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SpaFinder’s 2011 Spa Trend Report™ “Top 10 Global Spa Trends to Watch in 2011”

Company announces its eighth annual forecast of the emerging concepts set to shape the world of spa next year, and beyond President Susie Ellis Predicts All Eyes Will Be on Asia, An Explosion of Spa Brands, A New Focus on Aging Demographics (and a Liberal Dose of Salt) Will Hit the Spa Scene Next Year [...]

NEW YORK, NY – November 16, 2010 – Company announces its eighth annual forecast of the emerging concepts set to shape the world of spa next year, and beyond

President Susie Ellis Predicts All Eyes Will Be on Asia, An Explosion of Spa Brands, A New Focus on Aging Demographics (and a Liberal Dose of Salt) Will Hit the Spa Scene Next Year

SpaFinder’s Top Ten 2011 Global Spa Trends:


All Eyes on Asia

Salt Rooms and Salt Caves

Spa Brandwagon

Deals Gone Wild

Science of Spa

Hyper-Local Spas

Extreme Beauty: Spa Edition

Spa, in a New York Minute

Surprising Special Events


Whatever term you use, “aging baby boomers,” “silver spa-ers” or “active retirees,” the fact is that the 65-plus spa-going demographic will have a massive impact on the industry for years to come. The data on the “graying” of the North American, European and Japanese populations could fill a library, with these regions’ populations aging at a rate unprecedented in human history. And millions of baby boomers (the generation that galvanized the spa/wellness revolution) turn 65 each year…

This demographic viciously rejects labels, and the days of “over-65” as a catchall “old-person” category will soon become ancient history. (After all, there’s a huge difference between a 70-year-old who plays tennis three times a week and an 85-year-old seeking pain relief.) Savvy spas will now be rethinking everything to address these all-too-often-ignored niches’ specific needs: from facilities, to equipment, to programming, to marketing and staffing. Physical therapy, rehabilitation, recuperation and just plain old pain relief will increase on spas’ menus, to meet the needs of clientele with back, neck, knee and mobility issues.

A few forward-thinking examples:  Fairmont’s Willow Stream Spas are adding an extensive muscle and joint program promising pain relief. We’ll see more spas (modeled after a Canyon Ranch) featuring exercise physiologists, sports medicine professionals, chiropractors, orthopedics, naturopaths and physical therapists on staff (or on call). Look for the rise of the term “corrective” — “corrective” massage, “corrective” facials, etc., and for the already used-to-death term “anti-aging” to get a further workout. We’ll see a rise in offerings like Biofreeze Pain Management massages; infrared saunas, which function at far-less searing heat (but penetrate heat further into the body than a traditional sauna); and new chilled loungers that accomplish what cold plunge pools do, but are more comfortable and safer for older guests. Many spas are even using bigger print for their spa menus!

A renaissance in spa bathing is looming, as the pain-relief benefits of soaking in thermal water are rediscovered.  While finding new expressions (i.e., the Scandinave and Le Nordic models in Canada, the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun in Japan, or the lucrative Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Southern California), SpaFinder forecasts a renewed respect for the benefits of sanitas per aqua that has recently taken a backseat to weight loss, beauty and fitness.

Prior research has concurred that the number-one reason people go to spas is to “relax and de-stress,” but in some regions of the world that may soon be replaced by to “relieve aches and pains.”

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The role Asia has played in the modern spa industry is profound: Approaches like yoga, shiatsu and Thai massage, Ayurvedic medicine, TCM and acupuncture, etc. have become the very staples of global spa menus (and people’s well-being regimes) for decades. The “Zen” nature of Asian design has influenced spas across the world. And some of the most famous hotel/resort spa brands have emerged from Asia, not only because of the continent’s diverse, established cultures of wellness/healing, but because low labor costs made for strong profits.

But historically, it’s been a tale of the mass exportation of Asian therapies/design/brands. Now an incredibly powerful new story is unfolding: The explosive growth of hotel/spa development within Asia (a market of 4.1 billion people), and especially within the two fastest-growing world economies, China and India. These markets, and others like Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, etc., are developing at a breakneck pace, unleashing extraordinary new class mobility and massive opportunities for hotel/spa development.

There’s an avalanche of data about the runaway economic development in China and India. In the last 30 years, China’s gross domestic product has grown 72 times, while India’s GDP is expected to quadruple by 2020. There are 150 airports under construction in China, and 171 cities with populations of a million-plus — but most still don’t have a major, internationally branded hotel! China is predicted to be the world’s largest tourist destination by 2015. Incoming tourists skyrocketed 500% in the last decade, and India’s tourists doubled in the same time.

