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Spa Business Handbook - Spa Foresight™ 2015

Future view

Spa Foresight™ 2015

What’s coming down the track for the global spa and wellness industries? Spa Business examines the trends, technologies and strategies which will shape the future

Liz Terry, Leisure Media



As wearables innovators and activity app developers such as Jawbone, FitBit and Strava battle for market share, the next phase of activity and wellness monitoring is already being imagined and prototyped quietly behind closed doors.

We will move from a time of wearables to a new evolution in body computing – the age of invisibles – when sensors are integrated into the body to give a continuous data stream and establish a complete picture of what’s going on with our health, rather than simply measuring and reporting on one aspect of it.
Invisibles will enable us to more accurately understand and diagnose disease and in turn to establish better methods of prevention and adherence to wellbeing programmes through lifestyle change.

They’ll also return us to a more natural state, by removing the need to carry around intrusive and clonky devices.


photo: shutterstock/GaudiLab

Invisibles will enable us to live and exercise free from intrusive devices


The health of the gut directly determines the vitality and wellbeing of many aspects of health and controls key systems within the body, such as the immune system. It’s also now known to have a direct impact on the brain and mood.

Modern life is hard on gut flora – antibiotics and other medication and refined food upsets the delicate balance.

Once the gut flora is damaged, chronic and acute health conditions can develop, such as candida, IBS, C diff and a range of other highly debilitating disorders.
All these conditions have been successfully treated with faecal transplants – taking faecal matter rich in gut bacteria from a healthy person and – through an approved medical process – inserting them into the gut of the patient, where they immediately colonise.

There’s evidence that the nature of gut bacteria directly determines the way we metabolise food: when the gut bacteria of an obese person is transplanted into someone of normal weight, in some cases they, in turn, become obese.

We predict that a trade in premium gut bacteria will emerge, with individuals who can show the high quality of their biome being paid for samples, and spas offering customised faecal transplants that give specific outcomes to guests in terms of the impact the transplant has on their health.


photo: shutterstock/Peter Bernik

Faecal transplants can restore balance to the gut and underpin health and the ability to digest and absorb food


In 2016 a new lane will open at the Panama Canal, doubling the capacity of the route that links the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and effectively creating a cruise line super highway. The canal, a visitor attraction in its own right, will soon be able to host the world’s largest cruise ships, which disembark 5,000 passengers at a time. Notably, cruise liners are also gaining 6.55 per cent more customers annually. As the canal forms the foundation of Panama’s economy, it’s predicted that GDP will double in the next eight years. All of these signs are good news for existing and upcoming spa operators in the country.


From Zeel and Soothe in the USA, to Vaniday in Brazil and Urban Massage in the UK – massage-on-demand businesses are cropping up all over the place and are set to shake up the sector. They enable customers to book same-day appointments – sometimes even within the hour – with mobile therapists in the area. These new market entrants could whet consumer appetites for spas, but they could also take away custom, not least because they offer an online community and convenience – two things which the majority of spas are lacking.


Spa businesses in South-East Asia will start to feel the impact of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) when it comes into effect at the end of 2015. Likened to the European Union, the AEC is a single market initiative led by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) made up of 10 countries – Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Vietnam.

Increased competition in recruiting skilled therapists and managers, a rise in rival businesses, a higher need for differentiation and a greater need for language skills are perceived as challenges of the AEC (see p74). But on the plus side,

operators also feel the benefits will include more industry investment, higher spa and therapist standards, a wider diversity of treatments and employees with different skills from other countries.


photo: Fusion Maia Da Nang, Vietnam

We predict a rise in therapist standards when the new market comes into effect


The visitor attractions market has emerged as a multi-billion dollar sector. It’s growing fast and attracting significant investment worldwide from major players in businesses such as theme parks, brandlands, museums and science centres.

We believe that the technology used within the attractions industry has huge potential for use in the development of spa and wellness facilities and expect significant collaborations to emerge.

Innovations such as immersive environments, virtual reality, haptic technology, facial recognition software and augmented reality could all be deployed to create amazing experiences for customers within the spa and wellness industry.

In addition, the attractions industry’s expertise in creating vivid customer journeys and high levels of engagement can also be used by spas to heighten and elevate the experience being delivered.

Other overlaps could include the use of 360 degree screens and multimedia to deliver ambience or to create another layer to the spa experience.

Early adopter, Asian skincare brand AmorePacific, (see Spa Business 2015 issue 2, p76) has worked with theme park designer BRC Imagination Arts to create an award-winning brandland in South Korea that mixes a spa theme and visitor attraction. We expect more to follow.


