This Year's Spa Innovate Award Winners Share What They Saw Grow Over 2018
by Jamison Stoike

Trends aren't built in a single year, but 2018 saw many trends develop, change and shift. The cutting-edge spas who received 2018 ISPA Innovate Awards were front-and-center to observe—and influence—these trends. Around the world, this month’s member perspectives spas observed similar trends and themes in 2018 and expect these trends to only grow in 2019.

This month, Pulse talked with Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Canyon Ranch Lenox and Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, to get the full story on the trends transforming the spa industry as they see it.

In-Depth, Customized Experiences
In 2009, ISPA wrote that shortened treatments were a trend to watch in the spa industry going forward, noting that 46 percent of ISPA members saw an increase in treatments of 30 minutes or less, and that “these mini services at lower price points are popular ways to get a taste of treatments offered at many spas.”

The picture at the end of 2018 could not be more different. In contrast to the cash-strapped and time-crunched world of a decade ago, spa goers now have more money and time to spend. In fact, spa goers are increasingly going to spas specifically because longer, more immersive experiences allow them to fully unplug from the challenges and stresses of modern life.

“Our single biggest trend has been the increase in 120-minute or longer combination services and rituals,” says Shaw Cote, spa director for Four Seasons Resort Lana’I on Lanai Island in Hawaii. In previous years, guests would typically only book a single treatment, with upselling happening afterwards. To better engage with his guests’ desire for longer, more curated treatments, Cote and his team have pivoted towards offering carefully paired combination treatments and experiences that are booked upfront. “They like the ‘one and done’ which allows our premium-priced treatments to shine,” comments Cote. “The result is a more impactful and memorable experience, as well as increased spa utilization.”

Miraval Resort & Spa has also seen guests clamoring for the same sense of curation and customization that Cote has observed. At their Austin location, spa guests can write a “letter of intention, which will be used in a future guest’s treatment,” according to Group Director of Miraval Spas Simon Marxer. This letter bridges the gap between guests today and guests tomorrow; the practice creates a unique, customized experience that also touches upon the growing trend of community among spa goers.

Gemstones, Crystals and Products with Purpose
If your spa noticed a significant uptick in demand from guests for crystals, salt and gemstones in 2018, you’re not alone: several of the 2018 Innovate Award winners noticed increased demand for these at their spas, both in the treatment room and in their retail space. At Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, bookings for healing energy experiences doubled over 2017, according to Spa Director Samantha Cooper.

“The biggest product trend we saw in 2018 was for crystals, gemstones and affirmations,” says Kate Morrison, spa director at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, adding that “guests want more than just a necklace or keychain; there needs to be a healing message or element of each item.”

Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson agreed that gemstones and crystals were a growing product trend, describing customers’ demand for them as “insatiable.” According to Marxer, “there’s a great deal of enthusiasm for exploring the wisdom and power of crystals.” To tap into that enthusiasm, Miraval created more programming based around crystals and gemstones and plans to introduce even more in 2019. Miarval’s recently launched “Path of the Jaguar” experience is an example of a treatment designed in response to the trend; in it, guests are guided by a shamanic healer to clear their Chakra and expel negative energy into crystals, which are then buried onsite and left behind.

Product trends can be fickle, but the growing desire for crystals and gemstones isn’t an isolated fad. Rather, it fits into larger movements both towards the experiences discussed previously, as well as a desire for products with a story, mission or purpose. Spa goers’ increasing demand for purposeful products resonates across several trends, including the continued push towards green and eco-friendly products. In fact, Morrison believes that green products and sustainability have become such big forces in the spa industry that they’re not even trends anymore: they’re an expectation and “a necessity for success.”

As your spa plans for 2019, remember that gemstones, crystals and other products with a purpose are an important product trend to watch. As Shaw Cote sums it up, “guests want to know and engage with the story of the place that they are visiting,” and one way to do that is through authentic products that tell a local story.

Connection and Community
One of the biggest trends observed by the 2018 Innovate Award-winning spas—and one that’s one of the largest macro-trends in the spa industry—is a consumer push for greater connection, both to the people around them and to the spa community. More specifically, many spa-goers are seeking a stronger sense of community with their particular spa and are identifying more and more with the values espoused by it. “Our guests are seeking and expecting more from spa services,” opines Cooper from Canyon Ranch. “They want to leave a massage with a connection; they’re looking for a spiritual or personal experience.”
Furthermore, this trend is affecting all aspects of wellness and hospitality, according to Cote: “Shared experiences are a huge trend at our resort, not only in the spa.” Half of their treatment rooms are large enough to accommodate couple’s massages, treatments and facials, which are hugely popular at
the Hawaii resort. In response to this increased demand for shared experiences, Four Seasons Resort Lana’i updated their 2018 menu to reflect that every treatment can be provided as a shared experience.

In fact, the ISPA 2018 Innovation of the Year Award— selected from among the Innovate Award winners—was Four Seasons’ Zen Horse Sunset Yoga, which touches every aspect of this trend toward connection and community. In the experience, guests reconnect with nature while practicing yoga in a horse pasture; they also feel a sense of community and belonging thanks to the experience’s deep ties to the island of Lanai.

“Guests are seeking out experiences that renew their connection with others and the world around them,” says Marxer at Miraval Resort & Spa. To his eye, “offering shared experiences allows them to be more grounded and create authentic connections with others.”

The Big Shift
These are only a few of the trends observed by the 2018 Innovate Award-winning spas. Others included treatments like sports massage and salt therapy; products like jewelry and CBD oil; as well as trends on the operational side of spa, including shifts in technology and human resources practice. For more on these, simply turn to page 44 to get the inside scoop on industry trends that ISPA members expect to see going forward in 2019.

With so many trends rising and falling, it’s an incredible time to be in the spa industry. Mainstream interest in holistic wellness and spa has never been higher, and it’s leading to fascinating changes within the spa industry. Today’s spa goer expects to connect with each other and to receive customized experiences led by purposeful, value-driven spas. The 2018 Innovate Award winners are textbook examples of how to recognize the trends driving our industry, take advantage of them, and drive the industry forward.