The hotel/spa pipeline is a crystal-clear indicator of the headline story unfolding. Asia-Pacific has the largest number of spas and hotels under development of any region in the world, with 77% of that regional hotel expansion in 2011 earmarked for China and India (56% and 21%, respectively). Experts compare the current hotel/resort growth in China to the U.S. in the 50’s and 60s, but predict the Chinese boom will be even bigger. Forty-seven international hotel brands are now busily entering India, to meet demand over the next decade for 400,000 new rooms.

If incoming tourism is exploding, so is outbound and intra-Asian tourism. By 2015, China will have 100 million outbound travelers, a number greater than the people who visit France annually — the number-one tourist destination in the world. And, as more newly minted middle- and upper-class Asians begin to travel abroad, across the region, and in their own country, an extraordinary new tourist demographic is being born, oft-seeking the luxury lifestyle that includes spa-going the “western” way. Chiva Som, a revered Thai destination spa, recently reported 25%-plus of its guests now hail from China, while the Starwood Hotels brand reports 50% of its guests in China are now Chinese.

Prediction: Hotel/spa developers will attempt to strike a balance between incoming tourists’ desire for authentic, local ambiance and indigenous, Asian treatments, and many local spa-goers’ desire for super-modern, “western-style,” luxe spa-going. Also, note: While many spa markets will be courting the aging baby boomer, emerging economies like China and India will be targeting a much younger generation. (Roughly 65% of Indians are under 35, while roughly 70% of the Chinese population is under 44.)

The year 2011 will prove a watershed year for new, breathtaking hotel/resort spas, western-style day spas, wellness/destination spas, and impressive medical tourism facilities — all rising up alongside traditional village spas from Bali to Vietnam. This hotel-spa surge will be taking place across many cities/regions that westerners can’t even yet name, and in destinations as surprising as Tibet. (i.e., the St. Regis Lhasa Resort/Iridium Spa just opened, promising to be “the highest luxury resort spa in the world.” Western explorers now heading East will find opulent spa resorts and wellness retreats at attractive prices compared to what they would pay for the same (or less) luxury back home.

…It’s all eyes on Asia, as a new “Spa Road” stretches from China and India to Thailand and Indonesia. The hotel and spa explosion over the next few years will be phenomenal, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Examples of the Asian Hotel Brand Explosion:

  • Hong Kong-based Langham Hotels: 10 luxury hotel spas in development across China, India and Thailand.
  • Marriott International: 89 new Marriot Hotels in India by 2015, including a Ritz-Carlton brand introduction.
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts: 60-plus hotels in China now, with 86 in the pipeline; 27 properties in India, with 16 on the way. (The Starwood Chinese pipeline: 24 Sheratons, 13 Westins, 7 St. Regis’).
  • One-third of InterContinental Hotel Group’s pipeline is in Asia.
  • Accor has 50 hotels planned in India.
  • Hyatt has 40 hotels planned in India.
  • Conrad Hotels & Resorts: 10 luxury hotel spas planned, from Thailand to Bali.
  • Mumbai-based Taj Hotels, Resorts & Palaces: 47 luxury resorts from Da Nang to Sri Lanka in pipeline. (Just launched upscale brand Vivanta by Taj: 22 in India, 12 in pipeline).


Yes, you heard right, spas are busy designing new ways to up your salt intake! A rediscovery of the therapeutic benefits of inhaling (and being physically immersed) in salt-infused environments is underway, and new salt rooms/caves at spas, and dedicated salt therapy (‘halotherapy’) centers, are springing up across the world.

Basking in naturally occurring salt caves (“speleotherapy”) is a centuries-old Eastern European health tradition, and spas are recreating the natural salt cave microclimate using technology that precisely infuses pure salt and negative ions into the air. But this “old salt” therapy is coming of age in stylish, new ways: Spa-goers can now take their salt in dramatic stalactite-drenched grottoes (comprised of tons of imported Himalayan salt crystals) or in chic, hyper-modern rooms made of sea salt blocks. Spa-goers glide through inches of salt, curl up on a lounger in the cocooning, tranquil whiteness, and breathe in.

More than folk tradition is behind the spa-salt resurgence: Medical studies reveal it’s beneficial for respiratory illnesses like asthma and allergies, skin conditions like acne and psoriasis, and even cystic fibrosis. (On a side note, asthma is a global epidemic: 300 million people worldwide suffer, with 40% estimated to be children. Therefore, many of the new salt therapy “day” centers feature dedicated kids’ rooms, while home salt-inhalation devices are also on the rise.)

