15 Oct 2018 Spa Business Handbook

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Spa Business Handbook - Spa Foresight™ 2016

Future view

Spa Foresight™ 2016

What’s going to have the biggest impact on spas in the future? Spa Business outlines the trends, technologies and strategies that are coming down the track

Ripe for Investment


With an increasing movement towards all things wellness, more equity firms are scoping out potential projects in the wellbeing and spa sector.

According to Omer Isvan, owner of international investment company Servotel, scaleable wellness is where investors are heading.

There’s something magical about destination spas which offer truly authentic, transformational experiences that keep guests coming back year after year, says Isvan, claiming investors are keeping a close eye on such concepts that could potentially be replicated in a credible way in a resort setting.

He also sees an opportunity for third-party wellness operators who can run specialist facilities for hotels and resorts in much the same way as they do spas.

Read more about industry investment in Spa Business: http://lei.sr?a=8T4O8


photo: Kamalaya wellness sanctuary, Thailand

Can destination spas such as Kamalaya be replicated at a resort level?
Hot Prospect


Tourism is heating up on the volcanic island of Iceland having grown by 100 per cent since 2006 and set to reach the 3 million mark by 2020 – not bad for a country with a population of only 320,000. This will pave the way for upcoming hotel and spa businesses.

Iceland’s airlines have been key to this boom, offering a increasing number of direct and stopover flights between North America and Europe.

Capital controls in place since the 2008 economic crash have also seen the country’s pension funds – worth around ISK1,2tn (US$9.6bn, €8.6bn, £6.6bn) – restricted to domestic investments. Tourism projects, including the new US$2.5m Ice Cave were welcome recipients.

Trendy cafes and boutique shops are making an appearance. As are cool design-led hotels such as Marriott’s Edition which will open next to Reykjavik’s iconic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre by 2019, with Bill Gates one of the reported major investors.

The famous Blue Lagoon thermal spa is also undergoing a major expansion (see p51), while the country’s alluring lunar-like landscape dotted with natural hot springs are a big hit with wellness lovers.

Given this potent mix, we feel Iceland will prove to be a recipe for success for spa operators of the future.


The famous Blue Lagoon hot springs is undergoing an €40m expansion


We expect the health benefits of healthy breathing to become increasingly well recognised and for operators to offer interventions such a breathing workshops and coaching sessions to help guests improve this important eliminatory function.

Breathing well is a skill and many people struggle to do it well, however, it can be improved with practice.
Breathing controls brainwaves and the stress response and can also trigger sleep, so improving breathing patterns can bring immediate and profound health benefits.

Modalities such as yoga, which focus on the breath, will be part of this trend.

The Pampered Journey


Finding windows of time for self-care can be challenging for those living a fast urban lifestyle.

We expect operators to widen their search for these time windows to the transport industry, with planes an obvious starting point.

Air travel is uncomfortable and for those who can afford it, the chance to travel on a plane which has been fully fitted out as a spa, with treatments, healthy food and relaxation to while away the journey would be appealing.

This thinking can be extended to other modes of transport such as buses and trains.

Outreach Programmes


With consumers increasingly drawn to companies with a social conscience, we foresee a time when spas will work more actively with the less fortunate.

Health clubs have already had great success with outreach programmes – teaching fitness to older adults, the obese or those suffering from a range of illnesses. Spas, which have a wealth of knowledge and services focused on preventative health and wellbeing, could do this too.

Operators could devise specialised programmes and take them out into the community, host sessions on-site during off-peak hours or collaborate with local or national associations.

Australia’s Peninsula Hot Springs is one of the first off the mark in positioning itself as hub for social good (and wellness). It already has links with Mental Health Australia and a regional arthritis and osteoporosis organisation.


Peninsula Hot Springs has links with a regional arthritis organisation
Deeper into the biome


We’re becoming familiar with the biome – the billions of bacteria and viruses which live synergistically inside our bodies, controlling all sorts of functions.

Biome-boosting treatments, diets and other interventions increasingly feature on spa menus the world over.
Now new science is emerging which is enabling us to better understand the impact viruses can have on our heath. Scientists are calling this the virome.

We’ve grown used to viewing viruses as simply a source of disease, but researchers are exploring hidden parts of the biome and discovering that we may be able to use viruses to keep healthy.