Skincare company AmorePacific has created a visitor attraction out of its factory in South Korea


Tourism is set to take off in Cuba as diplomatic relations with the USA thaw for the first time in 30 years. In April, President Obama recommended the country be taken off the USA’s terrorism list, and the number of Americans who are visiting Cuba has already increased significantly – by 36 per cent – since the start of the year, according to The Associated Press. While business and tourist embargoes with the USA remain intact, spa investors who strike up partnerships in the communist country now will be ahead of the game.


For years the airline and hospitality industries have reaped the rewards of appealing to a broad spectrum of customers at the same time. Those who can afford upper class seats or suites get access to nicer food, more space and better service. Yet, simultaneously, there’s still a perfectly acceptable range of options for those who are on a budget.

It’s time spas ventured down the ‘tiered offering’ route. Such a move would impact all aspects of a facility – from design, therapies and service to pricing and marketing – but it would also widen the scope for business rather than limiting it to just one customer segment.



As tribal peoples the world over receive restitution from governments for the loss of their lands and rights, some are choosing to invest this money in leisure, tourism and increasingly in spa.

The world sat up and took notice in 2007 when the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida bought hotel, casino and hospitality business Hard Rock Café International in a huge deal which was just shy of a billion US dollars.

In New Zealand, the Ngai Tahu tribe has announced it will invest in a new hot pools complex, while in Australia, the Jawoyn people have invested in Cicadia Lodge, an eco retreat, and have also moved into adventure tourism.

We expect this to become a trend as human rights successes mean the pace of restitution increases. Many tribes also have indigenous treatments and customs which complement the spa market.


The Ngai Tahu tribe in New Zealand is investing in hot pool complexes


As the spa market matures and the demand for niche spa offerings becomes greater, operators will look for ways to differentiate their spas. We believe combining sport and spa will be a very powerful and attractive option for collaboration and investment.

There are great synergies between the two markets and sport-orientated spas would find an existing group of highly engaged consumers to tap into.

In Italy, for example, the four star Hotel Terme Millepini has conceived the Y-40 – the world’s deepest swimming pool – otherwise known as The Deep Joy.

It offers diving enthusiasts the freedom to dive and swim without a wetsuit, while still enjoying the pleasures of spa.

Measuring 21X18m on the surface, the pool contains 4,300 cubic meters of spa water which is maintained at a constant temperature of 32-34?C.

The pool has a depth of 40m, with intermediate caves for technical underwater diving. It supports a wide range of activities year round, from beginners’ scuba diving training to professional diving for experts, and photo sessions for photographers and film producers.

Choose pretty much any sport and a spa connection could be developed. We expect to see more this kind of investment going forward.


Divers enjoy swimming in 4,300 cubic meters of warm spa water in Y-40, the 40m dive tank at the Hotel Terme Millepini, Italy


How we feel and what we eat has a visible impact on our appearance, so it stands to reason that the next generation of skincare will be about more than just the creams we put on our face. Dermalogica’s Face Mapping tool already links zones on the face to the health of internal organs. Other product houses such as Comfort Zone, Gazelli and Elemis are tapping into lifestyle and nutritional advice with their packages and prescriptions too. We expect to see much more of this, but wonder what ramifications it will have on the workforce and the new skills demanded of therapists.


We’re led to believe that iron-rich food is good for you, however, research shows that enough is enough and too much iron in the system can be toxic and oxidising and can lead to the development of a range of diseases.

Post-menopausal women are especially vulnerable to high iron levels: as menstruation ends, they can climb to levels which are detrimental to health.

With an ageing population, this presents opportunities for spas to offer haemoglobin testing and advice on this health issue. The solution is simple too – give blood.



USA destination spa Canyon Ranch has teamed up with burlesque icon Dita Von Teese to create a programme which covers sensuality, seduction and discussions about the health benefits of sexuality. Dr Nicola Finely, who heads up the talks, says: “Respecting one’s sexuality is an important element of living a full and happy life.”

Meanwhile in Europe, one company is experiencing much demand for its luxury sensuality retreats which include sex counselling and sensual healing therapies. Since launching in 2013, Shh (Sensual, Healing, Harmony) Global has held six retreats in the UK and Ibiza for up to eight women. In 2016 it will host twice as many retreats to meet demand.

While a taboo subject (sometimes understandably so in spas), sex and sexuality is important to wellbeing and we expect more operators to explore this trend with sensitivity and integrity.


photo: shutterstock/lev radin

Dita Von Teese is heading up a sensuality programme at Canyon Ranch


Increasingly architects and designers are turning to nature for inspiration – not just for the way buildings look, but also in the way they function. Biomimicry, the act of applying biological principles to design, hasn’t made its way into spas (yet). But we see it as the next step for a sector that’s already embracing sustainable and wellness-focused properties.

