the relationship between ISPA and Pricewaterhouse Coopers goes back nearly 18 years. that’s 18 years of groundbreaking spa industry research that has come to define the industry and create standards by which spas all over the world measure and plan for success. COLIN MCIlHENEY has been there every step of the way. As global research director for PwC Research, McIlheney has had the opportunity to work with spas and spa professionals all over the world. His dedication to the spa industry and passion for our research initiatives is unparalleled.

For this month’s Ask the Expert, we dug a little deeper into what makes McIlheney so dedicated to our industry and his thoughts on the latest record-breaking ISPA U.S. Spa Industry Study.

Pulse: You’ve been conducting research on behalf of the spa industry for quite a long time! What do you think is so significant about this year’s U.S. Spa Industry Study?
McIlheney: What strikes me most about this year is the surge in the number of visits to spas in the U.S.—there have been 5 million more visits than a year ago—that’s a very encouraging sign. I would also highlight the emergence of millennials as THE spa going generation. What they want will drive the industry in the years to come.

P: Why is research like what you do with ISPA and PwC so important to our industry?
M: The importance of the work lies both in its longevity—we are now 18 years in—and the data has come to be seen as a definitive picture of the key metrics for the industry. It’s great to be associated with something that is eagerly awaited each year as a key milestone.

P: Being on the research side of things, you get a firsthand look at the ebbs and flows of the spa industry. What particular patterns have you noticed and what do you think they mean?
M: The one thing that stands out for me over the years is research we did for the consumer snapshot series on the male spa-goer. In my career, I can’t remember a bigger reaction to any piece of research. The interest levels to this day are huge!

P: For the first time in the history of the ISPA U.S. Spa Industry Study, the total number of visits to spas rose above 180 million. Why is this figure so significant and what does it mean for the future of the industry?
M: The number of visits highlights that spa-going is not perceived as a luxury but increasingly as part of an integrated wellness program. It’s great to see an all-time record high number.

P: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work with the ISPA industry study and other research initiatives?
M: I really love the interaction with so many spas during the course of the industry research, but I also love the excitement of the annual ISPA Conference. Delivering the key results on the main stage is still a big buzz for me.

P: What are you most looking forward to about the 2017 ISPA Conference & Expo?
M: I think being on as a “warm-up” for Peyton Manning at Conference is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! On a more serious note, the launch live at Mandalay Bay of the inaugural spa industry workforce survey has to be a career high point. Fingers crossed it will be a massive success and a defining moment for the industry!