Beyond Facials and Massages What’s Next for Spas

It’s time for hotel spas to be looking beyond the traditional menu of services. Day spas are improving and growing fast. By Lisa M. Starr
Beyond Facials and Massages What’s Next for Spas

Spas have gained popularity, especially in the last 15 years, because of our ability to make consumers look and feel better, although the results may not be long-lasting. Facials and anti-aging skin treatments, and body and massage therapies, give relief from minor skin and body issues and educate customers on how to better care for themselves for the hours they are not in the spa. Beauty services such as manicures, pedicures and hair styling have an immediate effect and give an uplift in mood as well as appearance. But as valuable as these results are, they do not last long enough to be solely relied upon as weapons against the negative effects of time and environment. Certainly, scientific advances in the efficacy of products and equipment utilized by spas have helped to improve both immediate and short-term outcomes, but for consumers, these alone will not be enough. 

The direction for spas and wellness-oriented businesses continues to center on educating consumers about the role they play in their own health and wellness, and providing them with products, tools, and habits that enable them to actively participate in their own longevity. The SpaChina Summit 2017 held this September focused on the announcement that the Chinese government is planning to give more support to the Wellness industry, especially focusing on traditional Chinese medicine, senior care and wellness and medical centers. The recent Global Wellness Summit, held in Palm Beach, Florida, USA in October, featured a variety of speakers from the medical, economic and academic fields whose research is supporting this view, and the importance of making wellness available to the general public, and not just the entitled 1%.

Multiple well-known physicians made presentations at the Summit, including former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, Dr. Dean Ornish, Founder and President of Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Dr. Mehmet Oz of the Dr. Oz television show and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University, Dr. Michael Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Andrew Weill, Founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, and they all discussed the growing tide of so-called “lifestyle diseases.” These are conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers that are often caused by an individual’s diet and exercise habits, or lack thereof. Currently more prevalent in Western countries, their occurrence is nonetheless spreading globally. Spas and wellness centers are the perfect environments to introduce clients to the concept of self-management of their health status through better personal habits; proper sleep, diet and exercise are major contributors to a healthy lifestyle, and all can be initiated at the spa.

A diet that is high in vegetables and proteins and low in fats can be modeled at the spa, either through available meal services, or even just at the refreshment bar. Tasty and healthy snacks like granola and protein bars, fresh and dried fruits, and nuts are easy to offer. Low-sugar choices like herbal-flavored waters or green juices provide fresh alternatives to more traditional apple or orange juice. Many spas and wellness centers are beginning to offer products and treatments that promote better sleep; from simple lavender oils, massages and baths to the fully-developed sleep program offered at Six Senses Resorts, which features handmade, natural mattresses, organic pillows, and access to a Sleep Ambassador who ensures the room is ideally set up to promote a restful night.

Equipment that promotes and even teaches relaxation is another developing trend. For example, the Gharieni Spa Wave Table can be used to deliver facials or massages, but the table also comes equipped with a headset and computerized program selections that provide gentle, relaxing vibration and binaural acoustic stimulation to the occupant, without needing a therapist. Equipment like this expands the treatments spas can offer into more mental and spiritual areas such as stress relief, pain management and addiction recovery, although of course they do not take the place of a physician. The recent ISPA conference in Las Vegas in October saw the debut of the O2 chair; this computerized chair provides relaxation while teaching the client how to employ better breathing techniques through mechanization, audio cueing, and the flow of fresh oxygen from a small tube positioned near the face of the occupant.

Exercise and physical health are harder to address, especially in a day spa, but hotel spas and fitness facilities obviously have many opportunities here. Even simple movement therapy classes like Tai Chi, yoga or mat Pilates promote the idea of devoting time to a physical activity that benefits the body, mind and spirit. Hilton Hotels recently debuted their Five Feet to Fitness guest room, which features impressive fitness amenities, and many other hotel chains have similar plans. Beyond the gym, even hotel chains with fitness areas have started running clubs, where a staff member leads guests on a morning run outside the property. For those not inclined to exercise, occupying space in a “healthy building” is an option, as the discipline of Wellness Architecture continues to gain ground. More buildings are being designed and built with the health of the occupants in mind, including an abundance of natural light, design that encourages walking and social spaces, constant air flow and increased use of non-toxic building materials such as wood and marble, and use incorporation of plants. While you can’t rebuild your existing spa, you can at least adopt sustainable practices such as serving beverages in glasses or mugs, eliminating disposables, and demonstrating good water preservation practices.

So, it becomes clear that in order to stay current and ahead of the trends, spas need to be looking beyond the traditional menu of services into more long-term ways to impact the lives and wellness of our clients. In this regard, day spas are more flexible than hotel spas, which tend to be more stuck with their original concept, and especially in China find it harder to make changes despite the fact that the fast-growing and rapid changes require flexibility and dynamic responses.

At the SpaChina summit, many day spas really stood out, being attractive and full of energy. They are strong and smart on treatment design, effect-driven, focusing on client development, hiring enthusiastic employees full of initiative, and with fast-growing revenue and business.

Following this article, SpaChina interviewed four remarkable day spas: Beauty Farm, which has taken in investment funds in the last few years and expanded to more than 222 branches; Rubis Spa with its remarkable hardware facilities and strong treatment development capability; The Green Spa, which has entered the hotel market and combined with the gym and fitness movement; and The Daisy Spa, has been growing fast and maintaining steady standard quality.