In CLADmag – a sister magazine to Spa Business – we recently outlined a number of striking examples of biomimicry in the leisure industry, including thermo-metal cladding that ‘breathes’ like human skin to heat or cool a building; and super-efficient solar panels modelled on butterfly wings.

In France, the nonLin/Lin Pavilion – consisting of perforated aluminium sheets that can be replicated infinitely – emulates the morphology of coral. Meanwhile, Rome’s Jubilee Church uses self-cleaning cement that is inspired by photosynthesis.

In New York, David Benjamin’s Hy-Fi art installation is built entirely from fungus, hemp and corn stalk bricks, which grew naturally into shape over five days. “Biological systems have amazing properties like adaptation, self-organisation, self-healing and regeneration,” he told Inhabitat blog last year. “Imagine our buildings having the same properties.”

Read more about this thought-provoking topic in CLADmag: http://lei.sr?a=W1T2p


photo: © marc fornes

Marc Fornes’ nonLin/Lin Pavilion has been inspired by coral and can be replicated infinitely


Bintan, in Indonesia, has often been overshadowed by Bali and Thailand as a holiday destination even though it’s only a 45-minute boat ride from Singapore. But that could be about to change with a new international airport opening in mid-2015 and a number of revamped and fresh hotels (all with spas, naturally) arriving on the scene. Alila plans to open a resort there, with a sizeable spa, in 2016, and Canyon Ranch has chosen the location for its first destination spa outside the USA (see p36). In short, investing in facilities on the island would be a smart move – a move which we expect other spa operators to spot.


Muslims spent US$140bn on international travel in 2013, representing almost 13 per cent of global travel expenditures, according to a report by Crescent Rating. The agency is one of a growing number of firms that rate facilities on their adherence to Islamic traditions, such as no alcohol and gambling, serving halal-certified food and offering gender-segregated leisure facilities. Spas in Muslim countries already offer separate male and female areas, but we predict further segregation in design and in facilities outside these regions as the growth of halal tourism picks up pace


Crawling on all fours, swinging from bars, leaping between obstacles: there’s a whole new breed of group exercise class that draws inspiration from the animal kingdom.
These classes, which focus on bodyweight-based movement, rather than the use of equipment, are a great fit for spas because of their kit-free, natural approach.

Wildfitness has been running ‘wild moving’ fitness holidays in Africa and Europe for a few years, but now the concept is making its way into gyms. Early market arrivals include MOV’ training by Parkour Generations; the Australian-born ZUU concept; and Animal Flow classes offered at USA gym chain Equinox.

All of the classes deliver a full-body functional workout. Crucially, they’re also great fun, helping participants to rediscover the joy of movement.

Read more in Health Club Management magazine: http://lei.sr?a=x6L9b


A new breed of exercise class draws inspiration from the animal kingdom


Accounting for around 450 million people, baby boomers are one of the most influential generations in the world. They’re also the main market for spas. But as these 51- to 69-year-olds age, their biological and psychological needs change too.

The Silver Group in Asia has developed an age-friendly AF Audit™ tool that helps companies such as Accor understand the needs of older consumers. CEO Kim Walker says: “We’ve evaluated a lot of spas in hotels and generally they’re not age-friendly because they just haven’t given thought to it.” It’s about subtle changes as well as obvious ones, he says. If a non-slip floor looks wet, for example, people will still change the way they walk and are just as likely to fall.

But be mindful that baby boomers don’t want to be singled out, adds Walker. “When you enter a spa, you’re bombarded with instructions that most people struggle to remember, let alone older adults with cognitive issues. Staff are sometimes soft-spoken and may have a foreign accent, making it harder to hear them... The point is, if you made these things age-friendly everyone would benefit.”

Spas that start now to assess and adjust their facilities to best serve the 50-plus age market will be one step ahead.

Read more in Spa Business magazine: http://lei.sr?a=K1y5p


photo: shutterstock/Goodluz

Baby boomers are the most influential generation, yet many companies are ignoring their needs as they get older


Facials are a best seller for spas, with ever more complex rituals on offer.

However, just as body treatments include everything from a simple massage to a complex treatment that involves wraps and scrubs, so we expect spas to evolve fuller facial menus which include a new addition – a face massage.

Face massage is a technical treatment that manipulates and releases the muscles of the face, head and neck, relieving tension, re-balancing muscles and improving lymphatic drainage, but without heavy product use.

