Spa Finder announces its ninth annual forecast of the emerging concepts set to shape the world of spa for 2012, and beyond
President Susie Ellis Predicts Wellness and Beauty Coaching — Amusement Park Spas — Snow Showers — and Online Wellness Gaming Will Hit the Spa World Next Year
SpaFinder’s Top 10 2012 Global Spa Trends
1. Healthy Feet Treatments
2. Cold and Ice Are Hot
3. Wellness and Beauty Coaching
4. Online Wellness Gaming
5. Pairing Fine Dining and Spa-ing
6. Vibration, Sound, Music, Light and Color Therapies
7. The Glam Factor
8. Spa Evidence: Showing the Science Behind Spa
9. Spas Become a Family Affair
10. Spas Go for the “Wow”
1) HEALTHY FEET TREATMENTS
Spas and wellness centers are now putting a big focus on feet: from “foot fitness” classes to new 100-percent foot-focused med-spas to podiatrist-overseen “medi-pedis” to treatments specifically targeting high-heel pain. And while the ancient Chinese practice of reflexology revolves around using foot acupressure to impact the organs of the body, the fact that reflexology centers are becoming as common as nail salons may have more to do with people simply seeking pain relief via foot massages, rather than some sudden conversion to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The human foot is a delicate, complex structure of 33 joints and 26 bones, wrapped in a web of 126 muscles, ligaments and nerves. The most utilized part of our bodies, the average person spends four hours (pounding out 8,000 to 10,000 steps) on their feet every day. So what do we encase our body’s precious shock absorbers in these days? The fashion gods have women wearing the sky-highest heels in history, and women worldwide are bombarded with images of Lady Gaga or Victoria Beckham teetering around in insane six inch-plus “killer heels.” Two in five American women now wear high heels every day, and 43 percent claim they won’t give them up, despite the misery. Other foot-bruising fashions: fashionable and unsupportive ballet flats and flip-flops, and the running world’s mania for the new, nearly barefoot “foot gloves.” Also significantly adding to the world’s collective foot trauma is the global obesity and diabetes pandemic, and a global population ageing at unprecedented rates.
The upshot of all this sexy footwear and anti-foot behavior? An epidemic of not-so-sexy conditions like plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes, corns, metatarsalgia, flat feet, Achilles tendonitis, neuromas, Hagland’s deformity, or “pump bump,” and arthritis, etc.
Examples: Consider the new, extremely comprehensive “Healthy Feet” program at Canyon Ranch SpaClub in Las Vegas (U.S.), overseen by a well-known doctor of podiatry. The program’s tagline: “If it will make feet feel better, it’s available here…” The dedicated “Healthy Feet” facility offers computerized gait analysis and orthotics assessment, along with a whole slate of foot-focused treatments performed in zero-gravity chairs, with names like “Foot Rescue!” and “Healthy in Heels.”
Multi-treatment, foot-focused spa packages specifically zeroing in on high-heel agony (i.e., special feet/calf massages, stretching, etc.) include New York’s Mohonk Mountain House’s (U.S.) “High Heeler” treatment. Spa Montage locations in California and Utah (U.S.) offer special high-heel pedicures using special oils and gels to reduce stiletto swelling.
Look for: almost every spa skincare line to include specialty foot products, and for companies that specialize in pain-relief, like Biofreeze, or foot-care specialists like the more than 100-year-old powerhouse Gehwol of Germany to continue to make big strides into the new feet-focused spa arena. (Gehwol products are used in hundreds of global spas, including Canyon Ranch’s new “Healthy Feet” program.)
2) COLD AND ICE ARE HOT
Spas have traditionally been all about hot: saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis, hot rock massages, etc. “Hot” is the spa world’s age-old weapon to make people relax, sweat, detoxify and draw blood to the surface. But now spas are bravely stepping out into the cold. We’ll see more icy therapies and cold design experiences in 2012, along with more hot/cold contrast treatments. Perhaps no trend better exemplifies the spa industry’s trajectory away from “mere pampering” than this one!
