has added a Neurobics Center, featuring computer stations with scientifically developed brain exercise and biofeedback programs, as well as Neurowave chairs to stimulate brain function. The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa in Iowa, working in tandem with a brain research institute, has developed a program to prevent the onset of age-related cognitive disorders.

7. Learning Labs for Stress Reduction

Stress is the big spa buzzword. At, for example, nearly four times as many consumers entered stress into the search bar in the last four months than in the four months prior. Spas, out of necessity, will increasingly become learning labs for stress reduction as consumers realize it takes less than an hour, or a ton of expensive treatments, to elicit the relaxation response. Look for spa staff to become teachers of take-home, DIY relaxation techniques, as well as a shift from trendy spa rituals-of-the-month to effective stress therapies like breathwork, hot baths, meditation, exercise, massage and even an emphasis on psychological support and the sharing of feelings. Mini-treatments like ten-minute chair massages will grow in popularity. Look for more day spas to incorporate the term stress in their offerings and more stay spa programming like Miraval’s 'Mindful Stress Mastery’ experience, a complete stress-fighting curriculum. We’ll also see more spas with soul, focusing on connection, community and spirituality, and unleashing new programming such as life coaching, transition retreats, and mindfulness experiences and challenge courses like labyrinths. And don’t be surprised if a slow spa movement takes off.

8. Mindful Spending

In a challenging economic year, spa-goers will be looking closely for value and tangible results. Spas will be experimenting with creative ways to attract the consumer, earn their trust and exceed their expectations. Look for concepts such daycations and spacations to move from vague catch phrases to realities. Discount massage and facial businesses will enjoy more popularity, and spa deals and added value pricing will appear on most spa Web sites. Luxury facilities will need to work harder demonstrating how their unique experiences and special treatments merit the greater expense. We will also likely see three- and four-star hotels, where more people will be staying, get into the spa arena with competitive spa service offerings. Spas at these locations will be aiming to help first-time visitors feel welcome and comfortable, bringing many new lifelong spa customers into the industry.

9. Move Over Baby Boomers: Gen X & Y Are Spaing Their Way Up

The core spa clientele is rapidly shifting from baby boomers to Gen X and Gen Y, and it’s more than a simple demographic switch: younger generations are now hitting the spa in record numbers, and they're shaping the experience to meet their unique desires. Spas will need to continue to attract aging boomers, with their considerable spending power, while catering to new generations who typically reject pampering, embrace wellness and consider spa-going a natural right. To compete, spas will need to rethink everything from design, treatment menus and standards for use of personal communication devices. Some spas are now allowing iPod usage during massages, are adding party-size treatment rooms and trumpeting philanthropic endeavors and their commitment to sustainability. All spas will learn to embrace technology, including encouraging online bookings through sites or sending mobile alerts when last-minute spa deals become available. Cutting-edge experiments can be seen at the new Ciel-Spa at SLS in Beverly Hills with its playful social lounge experience and a myriad of light and technology options, or Zurich’s forthcoming spa at the Dolder Grand featuring chill-out spaces with suspended basket chairs with headphones and quirky features such as a snow paradise room or lounges where people can bury themselves in heated pebbles.

10. Brands, Brands, Brands

With almost 72,000 spas around the world, spas that establish and broadcast a truly unique brand identity will attract more visitors at a time when consumer budgets are under pressure. Today, large companies are bringing strong branding savvy into the spa game, and high-end luxury brands are expanding into spa as well.  And look for the distinctions between brands to become more pronounced. For example, Shangri-La’s Chi Spa brand has successfully incorporated signature elements throughout their collection while retaining enough uniqueness at each property to make every Chi Spa a new—and yet familiar—experience. The ESPA brand has also established a strong identity across a vast number of spas and mastered the art of training spa therapists to provide highly consistent, quality treatments.

About SpaFinder, Inc.

One of the world’s largest spa media, marketing and gifting companies, SpaFinder, Inc. connects millions of wellness-focused consumers with thousands of spas worldwide. SpaFinder’s media properties include the award-winning, SpaFinder Lifestyle Online Magazine (published in six different languages), the Spa Enthusiast newsletter and the annual worldwide spa directory, Global SpaFinder. Spa Finder Gift Certificates and its new gift division, Spa & Salon Wish, offer spa gift certificates and cards that are redeemable at a combined network of more than 7,000 spas and salons worldwide and available at thousands of retail outlets. The company’s software division innovates new solutions that help spas build and streamline their businesses, including the popular SpaBooker online booking system. SpaFinder Europe and SpaFinder Japan offer regional spa marketing and gifting programs, including localized, native-language websites. Founded in 1986, the privately held company is headquartered in Manhattan.