What’s happening in spa and wellness in India and China will no doubt be a hot topic at the Global Spa Summit in Bali next month. After all, these country’s are growing by leaps and bounds and a lot of spas are being built!
Here is a briefing report written by Simon Shepherdson who has been working in both China and India this past year. He has some insightful observations I think you will enjoy – including the warning that “patience” is one thing needed.
What are some changes you have noticed in your customers this past year? Are you seeing any new requests from consumers?
As I have been working primarily in the two major markets of India and China over the last year, I will give inputs from our customers in these markets.
In India, the requirement is increasingly to “bring something new” to the market, whether that is in terms of a branded spa operator, new international products, or “the latest trend.” The marketplace is getting increasingly exposed to international developments and there is a desire to provide the best options for the consumers, who want a better “experience” in the spa and wellness sector, having been exposed to practices overseas that have been lacking in the country.
In China, it continues to be “conspicuous consumption” and that means, for the developers, the need to provide “bigger and better” in all aspects of the spa experience, and thus the requirement for VIP spa rooms of over 100sqm, as well as extensive wet areas. The consumers want to show that they can afford the luxuries of the spa experience and the emphasis is still towards “pampering” and the relaxation that the spa provides.
What sectors do you see attracting the most investment capital these days? What about when it comes to the spa and wellness arena?
In India, there is an increasing emphasis on large-scale developments with large townships being planned, not just in the main cities of the country, but also in the second and third tier cities. These townships include all elements of the mix needed to create a new city and will become more important as the strains on the country’s infrastructure get larger.
The spa and wellness sector is always included in the planning of these developments, as the creation of “lifestyle” is a critical marketing direction for these projects, but these will take time to be realized as the more important elements of infrastructure, residential, and commercial development take priority.
Patience is required in the Indian market!!
In China, mixed use developments are important in the urban context with projects including commercial, retail, and hospitality being the norm, and the spa and wellness components included in the hotel component growing in size – though still often stuck in the basement, as the architects do not yet understand the importance or opportunities from this sector.
In the rural sectors of the country, developers are increasingly looking at developments to tap in to the growing numbers of internal tourists who are looking for destinations within China – and where opportunities in the spa and wellness sector will be significant. The forecast for 450 hotels to open in 2011 in China totaling over 90,000 rooms is a good indication of the growth.
What is the future looking like for spa and wellness in your country?
There is a solid future for the industry in these two countries, but it is important not to be ‘seduced’ by the numbers (India growing to 1.4 billion population, China at 1.3 billion!!) and to recognize that the industry is still in its infancy and there are challenges.
There is a lack of trained personnel in each market and a lot of investment in training will be required.
The business aspect of the spa industry will need to be more clearly defined as the ‘trophy’ properties; some of the best hotels in these markets will not make a return on investment, whilst encouraging other developers to build even bigger!!
However, the growth of the ‘aspirational’ market in both India and China will lead to more interest in the spa and wellness sector and a growing requirement to enjoy their lifestyles– by being pampered initially, and secondly moving towards wellness as the realities of a sedentary and indulgent lifestyle become more critical.