It can be anti-ageing, relieve the side effects of tension behaviours such as teeth grinding, and help with headaches and puffiness around the eyes.

There’s a limit to how often facials can be delivered, but face massage can be done regularly, so would be a profitable, complementary addition to the menu.


photo: shutterstock/Maksim Shmeljov

Spas could offer face massage as part of a package with facials to upsell regular clients


The lifecycle of the spa and wellness real estate market is following the classic growth curve, starting out with high end offers, but with niche and mass market products now very much on the horizon.

We know adding spa and wellness to hotel rooms and residential developments gives up to a 30 per cent uplift in value at the top end of the market; what’s yet to be established is the premium that will be achieved in the mid-market.

We expect wellness real estate to boom as a sector in the next five years, as the property market continues its rebound from the global recession, and for wellness to be a key differentiator in giving a competitive edge to developments.

This trend will play to consumers’ increasing interest in wellness and spa, as this is translated into a commitment to living in an environment that is more conducive to good health.


photo: shutterstock/Dudarev Mikhail

No longer the preserve of the very wealthy

• Loneliness: bad for health
• Oil, gas and solar: global hot spots
• Edible environments: growing interest
• Playing with food: taste sensation
• Neuroplasticity: there’s a thought
• Cellular health: striking a balance
• Robot therapists: automation
• War zones: a new perspective
• Fats & carbs: the new superfoods
• 3D printing: product will be printed on-site
• Predicting purchasing: weather channel
• No front desk: welcoming guests
• Spa boom in Japan: the Olympic effect
• Virtual trainer: access to experts
• Bad products: lawsuits on the horizon
• Over nourishment: too much of a good thing
• Circadian aware: setting the rhythm
• Microgyms: specialist fitness
• Gut health: the second brain
• Clean air & water: the basics are now a USP
• Facial recognition: tuning in or just plain creepy?
• Wellness cities: hubs for health

• Fresh food deliveries: ready prepared
• Online reviews: star performance
• Wearable tech: Google glass
• Death: end-of-life care
• Emotion: engaging the heart
• Skills register: get enlisted
• Glute massage: the bottom line
• More with less: getting creative
• Delicious extras: small & powerful
• Pop-up spas: nimble solutions
• New allies: shared aims
• Cellulite: female obsession
• Home spa: personal services
• Childhood obesity: teaching self-care
• Mobile biometrics: expert engagement
• Sex in spas: no longer taboo
• Spa brands: moving into retail
• Hand & arm massage: smartphone relief
• Repeat business: keeping loyal
• Africa: in sight of change
• Variable pricing: software support
• Last impressions: powerful recall
• Exercise: the key to wellbeing
• Hospital spas: provable outcomes

• Budget spas: low cost & widespread
• Corporate wellness: support staff
• Education overhaul: starting from scratch
• Deal sites: what’s next?
• Beauty brand power: what’s in a name?

• Express treatments: speeding up
• Spas seduced by beauty: sitting pretty
• Tracking & analysing spa data: number crunching
• Location-based marketing: on the map
• More serious skincare: face value
• Discounting for volume deals: bulk order
• Treatment room size: room for improvement
• The rise of part time staff: half measures?
• International marketing partnerships: cross country

• Spa art: in the picture
• Four star spas: the middle road
• Menu engineering: fine tuning
• Spa memberships: join the gang
• Social spa-ing: lighten up
• Spa niching: pushing boundaries
• No appointment needed: flexi-time
• Online learning: surf school
• A call for scientific proof: giving evidence
• Heating up: wellness tourism; retail brands turn pro; eco-packaging; social networking

• Spa benchmarking: measuring up
• Beautiful view: consumer brands explore spa potential
• Brand diversification: multiple personalities
• Yield management: making the most of it
• Travel spas: on the move
• Hair spa services: head first
• Net worth: marketing, gifting and booking websites
• Diagnostic spas: testing, testing
• Organic skincare certification: setting standards
• Radio frequency identification systems: every step you take
• Ethical products and operations: fair play
• Olfactory marketing: smells good
• Getting hotter: real estate; medical tourism; sustainability; spas for the boys; sleep health; spa bedrooms

About the authors:
Liz Terry has been writing about and analysing the global leisure industries since 1983. She’s editor of Spa Business and Spa Opportunities magazines.


Twitter: @elizterry

Katie Barnes has a 14-year career in international spa, beauty and health media. She’s managing editor of Spa Business magazine and was launch editor of the Spa Business Handbook.

Email: katiebarnes@spabusiness.com

Twitter: @SpaBusinessKB

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2015 issue 1

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