Understanding the International Spa Market
By Elaine Fenard Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality | February 22, 2010
According to the recently released report, "The Global Spa Economy 2007,"* the international spa economy is estimated to be worth a staggering $255 billion per year, $46.8 billion of which are directly related to spa services and operations. Suffice to say, the spa industry has grown tremendously in the past several years as demand throughout the world continues to increase. As developers, owners and hoteliers look beyond their own borders in which to invest and operate, it becomes increasingly important to understand the various markets and their implications on specific spa operations. Whether you are making a forray into new markets, or simply trying to market your existing location to a more international audience, the complexities, sensitivities and expectations for spa around the world will vary considerably, and proper attention should be paid to the nuances in order to ensure success.
While there exist general rules of thumb about all regions and cultures, it is wise to first embark on a markets research and feasibility study to gain a clearer understanding of what "spa" means to your new audiences. Such a study should include a segment on guest research and expectations, thereby guiding you more specifically on a number of considerations such as:
- Gender: What is the expected guest ratio of women to men? Should the treatments vary between the genders? Are co-ed lounge or wet areas acceptable? Do strict divisions between the genders need to exist? Are treatment menus by gender advantagous?
- Treatments: Does the mix of treatments reflect the preferences of a given culture? For example, while visiting a spa, U.S. spa guests book massage 55% - 60% of the time while many European countries view spa as synonymous with bathing.
- Spaces: Are spaces allocated not only to maximize revenue but also to reflect cultural preferences? For example, in Italy, pedicure treatments are often conducted inside of the treatment room, where in the U.S. most pedicures are provided in a separate manicure/pedicure area.
Spa Brand Types: Hotel Brands and Corporate Spa Partners
Paying attention to cultural preferences and expecations is critical in understanding the international spa market, as is selecting the overall type of spa: A bathouse concept, dayspa model, full service resort-style spa? Determining the spa type is one of the most important decisions you make. Be careful not to simply follow market trends without a sound business plan. As tempting as it may be, jumping at a current trend could prove unwise if not thoroughly researched on the front end. The simplest way to ensure you are assessing the opportunity, while also being progressive and guest-focused, is to stay true to the hotel brand and core values. This is evidenced in Fairmont's Willow Stream Spas; Jumeirah'sTalise Spa; Hyatt's Stillwater Spas; Westin's Heavenly Spas; and W Hotels' Bliss.
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