Spa Trends Now and In the Future

By Gary Henkin President & Founder, WTS International | May 02, 2012

The world's challenging economic climate has meant that hotel, resort and destination spas must remain ahead of the curve if they expect to deliver quality customer service and produce a positive bottom line.

This starts with paying attention to trends within the industry, creative design, spa menus that speak to consumer desires and pragmatic marketing and management. With the exception of certain geographic pockets throughout the world, it has been increasingly more difficult to maintain or grow revenue streams while capturing enough guest and local traffic to support a profitable business enterprise.

In the current environment, spas that don't have (or stick to) a well thought out game plan to consistently drive revenue through effective promotion of treatments and retail sales will likely suffer the consequence of economic downturn. With luxury hotel occupancy dropping by double digits and spa treatment per customer revenue at hotels in decline, it is important to ask the right questions if you are planning to add or expand a spa. These include an awareness of overall trends that will have consumer appeal which then impact design decisions; how to construct a viable business model to maximize the opportunity for profit; what is the best and most creative way to pay and incentivize staff; and how can I attract the local element outside the property which is becoming more important for financial success.

Existing and future trends are outlined below:

  • There is a significant shift on the part of consumers toward wellness and preventive health (as opposed to pampering) which has driven consumer needs heretofore. This includes an increased comfort level with med-spa procedures and incorporating this into prevention treatments and services. This will ultimately drive a more collaborative approach with the health and medical industries. Delegates at the recent Global Spa Summit reported that the preventive health segment has the largest upside for potential growth which was significantly greater than the focus on day spas, luxury spas and cosmetic medical spas. Further, attendees indicated their desire to collaborate with healthcare by a more than 2-1 margin when compared with their interest in doing so with other sectors. Delegates also indicated that the most crucial factors impacting the profitability of the industry are marketing, healthcare, insurance regulatories and emerging consumer markets. Consumers are becoming far more health conscious and price sensitive which will drive a closer collaboration between spas and healthcare. It is likely that spas will continue to increase their role in wellness, and hospitals will be more prone to have spa offerings in the future.

  • Consumers are now expecting a more proactive approach from spas in addressing environmental concerns. The eco-spa trend isn't likely to disappear. Use of recycled wood, geothermal energy, wind-powered electricity, recycling bins in common areas, foods from organic gardens grown on site, solar lighting, recycled water, etc. are now on the radar screen for spa owners who want environmental sensitivity without drumming "green initiatives" down the throats of the spa goer. A Green Spa Network is now in existence and consumers will come to demand attentiveness to this expanding industry trend. The majority of the delegates at the last Global Spa Summit reported that environmental responsibility will have a significant influence on their future business.

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.