Salt inhalation rooms come in two varieties:  steam (a salt steam bath) or dry. On the hotel/resort front, they’re best suited for larger spas, adding a new twist to existing traditional hydrothermal facilities — and, of course, they’re most relevant to inland properties away from the sea. And with no need of a therapist’s involvement/labor costs, they’re very attractive to spas.

Prediction: More salt therapy "time" integrated with massage, meditation or yoga, to maximize the experience.


  • 1,000-plus traditional Eastern European salt caves/spas
  • CastaDiva Resort (Lake Como, Italy): Exiting the Himalayan salt room, guests can dive into a floating pool, suspended on the lake.
  • Aria Resort & Casino (Las Vegas, US): Hypermodern “Shio” salt room, featuring walls of illuminated salt bricks and massage chairs vibrating in sync to music.
  • Taba Heights Resort (Sinai, Egypt): New “Dead Sea Salt Cave.”
  • Numerous salt therapy day centers, including Halo/Air Salt Rooms (New York, U.S.), where “HaloGenerators” pump salt into hermetically sealed rooms fashioned after European salt caves; Salt Chalet (California, U.S.); Salt Therapy Spa (Dublin, Ireland); Galos Caves (Illinois, U.S.), Salt Therapy Health & Wellness Center (Ontario, Canada).


The modern spa industry is young, and historically, it’s been fragmented: The majority of spas operate a single facility. While spa brands have existed since Elizabeth Arden opened her second “Red Door” a century ago, generally, the industry hasn’t cracked the large-scale brand expansion code. Until now: 2011 will prove a breakthrough year for global spa franchise expansion and spanking-new spa brand models.

Spa-goers are about to have an unprecedented number of global brands to choose from. And unlike the facelessness one associates with “McBrands,” the new spa brands are working overtime to create unique identities and offerings, so consumers will be able to choose from a hip, urban Bliss or Exhale spa, or the eco-friendly “barefoot luxury” vibe of a Six Senses. In addition, people can select from more price-points than ever before: from the over-the-top luxury of a Mandarin Oriental, to the three- and four-star properties now developing spa brands, to a super-affordable, no-frills option like a Massage Envy (800-plus franchises awarded across the U.S.). With 80,000-plus spas worldwide, many consumers will embrace the “know-ability factor,” with spa brands offering them consistent experiences wherever they happen to live or travel.  

ESPA (in over 50 countries) can be credited with first un-riddling how to make the spa brand equation work globally. And now brands are aggressively moving into hot, emerging markets like China and India (i.e., L’Occitane, Woodhouse Day Spas, etc.); brands indigenous to emerging markets are expanding (China’s Dragonfly or Spa Moment chains, etc.); and major hotel brands are busy launching carefully crafted new brand concepts. Newly minted hotel brands charging to market include: Sheraton’s Shine spas (planned for all global properties by 2012), Hilton’s Eforea concept (to be rolled into 80 global properties by 2013), Steiner’s Chevana spas, W’s Away spas, Le Meridien’s Explore spas and a new Iridium spa brand for St. Regis properties. There is even a “no therapist” spa franchise, Planet Beach Contempo Spas, expanding from Australia to South Africa. (Another breed of “brand,” Leading Spas of the World, an organization that curates fine spas worldwide, will help consumers make decisions in a crowded market.)

Many of the brand-new brands are taking angles such as: 1) affordability; 2) greatly simplified and sub-branded menus, i.e., three to five “signature spa journeys”; and, 3) an attempt to balance turnkey menus/design with some nod to local specificity (i.e., a percentage of the menu is dedicated to regionally-specific treatments, etc.).

Fueling this historic “spa brandwagon”: sheer globalization; a vast, mainstream global spa market; a strengthening economy; and the advantages economies of scale bring to larger enterprises.

A Few Additional Brands on the Move: Banyan Tree, 63 locations; Bliss Spas, 21; Blue Mercury, 30; Body Minute, 221; Champneys, 12; Clarins, 136; Dove Spas, 12; Dragonfly, 14; Exhale, 15; Facelogic, 40-plus; Hand & Stone Massage & Facial Spas, 30; Mandara, 72; Mandara’s Chavana, 4; Massage Envy Spas, in conjunction with Murad, 600-plus; Massage Heights, 50-plus; Red Door, 32; Red Door’s all-new Simply Face+Body, 1; Sanctuary, 2 (with 4 opening in 2011; Spa L’Occitane, 40-plus; Woodhouse Day Spas, 23. (Note: Each one has significant expansion plans in the works.)


