Spa Attendant

Job Description | Category: Human Resources

The Spa Attendant is responsible for orientating guests to the spa facilities, greeting guests as they enter the facilities, and providing personal guest service. They are responsible for keeping the lounge, locker room, and other guestareas neat, clean and stocked with all amenities.

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Salt Glow (Rub)

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

The body is rubbed with a vigorous, abrasive scrub, consisting of coarse salt usually mixed with essential oils and water. Cleanses pores and removes dead skin. It is usually followed by a gentle shower and body moisturizer.

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Scalp and Hair Treatment

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

A treatment which includes a thorough cleansing, conditioning and scalp massage that leaves hair shiny and full of body.

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Seaweed (Body) Wrap

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

Similar to herbal wraps combined with heat packs, using sea water and seaweed with a balance of the ocean's nutrients; minerals, rare trace elements, vitamins and proteins, which are soaked into the blood stream, to revitalize skin and body.

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Shamanism (Shamanic)

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

Spiritual and natural healing performed by a medicine man or Shaman.

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Skin Mask (Masque)

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

A preparation usually applied to the face and neck to stimulate local circulation, tone, cleanse and tighten pores and remove dry skin. Ingredients are varied to accommodate specific needs of one's skin type and condition.

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Steam Bath

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

Steam Bath Types: head, foot, tent, local, full body

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Steam Room

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

A ceramic-tiled room with wet heat generated by temperatures of 110-130° Fahrenheit designed to soften the skin, cleanse the pores, calm the nervous system and relieve tension.

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Sweat Lodge

Glossary Term | Category: Glossary Terms

An ancient Native American body purification ceremony involving the use of intense heat similar to that of a sauna and other methods to provoke visions and insights.

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Topic of Focus - What ISPA Members are Exploring

The ISPA community is continuously seeking new concepts, products and business practices that will keep their offerings fresh and relevant.

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Topic of focus - Marketing Monthly Snapshot Surveys provide ISPA members with a valuable look into the state of the spa industry, spa industry trends and help to identify the needs of spa professionals. Snapshot Surveys are conducted on the third Friday of each month, with full results provided only to respondents two weeks from the release date of the survey. Knowledge is a valuable tool and these quick surveys provide a wealth of information shared by ISPA’s members. The September Snapshot Survey requested information from spa members relating to marketing.      

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.1 | Philosophy of Spa

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Philosophy of Spa

Philosophy is often considered a foundation upon which people build their knowledge and belief structures. The Greek word for philosophy translates to “love of wisdom.” It is appropriate then, that this text begins its exploration of spa by delving beyond the business models and types of treatments to take a close look at the wisdom and “why” of spa philosophy encompasses the deeper meaning and sacred significance of spa.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.2 | Defining Spa

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Defining Spa

Most of the world begins its definition of spa with water. Without water, most say, there is no spa. The original spas—mineral springs and hot springs—have been a part of relaxation and healing in many cultures for millennia. Towns with hot springs grew into popular destinations for holiday retreats.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.3 | Variations of Spa

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Variations of Spa

There are many approaches to spa throughout the world and each spa provides services according to its own unique vision and mission. As the number of spa locations increased dramatically during the 1990s and into this century, classifications became necessary to categorize the array of spa experiences being offered in the market.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.4 | Spa-Goers

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Spa-Goers

When spa-goers talk about spa, the language they use includes such words as:

  • Stress-free
  • Get-away
  • Fun
  • Pampering
  • Serene
  • Calming
  • Tranquility
  • Peaceful
  • Nurturing
  • Holistic

These images and associations create exceedingly high expectations among guests for their visits to spas. They expect from spas deep gratification, or something close to it. Their high expectations derive, in part, from the way the word “spa” stands in their minds as a symbolic promise of unusually meaningful and pleasurable life experiences.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.5 | Interpretation of Spa

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Interpretation of Spa

While spa professionals can research those using spas, people will continue to approach the spa world with their own interpretations. Individuals will come to spas with different needs and receive different benefits. Spas will offer a variety of services and build their mission around those needs they can best meet.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.6 | Business and Philosophy of Spa Working in Harmony

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Business and Philosophy of Spa Working in Harmony

While spas are about healing people, they are also businesses that can survive to do good work only if financially stable and operating on a sound business model. Spa professionals have the challenge of ensuring that they operate as a business while staying true to the mission of spa.

Just as spas teach balance to their guests, they themselves must practice balance by keeping the business and philosophy working in harmony. Spas exist to put other people first and care for them. It is a service to humanity that goes beyond profit and spa professionals must enjoy doing it to be successful.

How does a spa go about keeping its “spa-ness” without becoming simply a retail provider of services? It begins with spa professionals. Spa professionals have to believe in and be connected to the spa concept and the spa experience. Business development begins with personal development. They also have to have sincere conversations with their guests and find out what their guests need and desire.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.7 | Expression and Emotional Responses

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Expression and Emotional Responses

One spa professional described the spa experience as a chance to “go in good and come out better.” Guests who go to spas want to do work and accomplish something, but someone else has to do it for them. They go to a spa and connect with the therapist or the technician to receive the service.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.8 | Value of Spa

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

Value of Spa

Spas have survived and thrived throughout history because of the value they offer to individuals and society. They have blazed the trail of whole body wellness by caring for the body, mind, and spirit. They have explored methods of healing and relaxation that appeal to the whole person.

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Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction

Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 2.1 | The Origin of Spa - Water

Textbook | Category: Spa Operations

A History of Spa and Spa Cultures

Much of the content of this chapter was provided by spa historian Jonathan Paul de Vierville, Ph.D., LCSW-ACP, LPC, TRMT, professor of history and humanities, St. Philips College, San Antonio, Texas; director of the Alamo Plaza Spa at the Menger Hotel; and founder of the Hot Wells Institute. The authors gratefully acknowledge his expertise and insight.


While many people may think of spas as a modern development of the Western world, the essentials of spa have their roots in human history as far back as the beginning of time. People have always sought out the places where water springs from the earth in order to experience water’s healing properties and restorative qualities. Other aspects of spa, in particular the human touch of massage and the use of natural ingredients like mud, seaweed, herbs, and plant oils, have also been used in many civilizations over the centuries. By studying the roots of spa cultures and traditions throughout history, spa professionals can better understand and appreciate the richness of the modern spa environment in which they live and work.

This chapter explores the origins of spa and spa practices from antiquity through the middle of the twentieth century, which many spa historians identify as the beginning of the modern, or contemporary, spa era.         

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