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Top 10 spa trends for 2011

29th November 2010 Print
Top Spa Trends for 2011

SpaFinder, the global spa and wellness resource, has announced its eighth annual spa trend forecast - identifying global spa trends that will influence experiences for both consumers and the industry in the coming year and for decades to come.

A rise in salt therapy, express spa-ing, the group deal phenomenon and painful treatments all feature this year, as well as new research into the science of spa.

"As someone who's watched the modern spa industry from its infancy, I have never seen the level of creativity and talent in the field, as wellness, fitness, beauty, design and cuisine are blended in unique new ways, just as the economy begins its upswing," said Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder.


Baby boomers are the fastest-growing demographic in the world, and spas are showing more awareness of the needs of older spa-goers. Modelling after pioneers such as Canyon Ranch in the USA, many spas are now beginning to incorporate physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths who focus on rejuvenation of joints, pain relief and mobility. Thermal bathing is also seeing a renaissance, particularly with this growing group, as the benefits of soaking - or santias per acqua - are rediscovered.

But woe is the spa that attempts to label this active, and often affluent, demographic. The days of 'over 65' as a catchall category will soon become ancient history. After all, there's a huge difference between a 70 year old that plays tennis three times a week and an 85 year old seeking pain relief.

Forward thinking examples: Old Course Hotel and Spa in St Andrews has a Kohler Waters Spa, focusing on the health benefits of water. Escape Spa at the Chelsea Club has an experienced medical team specialising in physiotherapy and osteopathy.


Asia has had a profound impact on the spa industry. Yoga, Thai massage, Ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture are staples on many spa menus, and the "Zen" nature of Asian design can be seen in spas worldwide.

Now a powerful new story is unfolding - the explosive growth of hotel/spa development within Asia (a market of 4.1 billion people), especially within the two fastest-growing world economies, China and India. These markets are developing at breakneck pace, unleashing massive opportunities for hotel/spa development. Asia-Pacific has the largest number of spas and hotels under development of any region in the world, and by 2015, China will have 100 million outbound travellers, many seeking a luxury break that includes a Westernised spa experience.

Keep your eye on: Starwood Hotels & Resorts, 60+ hotels in China and 86 in the pipeline; Marriott International, 89 new hotels in India by 2015; Mumbai-based Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces, 47 luxury resorts in the pipeline.


Healing traditions that involve basking in salt caves or water may be centuries old, but they are truly coming of age in some of the most modern spas. The benefits to skin, breathing and rejuvenation are making salt therapy (halotherapy) one of the hottest trends to watch in 2011. Clinical trials reveal salt is beneficial for respiratory illnesses like asthma and skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.

Spas are finding stylish new ways to recreate the natural salt cave microclimate, infusing salt and negative ions into the air. Some examples have encrusted, stalactite-drenched grottoes (comprised of tons of imported Himalayan salt crystals) or have created hyper-modern rooms made of sea salt blocks.

For a healthy dose of salt, see: The Salt Cave in London and Kent, Salt Therapy Spa in Dublin and the luxurious Chester Grosvenor Hotel Spa now has a salt grotto.


Traditionally the territory of standalone spas, the industry is moving rapidly in the direction of branded experiences. The year of 2011 will be a watershed year for franchised/branded spas, as consumers seek the consistency of treatments they know and love, and major players expand into new markets.

From the cool, urban Bliss or Exhale to the eco-luxury of Six Senses, or the lavish opulence of Mandarin Oriental to Mandara's more affordable Chevana brand, look to see a brand new world of spa lines going global and offering consumers a consistent experience wherever they travel.

Brands on the move: Bliss Spas, 21; Champneys, 12; Dove Spas, 12; Sanctuary, 2 (with 4 opening in 2011; Spa L'Occitane, 40-plus.


Gone are the days when coupons were unfashionable things people snipped out of the newspaper and spas wouldn't think of using the term "deal."

Well, put an 'e-' or 'group' in front of 'coupon', and you suddenly have the Internet mania of 2010, poised to accelerate at an even more dizzying pace in 2011. Online group-buying deals have burst onto the global scene, and the old-fashioned 'deal' has morphed into a hip online industry. With spa and wellness deals a mainstay of generic sites like GroupOn, it's a sure sign that spa-going has achieved mainstream traction.

An extraordinary effect has been that millions of people are now expanding their spa horizons, trying new experiences they wouldn't have without the '50%-75% off'.

With savvy marketers backed by hundreds of millions in venture capital, deals will certainly remain a huge deal in 2011, but SpaFinder forecasts change is on the horizon.