And, as noted in our 2011 trend, “The Science of Spa,” approaches with some medical evidence backing them will have greater traction in the future. Cold/ice applications are shown to reduce pain and inflammation in muscles and joints, and they certainly release endorphins, which are shown to affect pain, mood, etc. Contrast/hot-cold therapy treatments, which have been around for more than 2,000 years (the Romans ended their spa circuit with a trip to the “frigidarium”), will continue their resurgence. The Europeans have embraced the concept’s health benefits via Kneipp therapy since the mid-18th century; this therapy involves a circuit through alternating hot-cold water foot baths. If “cold” actually has a long (but less storied) spa history, it’s now getting re-imagined in bracing new ways.
Look for: more pure cold-rock massages and contrasting hot/cold versions at places like the Hand & Stone day spa franchises (Canada), or at the GlenApp Castle (Scotland), as well as more cold jade and spoon usage and more ice masks in facials. At every ESPA around the world, you can now scoop ice crystals out of fabulous ice fountains for bracing rubdowns after saunas. More hotel and resort spas will add ice/snow rooms, or “igloos,” making that transition from hot to cold less dreadful than the old cold “plunges.” Spa-goers to Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace Las Vegas’s (U.S.) “arctic ice room” can experience falling snow; at the Dolder Grand (Switzerland), they can have a snowball fight in the “snow room”; and at the Aqua spa at the Belfry (UK), they can cool down in the “igloo,” or induce a giant wakeup call with ice hoses and showers.
The most stone-cold radical of these new experiences? “Cryotherapy,” where people (wearing just a bathing suit and socks, gloves and mouth/ear protection to prevent frostbite), enter a chamber cooled to the mind-numbing temperature of -120° C (or -184° F). A human can only last two to three minutes in a cryotherapy room or pod (portable ones are even available now), but it’s all the rage with elite athletes to help them recover from workout inflammation and pain. The Olympic rehabilitation center in Poland has a cryotherapy chamber used by sports teams from around the world.
The medical evidence on cryotherapy is seemingly mixed, and certainly more studies are needed. One study reveals that runners who used cryotherapy showed significantly fewer blood markers for inflammation, while another study reported that while athletes felt considerably less sore, it didn’t lower their creatine kinase — the hallmark of muscle damage. But popular wellness advocate/celebrity Dr. Oz recently gave cryotherapy an enthusiastic “thumbs up” on his TV show, arguing it has a direct positive effect on pain and inflammation.
3) WELLNESS AND BEAUTY COACHING
“Health coaching,” “wellness coaching,” even “eyebrow coaching” — coaching is a concept gathering steam at spas, with new approaches ranging from the very serious…to the simply engaging and fun.
First, the serious. While “coaching” seems to be a term that can get wantonly slapped onto any professional or personal goal, the concept is especially applicable and packed with potential for the spa sector. Integrative medicine leader Dr. Ken Pelletier recently noted that the spa industry is actually in a better position (than the medical establishment) to deliver preventative “healthcare,” i.e., to provide an environment and offerings that can actually help people make long-lasting lifestyle changes — the number-one medically proven path to disease prevention and optimal health. But to fill those large (and potentially profitable) shoes, more spas must “switch” their model from delivering isolated treatments and establish more personal, post-visit connections with clients that could actually help sustain the changes — i.e., “coaching.”
“Wellness coaching” and “health coaching” are, therefore, very serious trends (rather than faddish new marketing terms), and some very high-level institutions are validating that position. Corporations are digesting the power and ROI of coaching: Those ramping up investments in corporate wellness programs, to reduce their crushing healthcare costs, are reporting that wellness coaching is the most effective model to get people to adhere, long-term, to healthy regimes.
Destination spas are taking the lead with both at-the-spa “coaching” models and post-stay coaching connections. For instance, Arizona’s Mii amo (U.S.) spa resort recently integrated coaching, and its “guided journey packages” include follow-up with a guest’s onsite coach. Arizona’s Miraval Resort & Spa (U.S.) “Integrative Wellness Program” offers ongoing, back-home wellness consultations, and San Francisco’s Cavallo Point (U.S.) offers diverse forms of “Life Enhancement Coaching,” where guests can opt for unlimited follow-up sessions.