Remember when coupons were unfashionable things people snipped out of the paper? And spa deals were mostly found on chalkboards near the spa reception desk? (Or, when spas didn’t even discount or consider using the term “deal”?)

Well, put an “e-” or “group” in front of “coupon,” and you suddenly have the hottest Internet mania of 2010, poised to accelerate at an even more dizzying pace in 2011. Online group-buying deals have suddenly burst onto the global scene, and the old-fashioned “deal” has morphed into a hip online industry. And with spa and wellness deals such a mainstay of generic sites like GroupOn or LivingSocial (where roughly 20% of total deals are spa-related), it’s a sure sign that spa-going has achieved massive, mainstream traction.

The phenomenon is mushrooming globally, with 500 group-buying sites estimated worldwide. North America alone has 130 “daily deal” sites, including first-mover GroupOn - and LivingSocial, the DealList, Yelp, BuyWithMe, etc. The UK has its Groupolas and Wowchers, Spain its Groupalias, Australia its Jumponits, Scoopons and Spreets, China its QQTuans and Meituans, Thailand its Ensogos and Sanook Coupons, and Singapore its AllDealsAsia. Dozens of sites cater to a single city.

And with so many spa deals (treatments, yoga classes, even Botox) being blasted into email inboxes, there has been one extraordinary effect: Millions of people now are expanding their spa/wellness horizons, trying new spas and experiences they wouldn’t have without the “50%-75% off!”

With so many companies backed by hundreds of millions in venture capital, deals will certainly remain a huge deal in 2011. Here is what we see ahead for the spa consumer and industry:  

  • Consolidation: Consumers will still have an overwhelming number of sites to follow, but a “dot-deal” shakeout (on the dot-com model) looms, in part because of an avalanche of similar/“cookie-cutter” sites, along with players like GroupOn marching across the globe buying and re-branding local deal sites. Branding and meaningful differentiation will become important factors in determining the “shakeout” winners.
  • More personalized and spa-specific deals: Spa deals have typically been thrown in between blow-out specials on lube jobs or “two hours of whitewater river rafting,” but new personalization science/software, and the rise of luxury and spa-specific platforms like SpaFinder’s SpaRahRah or Gilt City, will deliver discriminating spa-goers more relevant deals, even “curated” by experts. With the more exclusive customer targeting, higher-end spas (who avoid mob deals like the plague) will jump in to offer luxury, unique experiences far beyond the $39 massage/facial. For many, the spa deal quest will evolve beyond the “rock-bottom price at any old place,” to seeking (and finding) credible, real values (i.e., $130 for $300 worth of spa services) at a location you actually dream of visiting.
  • More manageable, exclusive deals: “Flash-mob” deals that have a small day spa selling 5,000 massages has led to well-publicized gripes by both businesses and consumers — no appointments, short-shrift service, etc. — leaving spas so overwhelmed their businesses are jeopardized. Look for the parameters of deals to become more exclusive and more manageable.
  • Location-based “deals on the spot”: With location-based powerhouses like Facebook, Google and Yelp getting in on the action, deals will soon be even more ubiquitous online, as well as headed to your mobile phone. Around the bend: A spa-seeker launches a mobile app, finds real-time deals in that area, clicks and buys the coupon and then strolls into the spa to redeem.
  • Retention and engagement: In 2010 spas embraced group-deals to attract new customers, but in 2011 there will be a much more intense focus on how to retain them, with new tools, training and technology to engage customers after the hordes rush in.
  • Deal fatigue: Look for some consumer push back, especially from the spa enthusiast, who is, after all, seeking stress reduction.  Ultimately for them, having a regular spa appointment with a favorite therapist at a familiar spa will trump the few dollars saved and the energy needed to engage in deal frenzy.


Is there scientific proof that massage reduces stress? Are mud-packs and mineral-baths medically proven to alleviate pain? Is ear candling proven to remove ear wax? The answers: yes, yes and no.  Get ready for a new era where more questions about the effectiveness of spa therapies and spa products will be asked, and where these questions will get answered more transparently, as the emphasis on evidence-based medicine and the “science behind spa” heats up. 

Science is about verifiable knowledge and adhering to the method of documenting outcomes and effects. Well, there’s a growing body of medical evidence about the proven benefits of spas’ ever-expanding wellness approaches like massage, meditation, acupuncture, healthy sleep, weight loss, hydrotherapy, exercise, etc., which are now becoming more available and visible.

