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Trends in the Spa World

By: Melinda Taschetta-Millane
Posted: December 4, 2006, from the December 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

It probably comes as no surprise to you that today’s spa industry is an $11.2 billion-plus industry, which makes it the fourth-largest leisure industry—falling not far behind the No. 1-ranked golf industry at $19.7 billion; cruise lines at $14.7 billion; and health and racket clubs at $14.1 billion. As a top-grossing industry, spas are ahead of amusement parks, box office receipts and even time-shares.
     We all know that today’s consumers are savvy. They are well-educated, know the benefits of total-body wellness and are buying into the spa experience. Two years ago, the International SPA Association’s (ISPA) annual industry trends report touched on consumer behavior and found that people wanted “pampering” to stay healthy and look good, and that they generally were knowledgeable and demanding about spa services. However, new findings conclude that a shift in attitude continues to affect the industry. The spa emphasis now is on self-preservation, and spas have gained a new aura of respectability. People want to reward themselves for working so hard. De-stressing and decompressing are cited as the top two reasons for “being touched and pampered,” according to the ISPA survey.
     The desire for relaxation and pampering has deepened throughout the past five years, and is now broader-based. The under-35 group is willing to invest in it; the 45-plus group took a little longer to be won over by its appeal. And all of this was fueled by the baby boomers when they hit 40. Boomers and their children also will pay to look young and healthy. In the United States alone, the market for anti-aging skin care products is valued at nearly $2.5 billion for the retail sector and is growing at double-digit rates.
     Spas now are seeing three and even four generations as clients—the baby boomers are bringing in their Generation Xers, who are passing their spa habits onto their kids—tweens and teens. The trend toward kids’ spas is growing rapidly. Spas throughout the country are waking up to the fact that this developing market segment is their future client base, AND that its members have disposable income. And let’s not forget about men. The number of males frequenting spas has risen 25–30%—equaling the number of men having plastic surgery.
     Indigenous ingredients, which are natural products, are all the rage on spa menus. The list of hot ingredients currently available and used in the spa market is endless, but includes aloe vera, lime, coconut, mint, cucumber, ginger, papaya, lemongrass, coffee and even chocolate. This carries over into the trend toward mind/body wellness.

Mind/body wellness
     As baby boomers enter the latter part of their lives, there is a greater awareness of preventive health care. People are concerned not only with extending their life expectancy, but also maintaining their physical appearance and form. This can be evidenced by the growth of fitness clubs and workout videos, the popularity of yoga and Pilates, and the plethora of exercise classes and healthy cuisine cooking classes taught by master chefs. However, this trend is not unique to just baby boomers—the younger generation also is jumping on the mind/body wellness bandwagon.
     The spa industry is poised to do a lot more than mere pampering. Estheticians can make a difference in society by educating their clients on how to achieve mind/body wellness.

Nutrition and the spa: a new trend
     Now, more than ever, people are aware that nutrition and regular exercise can help turn back the clock and assist in preventing some of the degenerative diseases of aging. Today’s spas are teaching lifestyle-management skills—often incorporating lifestyle coaching, such as nutrition and fitness, with esthetic treatments.
     As educated therapists, estheticians can help guide clients to lead healthier lifestyles. This includes diet and exercise. Spas have come a long way in educating the public about health—particularly members of the aging population, who actively are seeking strategies and information on maximizing good health and longevity.
     Sound nutrition forms the basis of all spa treatments, and proper care of the skin and body is not complete without treating the body from the inside out. It is imperative that estheticians and spa experts become more knowledgeable in the area of health, as the trend of healthy living definitely is here to stay.

Spa cuisine
     Healthy cuisine can add great value to the overall spa experience. Leading spas have spent considerable resources in developing wholesome eating options for clients, which have helped to raise the bar on nutritionally balanced eating. Incorporating spa cuisine benefits a facility and also offers a great opportunity to educate clients on another aspect of healthy living.
     It is essential for spas to develop a comprehensive spa cuisine menu with a number of options and variations. It must adhere to nutritional guidelines, maintain a wide-ranging selection and keep the palate tantalized. Create diverse choices by using influences from other cultures, and by tapping into local flavors and produce.
     Spas have the benefit of educating clients about healthy eating through example. Provide the nutritional value information for each dish served. The entire spa team should be knowledgeable about nutrition, as well. The fitness angle can be viewed as a smaller, yet intricate part of the existing spa business. Think of it as a venture that can accentuate all aspects of the spa and provide a complete package for clients. When looking to incorporate fitness services into the spa environment, analyze the demand and demographics in your area, and take the time to do a complete business analysis and plan.
     According to the recent ISPA survey, spa exercise programs were a significant revenue contributor at 19%. According to this same study, educational and nutritional classes are offered by 29% of spas in North America. These courses include nutritional consultations, weight management, fitness consultation, body composition, personal training and medical consultation.

Positioned for growth
     This is just an abbreviated preview of the trends in today’s spa industry. It is clear that spas are in a strong position to anticipate the future, instead of waiting for the future to come to it.