It’s thought that – just as there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria – so we will find there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ viruses.
Vincent Racaniello, who studies viruses at Columbia University, says: “If we can make a connection between beneficial viruses and good health, the next step will be to try to manipulate them to improve our health and wellbeing.”

A deeper understanding of viruses – which carry one-fiftieth as much genetic information as bacteria – is becoming possible as a result of new probes, which researchers are using to map the virome.

Spa and wellness operators will eventually be able to add virome-boosting treatments and protocols to their menus.


photo: shutterstock/llaszlo

The study of viruses will open up new treatments which use beneficial viruses to improve health and wellbeing
Food as medicine


Far from being a diet limited to certain food groups or calorie counting, ‘clean eating’ is a simple concept – avoid processed foods and opt for ‘real’, wholesome ingredients instead.

We predict more spas will adopt this approach in their cuisine and also expect them to refine and expand the definition of superfoods as they realise that a wide range of foods have nutritional benefits.

Spas which roast, bake and fry with hot fat, creating acrylamide – which the World Health Organization has warned is carcinogenic – will change this practice as a more holistic approach to food is adopted.

Compassionate access


As the population ages and the number of people living with dementia increases, we expect to see a rapid increase in awareness of the importance of dementia-friendly design.

The customer journey can be made far more enjoyable and straightforward for people living with dementia, and their carers, friends and family if a building is skillfully designed to accommodate their needs.

Things like signposting, effective colour selections for light and contrast can all help dementia-sufferers navigate with less stress and distress.

The power of peace


We’re spotting a trend for the creation of meditation spaces in residential developments and expect this to filter across to the spa and wellness market.

Increasing interest in meditation and awareness of the importance of making time for contemplation and renewal is driving this need to find sanctuary.

Meditation spaces can be indoors, outdoors, or a mix of both and can be created in urban settings – with the use of air filters and white noise machines – and in natural locations. Designing one with a beautiful view can add to the power of the experience.

Destination spas such as Rancho la Puerta, which has a stunning meditation room with mountain views, have led the way. We expect mainstream spas to follow, as this trend grows.

These spaces are increasingly likely to be designed by specialist architects.


photo: shutterstock/Luna Vandoorne

Increasing awareness of the power of peace will mean more meditation spaces
Spa for your genes


Scientists are increasingly convinced that the majority of disease – potentially up to 95 per cent – is preventable through making healthy lifestyle choices. This field of science is known as epigenetics.

It was previously thought that genes were fixed for life. However, sequencing of the human genome has taught us that many genes change in response to how we care for ourselves – from how we exercise and sleep, the pollution we’re exposed to, our stress levels and state of mind, to what we eat and drink.

With prevention tipped to become a massive industry in years to come, this is a huge game changer for sectors related to self-care – including spa.
A spa for your genes will offer tests which reveal how a range of modalities, from meditation to massage, can impact our DNA – whether directly or indirectly through helping us to reduce stress or sleep better etc. And they’ll prescribe personalised programmes based on that data.

Deepak Chopra is already working on an anti-ageing and prevention centre which embraces epigentics. It’s due to open on Blackadore Caye, a Belize island owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, in 2018 (see p41).

There’s no reason why other spas can’t follow suit by designing ‘test and prescribe’ modalities to ensure they’re at the heart of the drive for prevention.


photo: ©McClennan Design

Deepak Chorpa is teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio and Delos to create a wellness centre which offers epigenetic testing
New Discoveries


Modern science is redefining the way we think about skin, and this will have a huge impact on the spa experience.

New research shows skin has both hearing and seeing sensors, suggesting there’s a greater synergy between the lighting and music in treatment rooms and the effects of bodywork.

Discoveries focusing on how we’re wired for ‘social touch’ show we react differently to the speed or pressure of touch. Clients massaged gently are likely to tip more, for example, and feel the benefits long after a treatment. With this in mind, it’s likely spa will have more impact on society’s wellbeing than we can imagine.
Read more: http://lei.sr?a=k3w2e

Tribal gathering


Specialisation is booming in the fitness industry as boutique facilities home in on specific types of exercise from yoga and group cycling to bootcamps. They’re in accessible, city-centre locations with expert staff and tribal-like followers who buy into the brands in a big way, while still also going to their regular gym.

In the future, we see spa entrepreneurs siphoning off individual modalities – from reiki and reflexology to meditation – and creating their own highly specialised, standalone businesses with their own loyal tribes.