Take for example the recent New York Times article, “A Good Massage Brings Biological Changes Too,” reporting on a Cedars-Sinai study that revealed a 45-minute massage resulted in a significant decrease in stress hormones, while boosting immunity. Or a recent study in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation documenting that pain caused by knee osteoarthritis was significantly alleviated by two weeks of spa therapy, including mud-packs and mineral-water baths. Just this month (November 2010) medical studies revealed mindfulness therapies can improve quality of life in multiple sclerosis patients, adequate sleep is crucial to losing body fat, and increased exercise reduces breast cancer risk. The evidence is not all new: Medical professionals (especially in Europe) have been prescribing spa therapies for decades, and thousands of studies are buried in archives around the world. (For example, much of the evidence on the benefits of another 2011 trend, salt inhalation/halotherapy, comes from Russian medical studies.)

At the 2010 Global Spa Summit, Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Clinical Professor of Medicine at major U.S. university hospitals, put forth what more integrative medical experts are increasingly arguing: There is no larger body of scientific evidence that exists than the archive proving mind-body approaches work — while, conversely, there are numerous studies (i.e., the Cochrane Collaboration in London) revealing that only 30%-35% of conventional medicine is adequately evidence-based. Dr. Pelletier challenged the spa industry to “be less conservative and get organized about generating and communicating the evidence-based data about the efficacy of its various approaches and therapies.” And that’s exactly what we’ll see more of in 2011, with industry projects underway to aggregate and curate into an accessible archive and promote existing scientific research highlighting the medical value of various spa modalities.

There is always the frustrating circularity that with the vast majority of medical research funding coming from the pharmaceutical companies’ deep pockets, their offerings have the most evidence to back them. But with more medical professionals embracing integrative/alternative medicine — greater awareness that the colossally expensive traditional healthcare system is less focused on “staying healthy” and more narrowly on “disease management” — and consumers more proactive about their own well-being, look for clinical studies, on everything from the effects of massage on pain, anxiety, depression or immune health in preterm infants to how eating green, leafy vegetables prevents diabetes, to accelerate next year.

And as so many more hospitals not only co-opt the “look of spa,” but also directly incorporate spa/wellness therapies on site, consumers will have powerful visual evidence of “medicine” validating “spa.” Example: The new Inspiritas Spa (brainchild of oncologist Dr. Amy Lang) on site at the START Cancer Center in San Antonio, Texas, which revolves around massage/energy therapies like reiki, mind-body interventions (including meditation), acupuncture and nutrition treatments for cancer patients and their caregivers, all in a gorgeous space rivaling any luxury spa. Their message: “All modalities offered are evidence-based…”

Another key way the spa industry will get more aggressive on the evidence-based front: More smart spas will start specifically yoking their offerings (in marketing messages, on their websites, in talking to clients) to this growing archive of medical data.

As these initiatives and forces accelerate, the benefits of spa/wellness will be increasingly not only heard, but also believed by more consumers (often desperately) seeking health alternatives — by doctors who prescribe, by public officials who legislate and by insurers who reimburse. These nascent evidence-based initiatives should ultimately prove the bedrock for future, perhaps unimagined, industry growth. 


Spas have been trying to move away from the generic “could be anywhere” vibe for years, meeting spa-goers’ intensifying desire for authenticity and immersion in treatments, food, design and experiences indigenous to the spa’s unique place and culture. A maple scrub in Canada, organic food from the spa garden, or facilities built of local stone, while not new, were, until relatively recently, novelties.

But spas are now going hyper-local, putting unique twists on the “farm-to-table” movement, with farm-to-spa cuisine and farm-to-massage-table treatments. (Fruits, herbs, honey, etc. are grown on site, and then dished up in both meals and in treatments/products). Hyper-local also means ramped-up community and philanthropic projects; 100% locally sourced building materials; mandating local staff hiring policies; and finding creative new ways to connect people more deeply with place and nature. Guests aren’t just passive consumers of the experience: They’re gardening, farming, preparing their own food, making expeditions to local artisans and schools and even helping with wildlife rescue work.

A couple of years ago spas hit, maybe, a couple of local angles. But these new über-local spas are locally embedded on almost every imaginable front. Call it “indigenous squared”…or even “cubed.”

