What to Watch for in 2019
by Jamison Stoike

With wellness and holistic health becoming more and more popular around the world, the spa industry is up for an exciting 2019. Here are three things that ISPA members say they’ll be watching over the next twelve months.

1. Sustainability is Necessary
Sustainability has permeated every facet of the spa industry, from the way ISPA members operate their spas, to the products they use, to their charitable endeavors. According to the many ISPA members Pulse talked to, this trend will only continue to grow. Samantha Cooper, spa director at Canyon Ranch Lenox, is one of those members: “I believe that we will continue to see guests and staff alike who want to take care of themselves holistically…we will continue to crave clean products.”

“Clean” is a term that’s being used more and more in the spa and beauty industry to describe products that move beyond simpler labels like “organic” or “natural.” With so many product makers attempting to cash in on the rising tide of the clean beauty takeover, it pays to be wary and do research before committing to a product. Kate Morrison, spa director at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, notes that today’s spa goer is better educated and
will likely notice if a spa’s products aren’t as clean as they claim to be. A good starting point for clean beauty products: stay away “from ingredients you can’t easily pronounce,” says Ashley Prange, Founder of Au Naturale Cosmetics.

Mary Bemis, the founder and editorial director of Insider’s Guide to Spas, has noticed this trend in her own proprietary research and sees it moving even deeper towards, as she terms it, “regeneration.” “It’s happening within resorts and within beauty products, and spas are bringing out their own clean and green lines,” says Bemis, who also sees the growing sustainable beauty trend as empowering small, boutique product makers. “Spas are looking to be unique…and the natural trend is one of the reasons that indie brands are growing.”

2. Disconnect, Detox, Reconnect
It seems as though the more advanced technology becomes, the more people seek out ways to escape it. The movement towards purposeful use of technology, mindfulness and digital detox has been a growing spa trend for several years, but it looks primed to become a major theme of 2019. For more on the role digital detox played in 2018, flip back to page 36 in this issue of Pulse.

“More and more spaces are being created within spas for quiet,” says Bemis. While this trend is most visible as it relates to digital detox, the general idea of disconnecting from modern life and reconnecting with the natural world has also been growing. The spa industry has seen tremendous growth in the “experiences” category over the past year, and it’s likely to continue into 2019. Increasingly popular are shared experiences which allow guests to connect with each other, and several ISPA members anticipate seeing growing demand for these types of shared services going forward, especially in the resort sector.

Several of the 2018 Innovate Award winners’ submissions, representing the leading edge of spa, were based around themes of connection, immersion and purposeful time away from tech. Popular experiences that spas are offering to disconnect from tech include nature-based experiences and outdoor activities, as well as treatments that integrate practices such as sound therapy.

3. Get Creative with Benefits
It’s no big surprise that the spa industry’s tight labor market is frequently named as a hot topic for 2019. The ISPA 2018 U.S. Spa Industry Study found that there are over 38,000 open positions for service providers and management in the U.S. alone.

In addition to difficulties finding qualified talent to staff spas, the desires and interests of new spa industry workers are expected to continue shifting in 2019; this affects both hiring and retention. “More and more, therapists and prospective new hires are interested in flexible work schedules and a healthy lifestyle balance,” says Kate Morrison of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. It’s recommended that spas look beyond salary and traditional benefits, such as a health insurance, to attract talent. Member spas have reported successfully leveraging spa discounts, free spa days, flexible hours and support for professional development to help them attract and retain new employees. ISPA suggests taking a look at the entire package, from the smallest rewards to the most fundamental elements of compensation, to see if there are any holes to be filled.

The push-and-pull between contractor labor and full-time labor will likely continue in 2019, although the particulars depend greatly on the location, status and ethos of a spa. At Four Seasons Resort Lana’i in Hawaii, liability concerns prompted the spa to begin offering only traditional employer-employee relationships. However, according to Spa Director Shaw Cote, “this is in conflict with the overwhelming trend with salon workers preferring the wage and scheduling advantages of the contractor route.” Again, it seems as though the growing desire for flexible work hours and a healthy work/life balance will be a trend to watch in 2019.

Like many things in spa, the menu design trends to watch in 2019 are curation and minimalism. In contrast to a decade ago, customers desire a more cultivated selection of treatment options. What’s more, with per-treatment spending continuing to rise year-over-year, customers are willing to shell out for longer, more involved treatments or treatment combinations.

CBD-oil-based products, already a growing force in 2018, seem likely to come into their own in 2019 alongside growing acceptance of hemp and cannabis. CBD products are providing so popular at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa that Morrison is having difficulty “keeping the retail on the shelf.”

Shaw Cote at Four Seasons Lana’i sees jewelry and apparel as product categories to watch for 2019. Indeed, in a May 2018 ISPA Snapshot Survey, 49 percent of respondents saw an increase in year-over-year sales of jewelry, one of the largest numbers in the survey. It’s likely to continue increasing next year.