24 Nov 2020 Spa Business Handbook

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Spa Business Handbook - Spa Foresight™

Future view

Spa Foresight™

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

Jane Kitchen, Spa Business

Growing market


Concerns are growing about the safety of tattoo inks, which – in spite of the fact they’re injected into the body – are not yet governed by laws relating to toxicity.

Up to 20 per cent of adults in some Western nations are tattooed, with this rising to 35 per cent in the under-30s.

According to a recent report from the European Chemicals Agency (ECA), tattoo ink is thought likely to have a carcinogenic or mutagenic impact, as well as being implicated in reproductive disease, with red ink being the colour most likely to cause the biggest issues, according to ECA.

We think health-conscious consumers with tattoos will be increasingly interested in tattoo removal, coupled with chelation therapy to filter heavy metals from their body.

Spas are ideally placed to introduce both services, with healing and recuperation included, to create a full-service tattoo-removal programme.


photo: shutterstock/Africa Studio

Most people are unaware of the health risks of getting a tattoo.

2. Spa dentistry

Dentistry will undergo a revolution in the next 50 years, with 3D-printed tooth implants and stem-cell regeneration making existing procedures redundant.

These changes will create opportunities for spas to widen wellbeing services to include dental treatment, by investing in next-generation equipment and creating a role for holistic spa dentists.

It will be a great fit: a spa is the ideal setting in which to undergo hi-tech dental procedures, given the relaxing environments and exceptional levels of service.

These high-value dental treatments will create powerful additional revenue streams for spas from compact and affordable real estate footprints.

Dental health is an important part of wellbeing. Research shows poor dentistry contributes to a range of issues, including heart disease and autoimmune disorders, making effective interventions important for good health – while the cosmetic value of beautiful teeth has a powerful effect on self-esteem and confidence.

We expect foresighted spa operators to make investments in dentistry part of their business development planning, and to begin to position for synergystic dental partnerships and acquisitions to take advantage of the radical changes that will reshape the market for essential and cosmetic dentistry in the coming decades.


photo: shutterstock/Robert Kneschke

Spas will develop a highly lucrative new area of business by moving into high-tech dentistry
Strategies for coping

3. Grief

Just as death is a taboo subject for many, so the challenge of supporting people who are grieving is something that many find difficult to discuss.

This creates situations where people can be grieving, and friends, colleagues and family are not equipped to offer support. They say nothing, for fear of saying the wrong thing and making matters worse.

Spas are well-placed to offer a sanctuary where grief can be expressed and both the grieving and their supporters can be taught strategies for healing. We expect life-changing interventions such as this to become part of the industry’s remit.


4. Simplicity

In an always-on, increasingly complex world, simplicity is the new luxury.
More information is available to teenagers today than was available to the US president 20 years ago – and that overload is leading to ‘infobesity.’

Brain-drained consumers are tired of making decisions, and simplifying choices is key to making guests feel truly relaxed. This could translate to simpler spa menus, or consultations that point guests to treatments – no decision-making required. Spas have long provided calm, distraction-free spaces; guests will be looking for a less-is-more sensibility in other areas.


5. Therapy animals

Animal interactions have been shown to have positive effects on people’s physical health – lowering blood pressure, increasing endorphin levels, and decreasing the physical perception of pain.

They’ve also been shown to positively affect mental health by decreasing anxiety, feelings of isolation and loneliness.

As spas seek ways to offer services in the area of mental wellbeing, we expect to see more use of therapy animals.

Spas such as Miraval, with its equine programme, are already using therapy animals to help guests gain greater self-awareness and experience personal growth. We think more spas – especially those with plenty of open space – could implement animal therapy programmes, and in the process, help bring joy and calm to their guests. And the PR angle is also powerful – who could resist the Instagrammable cuteness?


At Sunrise Springs, guests interact with puppies from Assistance Dogs of the West
Ice age

6. Extreme bathing

With the growing popularity of programmes like the Wim Hof Method, which advocates extreme cold exposure and advanced breathing techniques for health and resilience, we predict more consumers will warm to the idea of extreme cold if the health benefits are clearly explained.