Noteworthy benefits


For the past six years, scientists at the UK’s Royal College of Music have been building a body of evidence to show that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional and psychological benefits, particularly in those with the lowest levels of mental wellbeing. Most recently, it’s even found there are biological advantages too – one hour of choral singing boosts levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer.

Group singing sessions are a harmonious fit for spas which are getting more inventive with their menus by adding unusual, yet efficacious, therapies.
The activity, already popularised by TV series and films such as Glee and Pitch Perfect, could be offered to locals on a regular basis or as a one-off for guests to help improve mood, reduce stress and have a positive impact on their overall health in a fun and dynamic way.


photo: shutterstock/glenda

An hour singing has been found to boost the immune system and improve mood
Floating idea


“When you’re hanging upside down, it takes away all the stress that’s been pushing on the discs of your spine,” says Christopher Harrison, the founder of AntiGravity®Aerial Yoga. “You’re creating space, which allows the discs to hydrate and very often helps to relieve back pain.”

Harrison created his form of yoga by incorporating a silk hammock which can be used for the support and balance of moves – such as the zero-compression inversion – which traditionally wouldn’t be possible. He’s now taking that idea and applying it to massage to develop an innovative treatment for spas.

He describes AntiGravity Floating Massage as something which will allow a licenced therapist to manipulate the client into a weightless state in combination with massage therapy.

“Once suspended in mid-air, the body reacts very differently to manipulation,” he says. “The therapist has the leverage that he/she would not be able to attain if the body was lying on a hard surface.”

Expect to see this new technique rolling out in spas by the end of the year with Four Seasons already signed up.

We also feel there’s room in the market for more innovation when it comes to massage, including the growth of turning and swinging massage beds such as Clap Tzu’s WaveMotion table.


AntiGravity® Aerial Yoga founder Christopher Harrison is adapting his techniques for massage therapists
catch of the caribbean


Hailed as the last undeveloped island in the Caribbean, and the ‘edgy new Cuba’, Haiti is capturing the attention of international real estate developers, hoteliers and tourists alike, with spa facilities sure to follow.

Things are far from perfect following the devastating 2010 earthquake and years of political troubles. Yet the US State Department considers it safe for tourists and last year Haiti had the fourth biggest increase of tourists (up 10.9 per cent to 515,800 visitors) of any Caribbean destination.

Both Marriott and Best Western now have hotels in the capital Port au Prince and Royal Caribbean has a private cruise ship port in the north.

Flexible scheduling


The typical spa business model is therapist + client + treatment room = booking. This model is hugely inefficient, leading to a very high level of turnaways in most types of spas.

We expect new business models to emerge which find ways around these constraints by offering spa and wellness experiences which are more flexible in terms of the timed allocation of resources and what’s on offer.

Imagine taking a ticket for a massage when you arrive and then spending time in hot pools or a relaxation space while you wait your turn.

Harnessing nature


Medical research is increasingly focusing on harnessing the power of the immune system to both prevent and cure disease.

Researchers are now indicating that living in over-clean, sterile environments removes so many challenges to the immune system that it can leave people weakened and open to a range of diseases from cancer to auto immune disorders.

Just as immunisation programmes are used by doctors to build immunity against certain diseases, so we expect spas to begin to offer retreats and treatments which focus on immune system transformation by offering immune system challenges and treatments.

These will enable the body to build more powerful responses to threats, deterioration and disease.

These treatments will amplify the body’s own ability to fight disease using natural, rather than pharmaceutical interventions.


photo: shutterstock/Olena Zaskochenko

Can we be too clean? Immune challenges can build resistance to infection and disease
Rest gets technical


Modern life means many people are ‘always on’ and while wide acknowledgment of the importance of relaxation is one of the drivers of growth in the spa industry, many people are not skilled at building rest into their lives in a way which is technically optimised.

Olympic athletes know their rest and recovery schedules are as important in determining performance as their training, because once it’s stressed through any kind of activity, the body needs time to respond and recuperate.

Exercise causes ‘damage’ which needs to be repaired and this requires the body to expend a considerable amount of energy to heal. It’s also the time when the training response takes effect and physical capacity is increased to enable a higher level of performance and function.
Spa and wellness businesses can raise their level of expertise in terms of the body’s response to rest by using existing resources and expertise to educate guests in the benefits, as well as programming technical rest with the correct nutritional, physical and physiological and psychological support.

Rest is also important for convalescence and healing from trauma or injury.