Endless examples:

  • Hay Barn Spa (Cotswolds, UK): Daylesford Organic Farm marries day spa to 20-acre farm producing everything (fruits, herbs, milk) that graces both dining room tables and their branded spa products. Floors are hewn from local trees, while sheep’s wool from the farm’s flock insulates the walls. Guests learn to grow and cook food, rear animals and make local crafts.
  • Hotel de la Paix (Siem Reap, Cambodia): Spa Indochine’s Khmer/Jamu beauty treatments use spa products made on site daily, while restaurants source ingredients from local farmers. The spa’s “Cambodia Community” projects engage guests with local sewing training centers and orphanages.
  • Blancaneaux Lodge (Belize): One of three of Francis Ford Coppola’s hyper-local Central American spa-lodges, built of local materials by local craftsmen. Organic gardens supply restaurants and the spa, staff is sourced from local villages, and wide-ranging local philanthropic efforts include protecting jaguars and the Mayan forest and providing four-year scholarships to local students.
  • Masserio Torre Coccaro (Puglia, Italy): 500-year-old farmhouse-compound-spa built from all local materials; spa carved out of a stone cave; food and spa treatments direct from vast gardens, orchards and farm. In the evening guests receive spa treatments derived from olives they handpicked themselves that morning.
  • Six Senses: Eight resort/spas from Thailand to Portugal, all with extraordinary permaculturalist initiatives around local food, building and design, staffing and philanthropy. At Six Senses Phuket, “farm” often doesn’t even make it to “table,” as guests can eat the landscaping!
  • The Farmhouse Inn & Spa (California, U.S.): Coined the “farm-to-spa” terminology, and in every meal and spa treatment the farm is intensely present.


The common element in spa beauty these days is that beauty-seekers are pushing all known boundaries and taking it to the max.  

Extremes are, of course, easy to spot when surveying the new technologies and scientific innovations appearing on the market with increasing regularity. Lash stimulators and extensions are not new, but are definitely gathering steam. We are now “beyond Botox,” the botulinum toxin (itself extreme) that fueled the medi-spa industry when the FDA approved it in 2002.  There are now all sorts of fillers and other injectables with ever-increasing potency, each longer lasting than the one that preceded it. “Stem cell” is the latest lightening rod term being used (mostly by marketing departments at the moment), and applied to everything from “stem cell facials” to stem cells in skincare products to “stem cell facelifts.”  Plasma therapy for cosmetic uses is also a new buzz concept…yes, that’s where a person’s blood is drawn, their platelet-rich plasma is extracted, and then re-injected into their wrinkles, etc. And how about the extremely un-invasive new (FDA-approved) Ultherapy (no anesthesia, no surgery), which uses ultrasound to regenerate collagen deep under the skin, shifting the skin into a youthful position.

Plus, let’s talk about extreme pain, which is something people seem to be tolerating more and more, as long as it delivers the goods.  Facial injectables have always been somewhat painful — derma-rolling hurts, chemical peels can be uncomfortable and the zapping of lasers is no picnic.  Facial massage, for example (long a popular component of all spa facials), is, in some cases, now being administered to the point of agony. One example is the Buccal Technique, an intense facial massage performed from inside the mouth…reported to be acutely painful, but still popular among the likes of Keira Knightley and Angelina Jolie.

Spa and wellness approaches where pain meets pleasure seem to be rising in popularity over their “kinder and gentler” brethren. Witness the upsurge in military-style boot camps, Rolfing, Bikram yoga, Thai massage and vigorous scrubs in Turkish hammams or Korean bathhouses. People are embracing things like alternating the searing heat of a Russian sauna with a dip in an icy pool because they find the results worth it. Check out the new Sparkling Hills Resort and Spa in Canada, where one of the newest European-imported modalities, Chryotherapy (cold therapy), can be experienced.  Labeled the “cold sauna,” it involves three minutes in a room that is -110 degrees Celsius!

Facials aren’t just for faces anymore; they’re now being extended to every “extremity”…and we do mean the whole body. Back, foot and hand facials have been around for a couple of years, but what about “booty” and “vagina” facials?  The Smooth Synergy Day Spa in New York will pamper your “booty” — exfoliate it, use microcurrent therapy to help reduce the appearance of cellulite, and then even apply spray tan! Phit, another New York spa, focuses on pelvic health, and “encourages good muscle tone,” and “restores labial and vulvar contour to a plump firmness” with a process involving lasers. 