More “coaches” of diverse stripes, and more coaching language (i.e., “fitness coach,” not “trainer,” etc.), will invade both day and resort spas, as these sectors realize the model’s unique power in keeping customers ultra-close, engaged and spending. Spa skincare brand Skin Authority represents an early pioneer of the concept of after-spa follow-up with online aestheticians. French beauty brand Clarins recently opened its new Parisian flagship, Spa My Blend, and its therapists are now called “beauty coaches,” who “provide support for people to reveal their own essential beauty.
Look for: greater specialization in coaching approaches (i.e., “states of change,” “mindfulness,” “wellness wheel,” etc.), and for ever-expanding coaching categories, i.e., “nutrition coaches,” “sleep coaches,” etc. New models like group coaching and shorter-term, follow-up coaching will emerge, so that a coaching program of some variety could be within the reach of day spas, hotel/resort spas and more destination spas — and to more people, given the greater range of price-points.
The coaching trend is a serious and welcome one for the global spa industry, and could ultimately prove the key to making the spa that true “third place” (like Starbucks) for so many more people.
4) ONLINE WELLNESS GAMING
The sheer number of people, of every age, all over the globe, that spend vast amounts of time playing online games is staggering. Half a billion people worldwide play online games at least an hour a day. The average young person spends 10,000 hours gaming by age 21, as much time as they spend in school from age 12 on.
Gaming is not just about zapping virtual enemies or for Farmville residents anymore. With everything-themed games now, millions of people worldwide have played dozens of spa-focused games, including Sallie Spa, Sara’s Super Spa or Spa Mania. And Clarins just took the spa-themed game to a new level with its “Spa Life” on Facebook, where players compete to manage an ever-rising flow of clients in search of treatments, and where they can redeem points for Clarins products.
But the big, powerful, serious, truly game-changing “gaming and wellness” connection lies ahead, as more medical experts agree that gaming could actually be the key to changing the world’s health, given the unique power that its core mechanisms (especially social dynamics) have on sustaining wellness goals. Countless medical studies show that the old directives from doctor to patient dramatically fail to keep people on track. But, as so many experts point out, the “gamification” of adhering to regimens (whether fitness, diet, stress reduction, even beauty), with core game elements like voluntary participation, rules, points, levels of achievement, challenges/goals, rewards and a social feedback system, may be the best weapons ever invented for keeping people in the health “game.” When you add the social gaming layer (peer/network pressure), research shows people are radically more likely to adhere. Add the new gadgets that make monitoring bio-information, and connecting the results online, easier (every vital sign, every calorie eaten or burned, every step taken can get uploaded), and the game can suddenly get very precise and real.
While hundreds of fitness/health games (like the Wii “Fit” or Nintendo’s “Let’s Yoga!” etc.) have been around for years, wellness gaming concepts are suddenly getting far more serious and complex. Improving health behaviour is a massive $2.5-trillion opportunity (and stakeholders include hospitals and doctors, insurance and pharmaceutical companies worldwide — so the medical establishment is now getting involved.
Spas, fitness and wellness centers are ground zero for kick starting healthy lifestyle changes — so the opportunities for integrating gaming/game mechanisms are uniquely logical and powerful. Mind-body guru Deepak Chopra has a brand-new meditation game, “Leela,” that uses 43 interactive exercises, focusing on the body’s seven energy centers, to help people relieve stress. Chopra spent three years designing “Leela,” and has explained that it was the addictive nature of video games that attracted him, allowing his philosophies to reach and engage far more people. Destination spa Canyon Ranch (U.S.) now offers an entire suite of iPad apps called “360 Well-Being” (with fitness, meditation and healthy cooking videos, etc.). Were they to add layers like challenges, phases of achievement, rewards and a social network, that “app” would easily be transformed into a “game.”