Research shows that extreme cold exposure has a wide range of important effects, including speeding up metabolism by stimulating the creation of brown fat, reducing inflammation and strengthening the immune system. It’s also been shown to improve quality of sleep, boost the production of feel-good endorphins and have beneficial effects on the treatment of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

When it comes to implementation, extreme bathing services need to be carefully controlled to ensure safety, and we expect some spas to introduce medically supervised, Wim Hof Method programmes, with ice bathing pools and follow-up faciltiies for the “re-warming” phase of the treatment.

Other extreme bathing trends include geothermal saunas that pipe hot steam from the earth’s core, beach spas where holes are dug in the sand to create pools that fill with thermal water from natural springs and – in tune with the trend for forest bathing – woodland streams that are dammed to create bathing pools.


photo: shutterstock/Dudarev Mikhail

New research is confirming the health benefits of extreme cold immersion to a wide range of metabolic processes
Keeping the balance

7. skin microbiome

The microbiome of the gut may have been getting all the attention from consumers, but the skin microbiome has its own unique combination of microorganisms that need to be kept in balance on a daily basis as well.

Harsh cleansers, antibacterial soap, and a general modern obsession with being clean can get things out of balance, leading to skin conditions ranging from acne to eczema and psoriasis, as well as weakening the wider immune system. As consumers begin to understand the larger implications of this, expect to see more probiotic treatments, cleansers and creams, and look to incorporate them in your spa menu.

Llife skills

8. Resilience

We’re forecasting an increasing interest in resilience and stoicism as people of all ages seek better ways to live and cope with the demands of life.

Services in this area will include education, counselling and lifestyle interventions such as balanced exercise regimes that give an outlet for anxieties and relieve stress.

Resilience will be especially important to Gen Z, many of whom are turning out to be troubled and fragile, as a result of being over-exposed to social media and adult content during their formative years – and with high levels of self harm and mental health issues.

The Market broadens

9. Wellness communities

Back in 2009, Spa Foresight™ predicted that wellness real estate would emerge as a significant economic force, with the addition of spa and wellbeing services to residential creating a value margin that would attract a new generation of property developers and investors.

We’ve seen a global rise in high-end wellness communities since, and now we expect the concept to go mainstream, with investors attracted by the 30 per cent uplift.

People living in these developments self-identify as being focused on their own wellbeing to varying degrees (see our report, pages 98-110) and just as spas are designed to attract consumers with different preferences and levels of affluence, so wellness communities will be developed to meet the needs of each, creating opportunities for spa brands at every level of the market to partner with developers on wellness community developments.


Spa operators will find an abundance of opportunity as the market goes mainstream
Mapping thermal water


null,Just as we have our own unique DNA, so natural thermal water has its own unique microfloral DNA – or mfDNA – that can be analysed and correlated to the health properties of waters from specific locations.
Now, a group of scientists, led by Dr Marc Cohen of RMIT University in Australia and Dr Vincenzo Romano Spica of the University of Rome, are working to map mfDNA across the world – and create a biofingerprint for each water source.

The biofingerprint will include details on the physical, chemical and biological makeup of the water. It has implications for practical things like hygiene, safety and quality, as well as management, but can also be used in marketing. By characterising hot springs water and identifying the benefits and best uses for each kind, Dr Spica hopes to help consumers find the best water for the treatment they need, and to increase personalisation. He also hopes waters with different properties can eventually be named and marketed in the same way that wines are – creating the equivalent of champagne, Burgundy or Brunello spa waters, each unique in its particular qualities.


photo: shutterstock/anyaZhe

The mfDNA includes the physical, chemical and biological makeup of the water
World view


In 2015, nearly 20 million tourists travelled to Japan; the government hopes to double this by 2020. Japan is hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which has brought massive hotel development. This will mean an exposure to Japanese culture that will likely have a ripple effect throughout the world – including the Japanese onsen, or hot springs baths, which many of those new tourists will be exposed to for the first time. We anticipate seeing more onsen-like features in spa settings as both consumers and operators discover the peacefulness of Japanese bathing and adapt it to their own cultures.
A new profession

12. Cuddling

We’re noticing a growing number of organisations training people to become professional cuddlers.

The approach is scientific and based on the power of touch. The movement is a growing one.

The aim is to offer a positive and platonic embrace, which releases oxytocin and leaves people feeling nurtured and connected. Cuddling sessions can be one-on-one with a professional therapist, or in groups with relaxation and breathing exercises. We expect spas to explore the introduction of cuddling as a service.