Even organics and natural products are being taken to extremes, as evidenced by the extraordinary lengths many brands will go to assert their hardcore purity. “Internal beauty” is emphasized with increasing vigor. Raw cuisine is becoming popular during intense detox retreats: Fresh Start in Canada has a 14-day detox (no pain, no gain!) with a 100% raw food menu for the 50% of days guests are actually allowed to eat solid food. Dr. Howard Murad’s new book, The Water Secret, makes the radical, but convincing, claim that one doesn’t need to drink eight glasses of water a day.  Instead, one should “eat one’s water” through fresh fruits and vegetables, providing our cells with a much more nutritious, effective water source. Phyto 5 products (out of Switzerland) have a unique approach, suggesting that “true beauty is health made visible,” with products that are really energy medicine. And now there’s the possibility of re-attaining “virgin hair,” according to innovative new hair color products like INOA that eliminate damaging chemical developers.

And finally, what might be considered the most interesting extreme: More people’s comfort levels with simultaneously embracing both the "yin" of the natural and the "yang" of invasive, medical beauty procedures. It isn’t either/or anymore. (A tangible example: The popular NewBeauty magazine now features a dedicated SpaFinder section in each issue.)  In the end, people are increasingly demanding extreme results, and they’re happy to pay the price for it. At a staggering $679 billion annually, the beauty and anti-aging sector represents by far the largest share of the estimated $1.9 trillion wellness market.* Expect even more extremely profitable, extreme beauty innovations hitting your local spa next year. 

 * 2010 SRI International Report, Spas & the Global Wellness Market:  Synergies & Opportunities


“In a New York Minute” means in an instant, referencing how things get done faster in hectic New York City. It’s also the name of a whole suite of mini (15- to 30-minute) spa treatments (designed to be performed simultaneously by multiple therapists) at the new Auriga Spa at The Setai Fifth Avenue (NYC). In our stressed-out, expected-to-be-working and on-the-go, 24/7 world, we’ve all morphed into frenzied New Yorkers. And the spa industry is responding, helping people spa anytime and far more efficiently, from open early, open late, and all-night spas to “express,” “sampler” and simultaneous treatments to new, more efficient treatment technology and facility design.

Traditionally spas have kept banker’s hours, closing primly at 5-6 p.m. Just a couple years ago, articles spotlighted “late-night” spas that stayed open until 9 p.m.! But suddenly a 9 p.m. closing time is the new spa norm, addressing people’s real-world schedules, whether they’re seeking stress-relief in preparation for sleep, or a beauty boost for late-night partying. The Massage Envy and Bliss franchises are typical: open until 10 p.m., 7 days a week. “Open late” now means midnight, 2 a.m., or all night. A few examples: In New York, Homme Spa is open until 3 a.m. weeknights, Osaka Health Spa until 2 a.m., and Juvenex Spa around the clock. In London, Lost in Beauty’s “after-hours beauty club” performs everything from threading to massage as late as its customers want, while Chelsea’s trendy Diva Beach Club serves up mani/pedis between 9-10 p.m. and massages with cocktails from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. once a week. Seoul has all-night spa-ing at Hair Party 24 Hours; the Chinese day spa chain Dragonfly does massage until 2 a.m.; and Tokyo has Spa Qua for 22 hour-a-day hot springs soaking. Spa-goers report that not only is the night-owl spa scene calmer, but that many love the cocktail-hour “free drinks” atmosphere. But the trend is also towards earlier. For instance, most major Las Vegas spas (i.e., Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Qua Baths at Caesars Palace or Hard Rock’s Rock Spa) open at 5:30 or 6 a.m., while the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, London, opens at 7 a.m. The variety of times attracts both business people jumpstarting their day and revelers calling it a night.

The trend towards “express,” “sampler” or “mini-sized” treatments will continue to rise in 2011, gratifying time- and budget-crunched consumers. Not just 30-minute massages, but even 15-minute massage will increase, as consumers realize the critical relaxation response can be elicited pretty quickly. More spas like Spa Helani at The Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas (Hawaii) or Dorit Baxter (New York) will stage their massage menus in 25-50-80 minute increments. We’ll see more quickie treatments like Repechage’s (locations from Poland to Ghana) “Spa Express Facial,” where clients grab 30-minute (or less) beauty treatments sitting fully dressed and upright at the “bar,” right next to each other. There will be more à la carte sampler menus like The Mirage Las Vegas’ “Small Indulgences” 25-minute treatments, each aimed at a different body part. The explosion of airport spas worldwide plays into the “express” trend neatly, as does the decline of elaborate rituals (foot bathing, etc.) at many spas, to get right to the heart of the matter: the therapeutic treatment.  