Gaming delivers unimagined client engagement and connection — and that’s why the spa world will ultimately jump further into the wellness game.
5) PAIRING FINE DINING AND SPA-ING
Many hotels and resorts do very fine food AND very fine spa, but historically their star offerings have been dissociated, both in terms of marketing and as a consideration by guests. That is changing dramatically. Fine dining and spa-ing are being aggressively paired — packaged — curated — marketed — and savored together as never before. Creative culinary-plus-spa experiences and packages are a massive trend because they’re massively appealing: a logical, sensory, “lifestyle” combo for romantics, pleasure-seekers and true connoisseurs.
So many hotels and resorts now boast award-winning celebrity chefs and award-winning spas, and the trend is about “tasting” and appreciating both. One example: The Hotel Metropole of Monte Carlo’s (Monaco) restaurant Joël Robuchon (featuring a chef with more Michelin stars than any other in the world) can be combined with the hotel’s incredible ESPA spa (one of Condé Nast Traveler’s top 25 spas in the world). When five-star food and wine gets intertwined with five-star spa, it represents the ultimate romantic or special celebration experience.
The trend is unabashedly about healthy hedonism, or, as David Romanelli (the Los Angeles yogi famous for his experiences where yoga is paired with food, wine and chocolate), put it, it’s all about combining “moments of sensory ecstasy…” But it also has practical appeal: In this economy, people seek shorter stays, and these “culi-spa” weekends are typically packed with a full social and sense-immersing itinerary.
In pursuit of truly engaging foodie/spa junkie combos, some spas are offering guests a chance to harvest and help cook food, attend cooking and wine pairing classes, make outings to local wineries and restaurants, etc. — all wrapped up with daily spa treatments. Consider it a very sophisticated re-imagining of the once-tacky “all-inclusive” vacation: i.e., Grand Velas Resorts (Mexico) describes its culinary/spa getaways as “Beyond all-inclusive, beyond all compare.”
At some spas the spa/wine/food “pairings” are explicitly “curated” to enhance each other. Consider Napa Valley, California’s Auberge du Soleil (U.S.): Each vinotherapy spa treatment is paired with a tasting of a local wine selected by the property’s sommelier, who explains the logic behind the pairing and why it’s the right “blend of sensory experiences.” At the Ritz-Carlton Denver (U.S.), male clients sample local artisanal beers while they help make their own “beer-based” spa treatments.
6) VIBRATION, SOUND, MUSIC, LIGHT AND COLOUR THERAPIES
Spas have used sound, music, colour and light in the past, but typically as ambient, afterthought accessories. Now they’re often becoming the main event— and this new wave of approaches, each essentially rooted in vibrations and frequencies, is being unleashed to help us relax far more quickly, “clear energy blocks” and relieve pain, etc. New sound, music, colour, light (and physically vibrating/rhythmic) experiences are either being deployed individually — or in heady, immersive combinations engaging multiple senses — often in startling new ways.
Spas have traditionally spoken to our sense of touch (via massage, etc.), and to a lesser degree, our sense of smell (aromatherapy). Now more spas will impact our eyes, ears and bodies with an explosion of “good vibrations.” We already know how deeply these forces impact us: how sounds of nature can help relax us; how drumming sounds can energize us; how walking into rooms of different colours can alter our mood; how stepping into bright sunshine enlivens us; how rocking calms us down…
New technology (often in the form of devices, chairs and “pods”) is driving these innovations, as is our need for solutions that radically disengage us from our increasingly anxious, stressed-out minds. In addition, new scientific evidence about how frequencies and vibrations affect us both physically and emotionally is bolstering the trend. Some of the new approaches are based on “vibrational medicine,” the concept that various systems (and organs) in our bodies vibrate at different frequencies, and disruptions can affect our health and wellbeing. While the science supporting these individual approaches is strengthening, the new multi-sensory spa concoctions are just that —very new. Less is known about the net results of these sound/music/light/colour cocktails, but there’s no doubt it will be fun to find out.
Sound and music: Music in treatment rooms is expanding to many channels, including options like white noise — and spa professionals report a strikingly wide variety of preferences. A breakthrough that’s re-inventing the idea of passively listening to the old “massage music”: anew software innovation out of Italy, MUUSA, that creates real-time treatment music (with tones, beats and sounds like wind rustling and rivers flowing), directly generated by the therapist’s hand movements and the client’s bodily responses. Clients then depart with a CD of the “wellbeing music-art” they created in tandem.
Colour and light: Colour is reflected light that hits our retinas through vibrating wavelengths (which is then interpreted by our brains) — so colour is both a physical sensation and a vibration. Chromatherapy is based on the principle of using colours to generate electrical impulses, or “fields of energy,” said to activate biochemical and hormonal processes that either sedate or stimulate us. Research has shown that color has measurable psychological and physiological effects: Warm colours, like red, act as stimulants (and have been shown to elevate heart rates and arouse feelings of excitement), while cool colours, like blue, have a calming effect. Colour therapy is gaining momentum as more spas incorporate Ayurvedic medicine, an approach that conceives of the body in terms of seven chakras, each associated with a specific organ, and each, in turn, associated with a colour. In Ayurvedic thinking, physical imbalances can be improved via colour therapy.
More hydrotherapy experiences are incorporating colour/colour sequencing, and more massage therapists are adjusting colour and light to maximize treatments. New York City’s Yelo Spa (U.S.), the pioneer of the napping pod, highlights sunsets and sunrises simulated via colour and light to help regulate circadium rhythms. At Barcelona’s Spaciomm at Hotel Omm (Spain), relaxation rooms feature rocking gravitational beds with chromo-therapy.
Multi-sensory experiences: The blended, multi-sensory “good vibrations” approaches are perhaps the most exciting aspect of the trend. We’re seeing an explosion of new spa products like saunas, steam capsules, lounge chairs, massage tables, tubs and experiential “pods” that interweave light, colour, sound and music/rhythm together. These high-tech experiences are designed to release people from “self” and stress quickly and intensely, and their oft-stated goal is to plunge people into new experiences of space, time and consciousness. For some spa-goers, they may deliver unprecedented bliss, while for others, the dazzle could feel like sensory overload.
The fusion of sound, music and water is one approach. For instance, Kohler’s new “VibraAcoustic” baths (at many spas worldwide) broadcast sound waves through the water, all choreographed to music and chromatherapy. In Germany, the Toscana Therme Spa brand has introduced “Aqua Wellness and Liquid Sound,” or “bathing in light and music,” designed by a well-known multimedia artist. Spa-goers float weightlessly in warm salt water and are gently cradled and manipulated by therapists, as the underwater music transforms the pool into a concert hall. At the spa’s Bad Sulza location these effects are often combined with laser light shows and electro-acoustic music.
And then there are the futuristic massage tables and experience pods. Major spa designers like Gharieni, Klafs Schletterer or Thermarium are all rolling out variations of multi-sensory devices. We are seeing spa tables that can incorporate “vibromotors,” “musical massage” (with tables shaking to musical frequencies) and “oscillating waves” combining music and chromotherapy.
Spas are definitely picking up good vibrations — and it can’t help but give people some real excitations.
7) THE GLAM FACTOR
The headlines in the spa industry these last few years have been all about wellness. But now beauty and grooming is seriously booming…being driven by a new trend we call “glambition.” The intensity, frequency (and often sheer whimsicality) with which people are getting “glammed up,” groomed, bedizened and beautified is exploding worldwide. And, given economic realities, i.e., the sharpening wealth polarities making headlines worldwide, this “ambition-to-be-glamorous” trend is taking two paths. One path: Not only are whole new breeds of “glamour” and grooming services emerging, they are now super accessible and affordable. The industry is working overtime to invent ways for the “not-super-rich” beauty-seeker to quickly change up his or her looks and hair and get more high-impact little beauty “fixes” and frills, more cheaply and more often. And for the lucky “fewer” that have never been so flush, we’re seeing new, ultra-high-end spa/beauty experiences emerge that distinctly channel classic, retro glamour — ushering in a triumphant return for some unabashedly “old school” pampering.
