Imperative issues

Susan Harmsworth, founder of skincare brand Espa and a 2015 Professional Spa & Wellness Convention speaker, on where the industry is heading 

What attracted you to speaking at the 2015 Professional Spa & Wellness Convention? 
As an industry leader, I was asked to participate and I am always happy to share our international knowledge. 

What direction do you see the industry moving in, going forward? 
We all accept that there is going to be continued growth in the spa and wellness industry, but defining and measuring wellness will present a challenge in the future. People are confused between medical tourism, wellness that is lifestyle, wellness that has medical connotations, and wellness within the health system. 

In spite of wellness being spoken of as such an important trend, defining what it really means going forward will prove challenging. Knowing your customer base is a key global trend – one size certainly doesn’t fit all. It’s about being distinctive and meeting the particular needs of those visiting your spa, taking into account aspects such as age, cultural considerations, relaxation versus results, scientific versus green, treatment-tailoring, and so on. 

“Be open to emerging therapies and concepts, but be clever and able to separate gimmicks from things will deliver results and be in demand” 

What will be the key spa and wellness trends in 2015?
In 2015, I believe the consumer demographic will continue to shift so that even more men become regular spa visitors. Espa has always had a large male following due to our tailored product and treatment offering, and it’s important that we continue to cater for men going forward. 

Meeting the needs of consumers with busy lifestyles will also become a priority and express treatments will cater to this growing requirement. Treatment menus are likely to become more refined – there will be less of a focus on overwhelming the customer with a huge range of face and body rituals, and more emphasis on clarity, meaning a shorter list of treatments that do what they say they will. 

The trend for green products will grow considerably, as consumers become increasingly aware of the implications of chemical ingredients in skincare. Efficacy will still be fundamental however, as will beautiful textures and scents.

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi 1

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities currently facing the global spa and wellness industry? 
With so many short courses available to become a qualified therapist, it’s important that the standards of the spa industry don’t slip. At Espa, we are careful to preserve and foster the expertise of our people. Therapists make our spas, so we ensure they are highly trained and have the tools they need on hand to deliver the best results. Spa directors need on-going education too, as I believe they are often lacking in commercial, marketing, HR and general management skills. 

In terms of opportunities, I believe that hotels shouldn’t underestimate the potential and power of their spas. Confidence in your positioning is fundamental. Look at your locations and customer base, and be true to these influences. Be open to emerging therapies and concepts, but be clever and able to separate gimmicks from things will deliver results and be in demand. Invest in things that work and have integrity. People today are keen for a quick fix but this shouldn’t be at the expense of their health. 

“Treatment menus are likely to become more refined in 2015, with more emphasis on clarity a shorter list of treatments that do what they say they will”

What have been the most important changes in the industry over the last few years?
There is now more emphasis on results-driven treatments and products: although relaxation is a key part of the spa experience, consumers also want visible results and long-term benefits.  Brands are now smarter in their marketing; they have more commercial awareness and [demonstrate greater] accountability. Courses for spa directors have also improved to make them more financially astute, give them a better understanding of marketing, and improve their leadership skills. 

Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi

Why are events such as the Professional Spa & Wellness Convention important for the industry?
For shared knowledge and improved, honest, benchmarking. 

Trends part 1: Susan Harmsworth is speaking as part of the Regional Trends in Spa & Wellness for the Next Three Years session, at 9:40 on Sunday February 22

The 2015 Professional Spa & Wellness Convention takes place February 21-23. To find out more, and to book your place,click HERE

Images: The Espa spa at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi