The Morphing Message of Spas
By Kate Mearns Spa Director, The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg | July 14, 2013
In 2005, the International Spa Association (ISPA) realized that our industry needed to conduct a census of our market and business. ISPA anticipated that the results of its survey would improve accuracy and consistency of data and, in doing so help establish the spa as a legitimate, distinct and powerful industry. One of the results of the census initiative was to come up with a new, clear and comprehensive definition of what a spa was; and here's what we came up with:
- A spa is place of business that enhances the overall well-being of a person through a variety of professional spa services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit.
One reason ISPA was tasked with creating the definition of spa was very clear. On one hand, the industry was maturing and growing, but on the other, there seemed to be very little consistency about what spas actually were. Therefore, we were confident the results of ISPA's census initiative would benefit not only the industry at large but also the consumer.
Another reason was the industry needed to begin to track data and trends. We knew, for example, that measuring the size and number of spas, determining the workforce, and even recording and comparing revenues, would enable spa owners and operations and marketing professionals to monitor industry growth and adapt to changes over time. But in order to do this, ISPA (the authoritative voice of the industry) obviously needed to define a spa. After all, to many consumers and even the media, "spa" meant an outdoor whirlpool or hot tub. Spa professionals were faced not only with educating the media about their businesses and services but also with the basic problem of the name of their name itself.
Meanwhile, to add to the confusion, the word "spa" was also becoming popular in the name of new service businesses too. There were car spas, dental spas and even doggie spas. We needed a definition that would educate, inform and distinguish our businesses and our industry. After a lively dialogue and the work of a wordsmith, ISPA created a clear definition of a "spa". Looking back over the past decade, it's clear that ISPA's definition of spa not only "legitimized" the industry through better data collection, but it also helped the media better understand and promote the industry to the consumers. So, over time consumer awareness of spas and the services they offer has improved.
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