I have come to peace with the word “pampering.”
To understand why this is important to me, I’ll start with the fact that the word pampering and I have been in a wrestling match for about 10 years. It started as a result of hearing my friend and colleague Bernie Burt, author of Fodor’s Healthy Escapes and 100 Best Spas of the World, speak at an event in Asia where he said (emphatically I might add), “I hate the word pampering!” He suggested that the spa industry ban together and try and stamp it out. I was inspired and got on the bandwagon.
That was a decade ago. Back then, the term pampering was negatively affecting our spa industry. While we as spa professionals took ourselves (and the work we did to improve people’s health) seriously, the word pampering was setting us back. Pampering often conjured up the idea of fluffy pillows, pink robes, primping, and indulgence. The dictionary defines pampering as “excessive indulgence that adversely affects the character, nature, or attitude” or “to treat with affectionate and usually excessive indulgence; coddle; spoil.” Ouch! No wonder we wanted to distance ourselves from that picture.
And indeed we did. In fact, we made great progress these past 10 years, emphasizing health and stress reduction at spas rather than indulgence. We talk about helping people make important lifestyle changes. We trumpet spas as places centered around exercise, eating healthfully, stress reduction, therapeutic body treatments, the mind/body connection, balance, etc. I would go so far as to say that our collective movement in this direction has saved us from a worse fate during this past recession than we might have otherwise suffered. (2009 STR SPA REPORT shows that while hotel occupancy plummeted, spa usage did not decline in proportion – in fact was far more resilient.)
Then in came a “knight in shining armor.” About five years ago the term “wellness” started rising in popularity. Wellness became a worthy challenger to the term pampering. “We are about wellness not pampering” became our mantra and it caught on with the industry, the media, and many consumers. Even the medical profession started taking spas more seriously. They began recognizing the benefits, began going to spas themselves, and some doctors even crossed the great divide and opened a medical spa. These days, as evidenced by the number of spas around the world (over 80,000) and the size of the yearly spa economy (over 255 billion), per SRI’s recent Global Spa Economy Report, we have in many ways replaced the word pampering with the term wellness.
And now – an odd twist.
It appears as if the term pampering is bubbling up again, and this time we aren’t so inclined to stamp it out. Why you might ask? Because our society has become so super stressed (note that it was about 10 years ago that a huge percentage of the population began becoming enslaved to the internet and adopted mobile devices) and we often find ourselves in an exhaustive state 24/7. Pampering is actually sounding pretty good!
Scientific evidence shows that stress is the cause of almost 75% of doctor visits and stress reduction is part of almost all doctors’ recommendations these days. All of a sudden, pampering is being recognized as having tremendous stress-reducing benefits and is something to be encouraged. I liken it to the recent increase in awareness of the health value of sleep, something considered indulgent years ago is now being promoted.
In SpaFinder’s 2010 Spa Trends report one of the top trends I identified was “The new “P” word – Prevention. Prevention has become the topic du jour while the pampering story has taken a back seat. However, I made sure to say that this isn’t a “hello-prevention, goodbye-pampering sort-of-thing.” It is more like hello prevention – and by the way, pampering is part of prevention!
Bernie was right 10 years ago….back then it was time to say goodbye to pampering. Today, I think it is time to once again say – hello!
So the next time I am resting in a cloud of pillows and they ask me if I want the pink heated mitts and booties with my treatment, I will in good conscious say absolutely – bring ‘em on!
My twitter address: @susieellis
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