Fueling the trend: Given the long economic downturn, the “lipstick effect” is certainly in effect, but the smaller beauty splurges have now expanded way beyond “that touch of red lipstick.” But what’s really fueling the global “glambition” and grooming upsurge (for both the 99 percent and the 1 percent) is the sheer impact and saturation of celebrity culture and imagery, making “red carpet” levels of beauty and maintenance suddenly de rigueur for the rest of us. Just a few years ago a good haircut and nice skin (and maybe a blow dry for special occasions) passed as “groomed.” But the beauty “bar” has been intensely ratcheted up. What was once the exclusive province (or duty) of starlets — the weekly blow outs, the professionally done makeup, brows, lashes, waxing, tanning, nails, the Botox or fillers — is now “the standard.” The endless dissection (on TV, in magazines and blogs) of every celebrity look, and precisely how they achieved it (down to those little crystals braided in their hair), is not only really quickening beauty trends, it’s making the world very “glambitious” to go out and get it, too!
8) SPA EVIDENCE: SHOWING THE SCIENCE BEHIND SPA
In 2011, SpaFinder named “The Science of Spa” a top trend, forecasting a new era where more questions about the proven, medical effectiveness of spa therapies would get asked, leading to new visibility for the growing archive of clinical evidence that exists for approaches like massage, meditation or acupuncture.
With the launch of the new website SpaEvidence.com this year — the world’s first portal to the aggregated medical studies that exists for 21 common spa/wellness approaches — that trend was literally embodied. Launched by the Global Spa Summit in mid-2011 (an advocacy group for the worldwide spa/wellness industries), and shaped by doctors with an expertise in integrative medicine, SpaEvidence gives the world easy access to the “evidence-based medicine” databases that doctors use, so they can search thousands of studies evaluating which spa modalities are proven to work, and for which exact conditions.
SpaEvidence represented a big, courageous step towards transparency for the spa industry, as the site returns the clinical evidence behind therapies, whether it is positive, inconclusive or negative. And it forged new, common ground between the medical and spa worlds by embracing the rigors of “evidence-based medicine.”
For 2012, we name a trend after this breakthrough website because the “fact” of its appearance so neatly encapsulates a macro shift that is quickening: the continued breakdown of the once separate “silos” of traditional medicine and complementary/spa therapies. And the erosion of these silos, the “Spa Evidence” trend, will take diverse forms in the year ahead…some ongoing, some new.
9) SPAS BECOME A FAMILY AFFAIR
Spas have traditionally been retreats for grownups to relax and revitalize…far away from children. But there is a rapidly growing traveler demand to be able to bring teens, tweens and even tots along for the spa ride. Now that spas are broadly associated with wellness (rather than fussy “grown-up” pampering), far more families, and many concerned about the growing childhood obesity epidemic, want to get their spa-on together. SpaFinder identified the trend of more children at spas way back in 2004, but this is no longer about the occasional kid. It’s totally mainstream: Whole families are spa-ing together, and more spas are finding creative ways to welcome the entire clan.
Far more resorts will reevaluate age restrictions in fitness/spa areas, and heartily welcome tweens (and younger) into the spa/salon. And they will continue their endless rollout of full-blown teen-and-younger day programming, which incorporates fitness and even some spa services. (i.e., more resorts are offering what could be dubbed all-day “wellness babysitting,” something parents can feel overjoyed about, especially as they’re relieved from duty for hours).
