Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction | Chapter 1.3 | Variations of Spa

Variations of Spa

There are many approaches to spa throughout the world and each spa provides services according to its own unique vision and mission. As the number of spa locations increased dramatically during the 1990s and into this century, classifications became necessary to categorize the array of spa experiences being offered in the market.


Types of Spa

ISPA defines the following as the main classifications of spas:

  • Destination Spa: A destination spa is a facility with the primary purpose of guiding individual spa-goers to develop healthy habits. Historically a seven-day stay, this lifestyle transformation can be accomplished by providing a comprehensive program that includes spa services, physical fitness activities, wellness education, healthful cuisine, and special interest programming.
  • Resort/Hotel Spa: A spa within a resort or hotel providing professionally administered spa services, fitness and wellness components, and spa cuisine choices.
  • Day Spa: A spa offering a variety of professionally administered spa services to clients on a day use basis.
  • Medical Spa: A facility that operates under the full-time, on-site supervision of a licensed health care professional whose primary purpose is to provide comprehensive medical and wellness care in an environment that integrates spa services with complementary and/or alternative therapies and treatments. The facility operates within the scope of practice of its staff, which can include both esthetic/cosmetic and prevention/wellness procedures and services.
  • Mineral Springs Spa: A facility that operates a spa offering an on-site source of natural mineral, thermal, or sea water used in professionally administered hydrotherapy treatments.
  • Club/Fitness Spa: A facility with the primary purpose of fitness and which offers a variety of professionally administered spa services on a day use basis.
  • Cruise Ship Spa: A spa aboard a cruise ship providing professionally administered spa services, fitness and wellness components, and spa cuisine choices.

In Europe, Visit Britain created its own classifications of spas as part of a standards-setting initiative. These categories include:

  • Day Spa: A stand-alone spa, offering individual treatments in day and half-day packages.
  • Hotel Spa: A spa within the boundaries of a property where the primary business is a hotel.
  • Salon Spa: A facility that offers individual pampering and beauty treatments. They are usually found in cities.
  • Sport and Fitness Spa: A spa within a facility with the primary purpose of fitness.
  • Natural Spa: A spa offering a naturally occurring on-site source of mineral, thermal, or sea water, or peat, mud, and other natural elements that are used in treatments.
  • Destination Spa: A spa with the sole purpose of providing guests with lifestyle improvements and health enhancement through professionally administered spa services, physical fitness, education, and nutritional advice on a residential basis.
  • Resort Spa: A spa within a defined and branded resort where the primary business is to create an environment dedicated to leisure and relaxation. The spa offers health, well-being, and pampering services administered by professionally qualified personnel on a residential or day visit basis.
  • Medi-Spa: A spa where qualified medical staff administer medically prescribed treatments.

As spas continue to grow to meet new needs and try new business models, other forms will emerge. Various organizations and spas will use different labels to define themselves. A few other spa types include:

  • Residential spas: Residential communities built around a spa that provides access exclusively to residents. Some have arrangements similar to golf-development communities.
  • Dental spas: Some dentists have transformed their offices into spa-like environments to pamper their patients with spa services.
  • Mobile spas: Spa professionals bring spa services to the guest, rather than the guest coming to the spa.
  • Eco-spas: Those developing eco-spas believe that the health of the planet is tied up with personal health. Eco-spas offer organic treatments and try to ensure that their practices are in harmony with the environment. They keep nature in balance as a way of helping to keep their guests in balance.

People turn to spas with a variety of needs. Different spas allow guests to concentrate on an area of emphasis such as:

  • Fitness—Guests can work out in fitness classes, enjoy invigorating body treatments, participate in outdoor sports activities, or sign up for programs to lose weight, get fit, or adopt healthier lifestyles.
  • Stress management—Guests can learn relaxation techniques, how to manage stress, and other strategies for feeling more in balance and in control.
  • Peace of mind—Guests can pursue a spiritual journey of introspection and reflection through meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and other practices or activities that lead to serenity, understanding, and self-acceptance.
  • Pampering and pleasure—Guests indulge their senses with massages, facials, mud or aromatherapy baths, and other delightful treatments as they enjoy a completely relaxing vacation or time out.
  • Health and wellness—Guests can explore their health, learn to deal with issues such as smoking or medical concerns, and discover how lifestyle choices can lead to optimal wellness.

Typical Spa Services

Spas often strive to offer their own signature treatments with protocols varying from spa to spa. Spa guests will often choose spas based on the services that they offer as well as the philosophies that they practice.

Common treatments offered by spas include (some treatments appear in multiple categories):

  • Massage: Swedish, deep tissue, sports, acupressure, reflexology, shiatsu, Thai, hot stone
  • Asian bodywork therapy: acupressure, shiatsu, ashiatsu, reflexology, Tuina, Jin Shin Do, Thai, Reiki, polarity
  • Hydrotherapy: balneotherapy, thalassotherapy, watsu, Scotch hose, Vichy shower, Swiss shower, sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy bath
  • Body treatments: mud wrap, herbal wrap, salt glow, seaweed wrap, loofah scrub, fango wrap, Javanese lulur, aromatherapy wrap
  • Facials: deep cleansing, anti-aging, vitamin, oxygen, microdermabrasion
  • Fitness: yoga, personal training, tai chi, aerobics, hiking, meditation, fitness evaluation or analysis, Pilates
  • Salon treatments: manicures, pedicures, paraffin dips, hair cutting and styling, hair removal
  • Lifestyle classes: a wide range of subjects including fitness, wellness, nutrition, stress relief, better sleep, spirituality, etc.
  • Medical treatments: surgical procedures, myotherapy, laser treatment, Botox, microdermabrasion, acupuncture
  • Energy work: craniosacral massage, Reiki, polarity, chakra balancing, crystal therapy, healing touch
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