That tingling feeling

13. ASMR

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response – or ASMR – is described as a pleasurable tingling that begins at the top of the head and radiates down the spine, and can be triggered by quiet sounds such as whispering, crinkling paper or the tinkling of wind chimes, or by gentle, light touches like hair brushing or skin stroking.

People are increasingly seeking out ASMR experiences, and YouTube is full of ASMR videos that use sound triggers.

Whisperlodge Spa in New York City opened this year, where therapists blindfold guests and whisper in their ears, touch them gently with makeup brushes, crinkle tissue paper near their heads or even draw with charcoal alongside them to create that pleasant, tingly feeling. It’s all very quiet and intimate; trust of (and comfort with) a therapist is imperative. Feeling ASMR is said to be relaxing, de-stressing, and to lead to better sleep.

We’ve seen elements of ASMR being used in traditional spa environments – Comfort Zone’s sleep therapy treatment uses the gentle touch of brushes, for example – but more ASMR triggers could be brought into spas, especially as public perception and knowledge of it increases. If the popularity of YouTube videos is any indication of interest, get ready: we found one that had 2.6m views its first week.


photo: shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

Quiet sounds – such as whispering or crinkling paper – can trigger an ASMR response
Fitness trend

14. Ketogenic exercise

Most people burn carbohydrates as fuel when exercising, but there’s an increasing interest in re-training the body to burn fat, which is a less limited fuel source.

The added advantage is that teaching the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates leads to weight loss, which can give good outcomes if carefully supervised by expert dieticians.

The body can only store 1,600-2,000 calories from carbohydrates in the muscles, blood and liver, meaning exercisers who are instead fuelled by energy from fat stores – ketones – can go longer with the right training.
Exercise that is fuelled by ketones is an area of great interest to competitive sports people, some of whom have trained their bodies to achieve feats of great endurance on very small quantities of fat.

We expect interest in ketogenic exercise to grow among the general population as knowledge of these training techniques and dietary protocols trickles down from the elite athlete level to the mainstream.
This will create opportunities for spas to offer ketogenic conversion training and associated dietary advice to guests.

The spa is an appropriate environment in which to deliver this transformation, as it needs to be done carefully, given the implications for toxicity in the body and the fact that vital pH levels can be affected.


15. Menopause

With their distinctive wellbeing needs, menopausal women represent a powerful consumer group in need of wellness interventions, and we expect menopause-related services to become more widespread in the spa and wellness market, with treatments and packages appearing on spa menus.

Lifestyle change can massively ease or eliminate menopause symptoms, so there is much the spa and wellness industry can do with existing resources to support women going through this phase of their lives.
Pelvic floor strengthening workouts, hormone rebalancing, natural HRT, sleep therapy and coaching in resilience are all services that would resonate.

New service

16. Body forensics

Achieving optimum health and wellbeing demands a 360-degree understanding of each person’s individual body type and issues.

Given all aspects of health are interrelated and interdependent, we see a role for spas to sit at the heart of a body forensics service, based on accurate diagnostics and ongoing preventative lifestyle prescription.

The service would involve a cross-disciplinary team acting with a holistic brief – at a level not yet achieved by any spa operator – and would prescribe lifestyle advice and interventions.

Iinvisible threat

17. Personal pollution sensors

More than 92 per cent of the world’s population is breathing air that fails basic health standards, according to a recently launched Air Quality Model from the World Health Organization. Indoor air is 14 times more toxic than outdoor.

Plastic particles are also becoming a serious health issue, with water and air increasingly polluted and nanoparticles of plastic making their way into the food chain, and from there, into our bodies.

We predict that soon, each of us will wear a personal pollution sensor, which will go off when we enter an area or a building with high levels of toxins.

We expect spa and wellness operators to install air and water filtering systems to make their facilities havens from pollution. Those who follow this route will find it’s a marketable driver for business – and those who don’t will risk consumers turning away from their operation.


photo: shutterstock/Andrey_Popov

Personal pollution sensors will tell people when to leave a place or building
Brain food

18. Nootropics

Nootropics – a broadly defined group of substances that enhance cognitive capacity – are getting attention from people in business and academia. Nootropics can improve everything from mental focus to creativity and memory.

Things like caffeine and cocaine fall into this category, but we’re interested in the gentler, more natural (legal) varieties, which can offer increased brain power without causing negative side effects.

