The Consumer of Wellness and Health Therapies in US and European Resorts and Spas

By Jacqueline Clarke Wellness Research Director, Diagonal Reports | October 28, 2008

The spa or health and wellness segment is one of the fastest growth segments in the hotel market in the USA, in many EU countries and elsewhere, that is in Eastern Europe, and in Asia. In Austria revenues in health and wellness tourism are reported to be 30% higher than traditional tourism.

The pace of development suggests that hotel spas are meeting a demand that has not been satisfied in the traditional beauty channel. Indeed hotel spas are growing in countries, among them France, where the traditional beauty market is stagnant.

The hotel spa market is new. In Canada over 75% of spas were less than 10 years old in 2004. In France most hotel spas were established after 2002. In the UK the Spa Business Association (www.spabusinessassociation.co.uk) was only established in 2004.

The newly established hotel spas are proving popular. In France a survey of one hundred 4-star luxury hotels found that 40% of hotel customers used the spas during their 2005 stay, compared to only 10% in 2000. These hotel spas include hotels equipped with massage treatment rooms, saunas and fitness centers - according to a presentation at the Paris trade show "Beyond Beauty."

But the rapid expansion of the health and wellness is creating a problem. The new market now faces what some would describe as an identity crisis. The crisis is that an ever widening range of very different facilities and therapies claim entitlement to be covered under the umbrella of health and wellness.

A selection of facilities covered that satisfies the criteria of making people "look and feel better" could include those offering beauty and pampering (massage) therapies such as spas (day spas). Then there are the health oriented facilities such as fitness clubs, sports clubs and health resorts. The latter can include water spas, mineral spas, mud spas, climatic resorts (fresh air), sea-side and hydrotherapy spas. They have now been joined by those offering nutrition, mainstream and alternative medical procedures that can have a diagnostic, prevention or maintenance element.

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