Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.2 | Defining Spa

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.

Today the original concept of a spa as a place with healing waters has widened and moved beyond just the waters. Spas have expanded from places dedicated to just the taking of waters into modern day spas, club spas, cruise spas, hotel and health resort spas offering just about everything for what relaxes, energizes, or ails a person. Contemporary spas cater to people who want to lose weight, get in shape, relax, or luxuriate with pampering treatments. They offer all, or the key elements, of a healthy lifestyle, including nutritious food, fitness activities, face and body treatments, medical evaluations, behavioral management counseling, nutrition education, stress management, holistic health, spiritual growth, movement therapy, exercise physiology, and more. Spa treatments promote physical appearance—helping people to look good and feel better about themselves. For many people, there is a connection between their self-esteem, sense of self-value, and looking good. Positive mental effects contribute to physical health.

Spas exist in all shapes and sizes: at a mountaintop retreat, in the heart of the city, on a tropical island, in a desert oasis, or in the countryside. Their nurturing services are found from Iceland to Australia and all points in between. What they have in common is that they all specialize in wellness. To one degree or another, each addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Some have distinct specialties while others can tailor an experience to individual guest preferences.

The term “spa” is used in many different ways. It can refer to an individual spa—the physical building and location in which people go to receive a variety of services related to health, well-being, relaxation, and beauty. (“Maria went to visit the Seasons Spa.”) It can refer to the philosophy of spa which encompasses all that spa stands for throughout time and the world. (“Spa has made the world a better place by nurturing people’s souls.”) It can also refer to the world of spa, a shorthand way of referring to all the individuals and businesses that use, maintain, manage, support, or otherwise deal with spas. (“The spa convention offered educational seminars along with a vendor showcase.”)


Global Definitions

For many throughout the world, spa has become synonymous with wellness. The English word for spa is becoming more and more common around the world.

The International SPA Association (ISPA) has published the following definition of spa: “Spas are places devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body, and spirit.”

Ultimately, ISPA points out, the spa experience is unique for each person, which is why each spa offers different services and treatments. Despite their variety of offerings, spas all have one thing in common—they specialize in renewal and rejuvenation.

ISPA further defines the spa experience as “your time to relax, reflect, revitalize, and rejoice.” More people are experiencing spas because of the lasting benefits of learning to live a healthier lifestyle—and because of the sheer enjoyment of going to a spa and receiving services.

There are many places today that add the word “spa” to their name that would not fit under ISPA’s definition of a spa. A hair salon would not become a spa simply by adding a manicure table. A doctor’s office that performs microdermabrasion is not automatically a spa. Rather those are places that are offering a spa service. It takes more than one or two services to make an authentic spa.

Scroll to Top