Nootropics have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, and consumer awareness is now growing in the West. We see a role for spas to offer nootropics as part of a brain-enhancement programme, with the spa acting as a trusted partner to offer quality ingredients with proven effects.

Spas that can create personalised programmes with a focus on individualised needs can take it a step further.
Six Senses is already working on a project that will use natural nootropics combined with a programme of breathing exercises, mindfulness and diet to focus on brain health and enhancement.

We predict nootropics will make their way into spa programming on many levels – from full-on brain enhancing programmes to supplements used during treatments – as consumer interest increases in this area of mind health.


photo: shutterstock/el nariz

Nootropics enhance cognitive ability and give spa operators the opportunity to offer customised prescriptions
Hot spot

19. Uzbekistan

We recommend developers and operators looking for future growth should be turning their longer-term ambitions towards the Stans – the central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Takistan, Kazakhstan and particularly Uzbekistan.

Formed as republics under Stalin’s rule, these nations – with their wild and beautiful scenery, exotic culture and incredible architecture – gained independence 20 years ago and are now forging their own identities.
Oil-rich Uzbekistan has the second-fastest-growing economy in the world – projected at 7.6 per cent – as a result of rising oil prices, robust local growth and good relationships with its neighbours.

The country has a good climate range, and with Tokyo and Paris within an eight-hour flight, is well-positioned for major population centres. We think the Stans will catch people’s imagination when it comes to wellness travel, and are tipping them for growth.


photo: shutterstock/Dudarev Mikhail

Spa Foresight is tipping Uzbekistan for growth as a wellness travel destination
Next Gen massage

20. Nose to toe

Most massage protocols section the body into segments and work on these in isolation and in sequence, with no element of the treatment uniting the whole.

We see an opportunity to introduce a whole range of new holistic massage methodologies, based on fascial release, which treat the body as a whole, and follow the entire length of the fascia.

The head to toe massage, for example, would release the fascia down the entire length of the body, while working on the muscles in a smooth and continuous action. It would start at the eyebrows and extend over the top the head, down the back and the legs, under the feet and back over the tips of the toes.

The treatment would be interactive, using neuromuscular release techniques, and ‘clench and release’ to unlock adhesions and rebalance the body. Front and sides would be addressed in a similar way.


photo: shutterstock/Miha Travnik

Nose to toe massage: a new modality

• Scaleable wellness
• Iceland
• Breathing/elimination
• Spa planes
• Social good
• The virome
• Clean eating
• Dementia-friendly
• Meditation spaces
• Epigenetics
• Skin science
• Specialisation
• Singing
• Suspension massage
• Hot Spot: Haiti
• Walk-in spas
• Immune challenge
• Rest for recovery
• Floatation
• Modular fitness

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

• Loneliness
• Oil, gas and solar
• Edible environments
• Living food
• Neuroplasticity
• Cellular health
• Robot therapists
• Hot spot: War zones
• New superfoods:
• fats & carbs
• 3D printing
• Predicting purchasing
• No front desk
• Hot spot: Japan
• Virtual trainers
• Bad products
• Over nourishment
• Circadian programmes
• Microgyms
• Gut health – microbiome
• 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
• Hot spot: Africa
• Variable pricing
• Last impressions
• Exercise
• Hospital spas

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

• Express treatments
• Beauty treatments
• Spa data
• Location-based
• marketing
• Serious skincare
• Discounting
• Treatment room size
• Part time staff
• Global marketing partnerships

• Spa art
• Four star spas
• Menu engineering
• Spa memberships
• Social spa-ing
• Spa niching
• Walk-ins
• Online learning
• Scientific proof
• Wellness tourism
• Pro retail brands
• Eco-packaging
• Social networking

• Spa benchmarking
• Brand diversification
• Yield management
• Travel spas
• Hair services
• Online booking
• Diagnostic spas
• Organic certification
• Getting ethical
• Olfactory marketing
• Wellness real estate
• Medical tourism
• Sustainability
• Spas for men
• Sleep health
• Spa bedrooms

About the authors:
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: [email protected] Twitter: @elizterry

Jane Kitchen has a 20-year career in international media, covering topics from health and wellness to furniture and design. She’s the managing editor of Spa Business magazine and the Spa Business Handbook. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @JaneKitchenSB

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2017 edition

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