19 Sep 2018 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Joining Forces

Asia Research

Joining Forces


With the imminent introduction of a pan-Asian economy, a study by Stenden Rangsit University analyses opinions of spas in the region as well as Thai spa consumer trends. Research co-ordinator Prantik Bordoloi reports

Prantik Bordoloi , Stenden Rangsit University
Thai therapists, such as those at Spa Cenvaree, are perceived to be the most skilled in Southeast Asia
Competition in recruiting staff is set to rise in the single market economy photo: www.rarinjinda.com
Spas in Thailand, such as So Spa at Sofitel Bangkok, can expect more customers and revenue in 2015
Spas in Thailand, such as So Spa at Sofitel Bangkok, can expect more customers and revenue in 2015
Spas in Thailand, such as So Spa at Sofitel Bangkok, can expect more customers and revenue in 2015
Study sponsors include Centara
Tubkaak Hotel Krabi
Men are more likely to visit a spa in the week than women photo: www.chivasom.com
Chiva-Som: maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a top reason for visiting a spa

This year, the much-anticipated ASEAN Economy Community (AEC) is due to come into effect, heavily influencing businesses in South-East Asia. Likened to the European Union, the AEC is a single market initiative led by the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which represents 10 member countries – Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Vietnam. It will see the free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and a freer flow of capital between the 10 countries.

With this in mind, Thailand’s 2014 Spa Industry Study canvassed opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of spas in ASEAN countries. Spa-goer habits were also covered in the study, which was carried out by Stenden Rangsit University, in collaboration with the Thai Spa Association (see p341). It included responses from just under 300 spa consumers (locals, expatriates and tourists) and explored opinions of 115 national and international spa operators.

So, what ASEAN country is perceived as having the best spas? And what emerging spa customer trends were revealed?

ASEAN SPA SCENE
In its 2013 Spa Industry Study, Stenden asked spa operators about the challenges and opportunities the AEC presents (see SB13/4 p86). More competition in recruiting staff and an overall rise in rival businesses were some of the main challenges highlighted, while increased investment and improvements in spa standards were the perceived benefits.

In the latest edition of the study, spa managers compared and ranked spas in eight ASEAN countries on 12 industry aspects. The managers rated each country on a scale of 1 to 5 (poor to excellent) on factors such as therapist skills, spa standards and therapies. It should be noted that this part of the study was optional and 20 out of the 115 managers provided their views.

The answers give some insight into which spa sectors in the region might lead the way in the wake of economic integration, as well as pinpointing those that will need to raise their game if they want compete with their neighbours. The second objective was to identify strengths in the ASEAN spa industry which could then be used to promote the nations as a unified spa destination.

• Therapist skills, training and availability. Survey respondents (spa managers) feel that Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia are clearly in the strongest position when it comes to employees, and indeed many other areas too. They believe that Thailand has the most skilled therapists out of all the ASEAN countries – it scored an average of 3.9 out of 5 – followed by Indonesia and Singapore, respectively (see Table 1).

It’s perceived that the best training is available in Indonesia, with Thailand and Singapore a very close joint second. Although, it’s also thought that education is the most frequent in Singapore.

When it comes to recruitment, survey respondents feel that both Thailand and Indonesia have the highest availability of therapists, after which comes the Philippines and Singapore (see Table 2).

Overall the high-quality of therapists in the ASEAN region is considered an strength that could be referred to in promotion material. Innovation in South-East Asia (see below) was also seen as a plus.

• Spa hygiene/standards, and infrastructure. In terms of hygiene/standards and infrastructure, it was noted that the Singapore was ranked the highest by far (scores of 3.9 and 4.3 respectively) followed by Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Spas in Cambodia and Myanmar are perceived as having the poorest hygiene/standards and infrastructure. In fact, these two countries were consistently the bottom two scorers across all aspects, suggesting that there’s much room for improvement.

• Innovativeness. As far as innovativeness in spa therapies and products is concerned, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore came top once again, with a better rating than those in other ASEAN countries. Yet respondents felt spas in Singapore had the most dynamic approach to marketing, giving a score of 3.9 points on average, compared to Thailand and Indonesia in joined second place on 3.2 points each.

Overall, it was felt spas in the region particularly excelled in treatment/product innovation and the quality of therapists. This would be worth highlighting in future marketing campaigns.