While athletes and coaches know the importance of the right kind of rest, this expertise is rarely available in spas.


photo: shutterstock/Giorgio Rossi

Rest time which is technically optimised enables the body to regenerate more powerfully
Shortcut to meditation


It’s time for spas to stop overlooking floatation pools, thinking of them as an expensive extra just for relaxation and to start incorporating them into wellness programmes or using them as a standalone treatment for serious ailments.

As research labs begin to document the therapeutic benefits of flotation, especially studying the way it can be used as a shortcut to meditation, we predict a resurgence of the therapy in spas.

Neurospsychologist Justin Feinstein has set up one of the first float clinics at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, US, and believes floating can help people who find it difficult to meditate to switch off mental chatter. He’s also found it could be used to treat conditions like PTSD, chronic pain and anorexia.

Read more about Feinstein’s research in Spa Business: http://lei.sr?a=c0e6u


photo: float clinic and research center at LIBR

The US is home to one of the first flotation research labs
Rapid Innovation


The health and fitness industry is embracing a modular pod format which we expect to be taken up by operators in the spa and wellness market

Driven by the fast pace of change in fitness and fitness tech, operators are designing flexible pod spaces with demountable walls which can be easily refitted to accommodate a variety of different fitness offers throughout the day and which can be changed as soon as a new trend is identified as being suitable for the operation and customer profile.

Working a little like a food court, modular fitness pod facilities might have a series of pods for things like small group personal training, virtual workouts, meditation, yoga, TRX, heart rate training – whatever the membership demands.

As soon as a new trend emerges, a pod can be repurposed to deliver that activity to keep the business in tune with demand.


Keeping up with trends: virtual fitness
spa foresight™ the archive

• Invisibles
• Faecal transplants
• Panama
• Massage-on-demand
• ASEAN market
• Attractions & spa
• Cuba
• Tiered offering
• Tribal investments
• Sport & spa
• Next gen skincare
• Haemoglobin levels
• Sexual wellness
• Biomimicry
• Bintan
• Halal tourism
• Animal movement
• Age-friendly design
• Face massage
• Spa and wellness real estate

• Loneliness
• Oil, gas and solar
• Edible environments
• Playing with food
• Neuroplasticity
• Cellular health
• Robot therapists
• War zones
• Fats & carbs
• 3D printing
• Predicting purchasing
• No front desk
• Spa boom in Japan
• Virtual trainer
• Bad products
• Over nourishment
• Circadian aware
• Microgyms
• Gut health
• Clean air & water
• Facial recognition
• Wellness cities

• Fresh food deliveries
• Online reviews
• Wearable tech
• Death
• Emotion
• Skills register
• Glute massage
• More with less
• Delicious extras
• Pop-up spas
• New allies
• Cellulite
• Home spa
• Childhood obesity
• Mobile biometrics
• Sex in spas
• Spa brands
• Hand & arm massage
• Repeat business
• Africa
• Variable pricing
• Last impressions
• Exercise
• Hospital spas

• Budget spas
• Corporate wellness
• Education overhaul
• Deal sites
• Beauty brand power

• Express treatments
• Spas seduced by beauty
• Tracking & analysing spa data
• Location-based marketing
• More serious skincare
• Discounting for volume deals
• Treatment room size
• The rise of part time staff
• International marketing partnerships

• Spa art
• Four star spas
• Menu engineering
• Spa memberships
• Social spa-ing
• Spa niching
• No appointment needed
• Online learning
• A call for scientific proof
• Wellness tourism
• Retail brands turn pro
• Eco-packaging
• Social networking

• Spa benchmarking
• Consumer beauty goes pro
• Spa brand diversification
• Yield management
• Travel spas
• Hair spa services
• Online booking, gifting & marketing
• Diagnostic spas
• Organic skincare certification
• Radio frequency identification systems
• Ethical products & operations
• Olfactory marketing
• Real estate
• Medical tourism
• Sustainability
• Spas for men
• Sleep health
• Spa bedrooms

About the authors:


Liz Terry

Liz Terry has been writing about and analysing the global leisure industries since 1983. She’s editorial director of Spa Business and Spa Opportunities magazines.

Email: lizterry@spabusiness.com

Twitter: @elizterry

About the authors


Katie Barnes

Katie Barnes has a 15-year career in international spa, beauty and health media. She’s the 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 2016 issue 1

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