Kid-specific spas are on the rise, whether it’s the “Scoops Kids Spas” at ten Great Wolf (North American) resort locations, Florida’s “Nickelodeon Suites” and Keylime Cove (U.S.), or numerous day spas like Connecticut’s “Sundae Spa” (U.S.). These new kiddie spas typically offer whimsical, extremely sweet-sounding treatments like “ice cream pedicures served up on oversized banana split pedicure thrones,” or “Starfish Sparkle” manicures found at Keylime or “Mini Me Massages” offered at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Lodge’s “Chillax KidSpa” (U.S.). Little Lamb’s Kiddie Spa & Clinic (Philippines) offers a unique spin: combining full pediatric medical services (from immunizations to well-baby programs) with a host of wellness, beauty and salon services geared across the 0-19 set. Klafs in Germany’s new three-story, child-friendly spa concept introduces Disneyesque sensory experiences like thunder, rain and lightning effects, as well as a tree sauna, a cooling water grotto, adventure showers and a waterfall.
10) SPAS GO FOR THE “WOW”
For many years, most people probably thought that one hotel or day spa sure seems a whole lot like any other: the same beige, Zen look, the same menu of treatments and homogenized experiences. But now spas are really piling on the “wow” factors, serving up both big and small wows (and true surprises) in a quest for individuation. “Wows” and efforts towards greater differentiation are rising now, as a countertrend to the strong spa branding/franchising trend we identified for 2011. And given the fact that, if once upon a time, conformity helped the budding spa-goer know what to expect when stepping into the spa realm, now spa-goers are far more seasoned, and they crave truly new “aha” experiences.
The big new wows include eye-popping design and futuristic, blow-your-mind amenities. But, given this economy, many of the wows are smaller, less expensive and very smart. Most spas are attempting to engage and delight spa-goers without a ton of investment by adding unique little touches, a few strategic “wow” amenities and more unique treatments/experiences. So, with the much-discussed economic realities of our 99 percent and 1 percent world, there are “wows” for most any budget. If spas over the last couple of decades had become hushed shrines of deadly seriousness, more spas are now lightening it up — and that trend includes whole new spa models like “amusement park spas” that are fun and social, where laughter is becoming one of the best medicines they serve up.
Big wows: One big wow is the jaw-dropping design heating up at resort spas, often in “wow,” exotic global locations…
Take a look at the bold design elements at the Atomic Spa Suisse, or “bubble spa,” in the Boscolo Milano hotel (Italy), where wild, LED-illuminated mirror bubbles rise to the top of the interiors of the treatment rooms, sauna and baths, like a frothing glass of champagne. This hyper-unique design scheme certainly defies “spa minimalism.”
At the Coqoon Spa at Indigo Pearl in Phuket (Thailand), the design literally thrusts spa-goers into nature. At its center is “The Nest,” a luxurious wicker tree house hanging from the branches of an ancient banyan tree, and the individual spa “coqoons” have private pools, rain showers, saunas, etc. nestled within the rainforest.
St. Regis Bangkok’s (Thailand) high-design Elemis Spa provides a little mid-air pre-pampering, with its floating, nest-like relaxation pods.
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s spa by ESPA is the world’s highest spa (on the hotel’s 116th floor), where incredible design elements include an infinity pool that makes you feel as if you’re in an airplane, peering down on the city — and a stunning indoor pool with a ceiling-mounted LED screen.
Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa (Canada) touts itself as the first building in the world with “crystal architecture,” and is comprised of 3.5 million Swarovski crystals.
Bota Bota Spa-Sur-L’Eau (in the old port of Montreal) is a floating, five-deck modern spa constructed on an old barge, featuring a cool water circuit and cocktail lounge.
And more spas are unveiling highly thematic design/experiences, like the Banyan Tree Spa at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel’s (Singapore) new 4,000-square-foot tropical garden spa, where everything from the art on the walls to the botanical treatments revolve around the brand’s “Tree of Life” concept. Or Germany’s Schloss Elmau, which uniquely blends spa and high culture: Guests experience a full schedule of classical music and jazz concerts in the spa resort’s very own concert hall, hear from great artists and authors and read from the wonderful books that fill the spa lounges.
Look for far more hyper-individuality, and more liberal doses of that je ne sais quoi from spas in years ahead. Given the realities of 72,000-plus spas globally, both brand-new and established spas will continue to push the “wow” envelope to get the world’s attention.