Is there scientific proof that massage reduces stress? Are mudpacks and mineral-baths medically proven to alleviate pain? The answer, in many cases, is increasingly "yes". Get ready for a new era where more questions about the effectiveness of spa therapies will be asked, as the emphasis on the 'science behind spa' heats up.

Just a few recent examples: The New York Times reported on a Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles) study revealing that a 45-minute massage resulted in a significant decrease in stress hormones, while boosting immunity. And an American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation article documented the positive effect of mudpacks and mineral-water baths.

With more medical professionals embracing integrative/alternative medicine, expect clinical studies to accelerate next year. These promising evidence-based initiatives may ultimately prove the bedrock for future, perhaps unimagined, industry growth.


A current trend that complements - rather than contradicts - the move toward branded spas is the desire for authenticity and immersion in the traditions and elements of a spa's local environment.

Now, not just about sourcing your restaurant menu from local suppliers, we are seeing an increase in spas who have fully embraced the local trend with the "farm-to-table" movement and have extended it to "farm-to-massage-table". Locally sourced fruits, herbs and honey are grown on site, and then dished up in both meals and in spa treatments. Even the well-known branded spas are sure to reserve a portion of their services for locally infused treatments, as consumers look to take advantage of the diversity of their surroundings.

Think: Hay Barn Spa in Gloucestershire, Titanic Spa in Huddersfield and Senspa in the New Forest.


Beauty-seekers are taking treatments to the max. We are far beyond Botox - stem-cell facials and plasma therapy (yes, that's where blood is drawn and re-injected) are new buzzwords.

But let's also look at extreme pain, people are tolerating more and more as long as it delivers results. Derma-rolling hurts, chemical peels can be uncomfortable and the zapping of lasers is no picnic. Then there are boot camps, Rolfing and Bikram yoga, where pain meets pleasure. Even organic and natural products are being taken to the extreme, with raw food cuisine gaining popularity during intense detox retreats.

Finally, what might be considered the most interesting extreme: People seem to be able to partake in both the "yin" of the natural and the "yang" of science and invasive cosmetic procedures at the same time. In the end, what people demand are extreme results, and they're happy to pay the price for it - a staggering $679 billion annually, by far the largest share of the estimated $1.9 trillion wellness market.


"In a New York minute" is jargon for how things move faster in hectic New York City. It's also the name of a suite of mini (15- to 30-minute) spa treatments (designed to be performed simultaneously by multiple therapists) at the new Auriga Spa at The Setai Fifth Avenue (NYC). In our stressed-out, 24/7 world, we seem to be morphing into New Yorkers. The spa industry is responding, helping people spa anytime and offering "sample" and simultaneous treatments.

Suddenly, a 9pm closing time is the new spa norm and 'open late' now means midnight, 2am, or all night. In London, Lost in Beauty's 'after-hours beauty club' performs everything from threading to massage as late as its customers want. The trend is also towards earlier: For instance, most major Las Vegas spas (i.e., Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Qua Baths at Caesars Palace or Hard Rock's Rock Spa) open at 5:30 or 6am, while the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London, opens at 7am. This attracts both business people jumpstarting their day and revellers calling it a night.

And the trend toward 'express', 'sampler' or 'mini-sized' treatments will continue to rise in 2011, pleasing time- and budget-crunched consumers. The explosion of airport spas worldwide plays into the 'express' trend neatly, as does the decline of elaborate rituals at many spas, to get right to the heart of the matter: the therapeutic treatment.

The quest for efficiencies is also reflected in new directions in facility design, with locker rooms on the decline and even check-in desks being rethought.

Finally, the pursuit of stress-free spa efficiencies will mean more spa-goers embracing 24/7 online appointment booking, and mobile apps helping them find and book spas on the fly. It's all about letting spa-goers have it their way.


Increasingly, spas are developing distinctive speciality programs to draw patrons seeking a unique group experience. While destination spas have been offering yoga and healthy cooking weeks for years, retreats now span everything from a high-flying 'Trapeze Experience' to a creative jewellery-making class to the more sober and grounded gathering for survivors of loss.

We expect this trend to flourish in the coming year, as spas and resort destinations find creative new ways to prove that unique is indeed spa chic for the savvy consumer.

Examples: Chocolate spa treatments at the Elms Hotel in Worcestershire during National Chocolate Week, Champneys 2-day retreats with a happiness expert and walking spa breaks at Ragdale Hall.

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Top Spa Trends for 2011