Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction
The modern spa era saw spas shift from their ancient medical and spiritual emphasis to today’s corporate model that primarily focuses on beauty, fitness, and wellness. While wellness and relaxation have always been the cornerstones of a spa’s holistic experience, the historical European model had come to emphasize taking the waters and retreating to pastoral and natural setting for weeks and even months at a time. Food was luxurious and abundant, and doctors routinely recommended spas as a way to cleanse and heal the body away from the rigors of everyday urban life.
Spa professionals are healers for people and society. They are also business people. While spas continue to embrace their origins and roots as places of healing and spiritual renewal, spas are maturing as a business, industry, and profession. Increasingly sophisticated and profit-focused organizations are entering the market, influencing the others in the market to think more about the financial bottom line and how to generate a sustainable profit. Manufacturers and product distributors have become more creative and innovative in their marketing and branding. Investors are more aware of spas and why they are worthy of investment.
From almost the beginning of time, spas have provided renewal, regeneration, and rejuvenation. They have been special places where people go to find themselves. They go to rest, reflect, and rediscover themselves so they can later re-enter the world with a refreshed body, mind, and spirit. Over the centuries, spas have evolved, experiencing sometimes rapid proliferation into mainstream culture. During the past two decades, spas have witnessed a rapid growth and expansion around the world.
The growth and changes in the spa world over the past decade have created a highly competitive environment for spas and resource partners (vendors).
Spas are deeply affected by the world around them and by the same market conditions that affect any other business. Three primary market issues shaping the world of spa are human resources and staffing, the uneven application of standards for the industry, and increased competition from both within and outside the industry.
Future spa guests will be more informed, knowledgeable, sophisticated, demanding, secure, aware, worldly, and better traveled than ever before. Vast amounts of information about spa alternatives will be at their fingertips. They will be able to quickly evaluate the array of spa offerings and judge which ones best suit them. Their purchases will be better attuned to their expectations, resulting in enhanced satisfaction.
While no one knows for certain which trends will continue to have a widespread effect on the industry, it is possible to identify some that seem to have a lifespan that transports them beyond a fad. They are the trends that are shaping today’s industry and are likely in one form or another to sculpt aspects of the future.
To say that technology is changing things in a pervasive manner is almost cliché. Even in the spa world—a place that offers its guests a temporary escape from the tether of technology in their lives—technology has created new ways of doing things, from administrative tasks to retail sales to treatments both medical and traditional.
At the heart of every spa are the treatments that are offered to guests. It is the treatment itself that guests come to the spa for.
Some of the major changes in the spa industry have had to do with ownership structure, investor attractiveness, and spa mergers and consolidations. All three are indicators of a maturing industry. Spas are facing many of the challenges that more traditional businesses face while still keeping their focus on the mission that makes spas unique.
Spa professionals are focusing more and more on activities extending well beyond the walls of their spa and the typical business goals. There is a continued return to the roots of spa, the roots where people see the spa as serving social purposes and improving the quality of life. This stems partly from more stringent government and legal requirements and partly from a feeling of social responsibility.