More treatments will be administered simultaneously by multiple therapists, apparent at Swissotel, the Stamford (Singapore’s) “Multi-Tasking Spa Experiences,” or The Delano, Mondrian and Shore Club spas (Florida, U.S.), where massage and mani/pedis are performed poolside.

The quest for efficiencies is also reflected in new directions in facility design and

treatment technologies. Global spa designers report the locker room is on the decline, being replaced by the Spa Suite, where guests change and shower right in treatment rooms. It’s “sweet” for the spa (eliminating non revenue-generating spaces) and wonderful for spa-goers, who will have more private, personalized experiences. (Examples of the locker-less: All new Iridium Spas at global St. Regis properties, i.e., the St. Regis Florence, opening in 2011, or The Waterfalls Spa at Greek Peak Mountain Resort (New York, U.S.). And more spas (including the new Iridium brand) are eliminating or modifying formal reception/front desk areas and time-consuming check-ins.

Spas are also watching their budgets, and many hotel-resort spas are scaling back in size and featuring more compact hydro-wet areas. Water treatments are morphing into semi-private experiences thoughtfully sequenced for maximum therapeutic value. And we’ll see more self-service wet areas, where guests grab product kits and perform DIY scrubs, masks, etc., on their “spa journeys.” Necessity is the mother of invention: Rather than spas installing big, expensive contrast pools, watch out for “wind chill experiences” and “chilled ceramic loungers,” where bathers can simulate cold plunges after thermal experiences. Hot Bamboo Massage is gaining on Hot Stone Massage because the bamboo is so much easier to heat and work with, while still providing the same incredible deep tissue penetration. (It’s a featured element in Hilton’s new Eforea spas, rolling out to 80 locations worldwide over the next couple years.) The ultimate, futuristic “efficiency” design concept: Planet Beach Contempo Spas’ 100% therapist-free “automat” spas, where push-button machine-pods perform massages, facials and guided meditation.

Finally, the quest for stress-free efficiencies will mean more spa-seekers embracing 24/7 online appointment booking and mobile apps that let them locate and book spas on the fly.

Spa anytime, anywhere, for as little or as long as you want, at the price-point you can afford…it’s all about letting spa consumers have it their way.


Downright surprising special events and activities will continue to pop up at both destination and resort spas. The “spa surprises’” will span everything from dramatically more unique, super-targeted “specialty weeks” — fun, even quirky, new activities for spa-goers — and unusual programs aimed at groups, far more imaginative than the old “golf and spa” package.

Destination spas have, of course, been doing yoga and healthy cooking “weeks” for years, but retreats are moving in bold new directions. Consider Solace Spa at Boyne Mountain’s (Michigan, U.S.) “Trapeze Experience,” where trapeze artists teach spa-goers to soar through the air like circus performers, and artsy, creativity-focused weeks like Canyon Ranch’s “Don’t Worry, Bead Happy” jewelry-making retreats, or “Raw Food Week” at Canada’s Spa Eastman, and “Gluten-Free Cooking Week” at Baja California’s Rancho La Puerta. And celebrity authors, artists, actors (even politicians) now headline these specialty weeks. For instance, Soneva Fushi Six Senses’ (Maldives) recent “Dine and Dive Week” was headed up by Fabien Cousteau (Jacques’ son), and featured an island bicycle race where the slowest bicyclist wins. The trend also embraces the serious: i.e., Miraval Arizona’s (Arizona, U.S.) “Sisterhood of Survivors” retreat, for those who have survived a loved one’s suicide.

Hotel/resort spas (also getting into “specialty weeks”) will continue to surprise traditional and business groups with unpredictable programming. Consider Sanderling Resort & Spa’s (North Carolina, U.S.) monthly “artisanal butchering classes” or Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa’s (Vermont, U.S.) “Naked Table Project,” where guests make a “simple family table from scratch,” and then join tables together for a locally grown feast. The Montage Resort & Spa (California, U.S.) offers falconry and “Plein Air Painting” programs, while Joie de Vivre Hospitality’s (U.S.) boutique spa hotels’ “Joy of Meetings” program includes bubble-blowing and kite-flying to relieve stress in business meetings.

If therapeutic carpentry and tight-rope walking are any indication, the sky’s the limit with the spa programming surprises ahead.


To Learn More about SpaFinder’s 2011 Trends Report, or to speak to SpaFinder president Susie Ellis, contact: Beth McGroarty, (213) 300-0107 or

Copyright © 2010, SpaFinder, Inc. information and data extracted from this press release is to be accompanied by a statement identifying SpaFinder (Inc.) as the publisher and source.

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