SPA CONSUMER TRENDS
As well as gaining insights from spa managers, the 2014 Spa Industry Study focused on the preferences and habits of 295 spa-goers. Most questions were presented in a multiple-choice format, with survey respondents indicating how often they to do something, or how they rated things on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being least often or poor).

On average, the spa-goers surveyed had visited a spa seven times in the previous 12 months with the most frequented kind of facility being a massage shop (similar to a small salon offering only massage therapies) followed by a day spa and hotel spa.

Unsurprisingly, data showed that most consumers go to a spa at the weekend, but if operators are to drum up off-peak business they might want to target male customers who are more likely to visit a spa in the week than females. And overall, the most popular time slots are late afternoon (3-6pm) and evening (6-8pm).

Relaxation remains the primary reason for visiting a spa in Thailand, the study found. Rewarding or spoiling oneself, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and health issues are the three purposes for going to a spa that came in a close second.

However, there are differences between the consumer groups. Women usually visit a spa for beauty and slimming treatments and beauty is also an important reason for going to a spa for locals and tourists. In comparison, expatriates value detox treatments far more than locals and tourists. And spa managers rate expatriates as the most important target market for their business, followed by locals and then (transient) tourists.

The three types of treatments that consumers try most often in Thai spas are Thai massage, foot massage and aromatherapy massage, respectively. Proportionately, tourists are much more likely to opt for signature treatments than any other customer group and there’s a probability that they’ll select longer treatments too.

As part of the study, spa-goers were asked how much they were likely to spend on their visit. The most popular category was THB750-THB1,500 (US$23-US$46, €18-€37, £14-£29) which 31 per cent of the respondents picked, followed by THB1,501-THB3,000 (US$46-US$91, €37-€73, £29-£58) which 18.8 per cent of customers chose.

When buying products, it’s no surprise that price remains the most important consideration for all customer types. But after that, the top priorities are natural ingredients, organic ingredients and having a recognised brand.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS
In its conclusion, the 2014 Spa Industry Study asked spa-goers about their expectations when visiting spas in Thailand in the future. More discounts on treatments and packages to reward loyalty/repeat customers was the top request, very closely followed by the desire for more customised treatments or packages (see Graph 1). Next on the list was an expectation for spas in Thailand to have more respect for traditional treatments. Consumers are less bothered about the improvement or expansion of facilities, décor refurbishments or having healthy food/spa cuisine options.

Eighty-three per cent of the survey respondents say it’s likely, or very likely that they’ll visit a spa in the next 12 months. It’s also encouraging to hear that they expect to visit an average of nine times, compared to an average of seven visits in the previous 12 months.

The amount spent in facilities could potentially increase too. Forty-nine per cent of Thai spa-goers think that they’ll spend more than THB1,500 (US$46, €37, £29) in the next 12 months – compared to 41 per cent of people in the previous year. In conclusion, the study hints at a promising future for the Thai spa industry.



A full copy of the report, with a more in-depth breakdown of survey answers by consumer type, is available from the Thai Spa Association.

Details: www.thaispaassociation.com

 



Spa Association Report
Table 1:

Industry Rating of Therapist Skills in ASEAN Countries*

*Source: Thailand’s 2014 Spa Industry Study, Stenden Rangsit University. Answers given by spa managers
 



Table 1:
Table 2:

Industry Rating of Therapist Availability in ASEAN Countries*

*Source: Thailand’s 2014 Spa Industry Study, Stenden Rangsit University. Answers given by spa managers
 



Table 2:
Graph 1:

What Consumers Want to See from Thai Spas in 2015*

*Source: Thailand’s 2014 Spa Industry Study, Stenden Rangsit University
 



Graph 1:

ABOUT THE RESEARCH
Thailand’s 2014 Spa Industry Study report was based on a survey of 295 spa-goers consisting of Thai nationals (75 per cent), non-Thai expatriates (10 per cent) and tourists (15 per cent) who gave international representation. Thirty-two per cent of respondents were male and 68 per cent were female.

In addition, the study included an online survey of 115 spa managers, 20 of whom took part in an optional questionnaire where they compared the ASEAN countries on 12 spa industry aspects.

Information was gathered in July and August 2014 and the findings were presented at the World Spa & Well-being Convention in September (see p349).


About the author:
Prantik Bordoloi is a lecturer and research coordinator at Stenden Rangsit University in Thailand. He was instrumental in organising both the 2013 and 2014 Spa Industry Research studies.

Email: prantik.bordoloi@stenden.com

Twitter: @prantikbordoloi


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2015 issue 1

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