Above: The Restival camp in the Moroccan desert
As the spa industry continues to grow, moving ever faster, we look at some of the key trends in the sector
1. Cancer awareness
The movement to educate spas and therapists on treating clients with and in recovery from cancer has really gained momentum in the last year. More and more UK spas are working with US-based non-profit organisation Wellness for Cancer and becoming certified Cancer Aware,” to demonstrate that staff have been trained in what the organisation refers to as “cancer modified therapies”. UK spas that have taken this step include Lifehouse Hotel & Spa in Essex and the spa at Ramside Hall in Durham.
This year also saw the launch of the Lava Shell Cancer Aware treatment, a collaboration between the brand’s UK distributor Shared Beauty Secrets and Wellness for Cancer; adapting the traditional Lava Shell massage for clients with the illness. UK initiative The Power of Touch (TPOT), which launched in earnest at Spa Life UK in November 2015 and aims to educate the industry so that no client with cancer is turned away from a spa because therapists are not comfortable treating them, is also gaining participants, and publicity.
2. Wellness vs. wellbeing
It’s now been years since the spa industry morphed into the spa and wellness industry and the word wellness is everywhere. So is the terms wellbeing, and the two are often used interchangeably, as if their meaning were identical. However, a growing number of voices in the industry are now arguing for a distinction between the two. In a recent interview with Professional Spa & Wellness magazine, Susie Ellis, chairman and chief executive of the Global Wellness Summit (GWS), revealed that this discussion will be a topic at this year’s summit.
Ellis said the summit will: “Explore the issue of wellness and wellbeing and how the industry can benefit from using both terms, but maybe not interchangeably.” She added: “We’re seeing this distinction happening now, between wellness and wellbeing.” For award-wining Swiss spa and health resort Grand Resort Bad Ragaz the distinction is also important, as director of PR and corporate communications Martin Leiter has explained. Leiter said: “Wellness is more a short intervention, a short break. The goal we have here at Bad Ragaz is to deliver wellbeing and that should be something that is continuous and lasts more than a couple of days.” We suspect the wellness vs wellbeing debate has only just begun.
3. Spa franchises
As part of a development that is seeing spas become more accessible to the general public, less limited to an affluent few and less reserved just for special occasions for everyone else, we’re seeing a proliferation of spa franchises. US spa franchise Massage Envy, which already operates over 1,100 locations across the States, employing 25,000 people, announced in May this year that it had opened it’s first international branch in Sydney, Australia. In total, 100 Massage Envy locations are scheduled to open in the country over a 15-year period, as part of Massage Envy’s deal with the Australian Collective Wellness Group.
The UK saw its first homegrown spa franchise model arrive in April this year, when The Massage Company opened its inaugural site in Camberley, Surrey. The Massage Company, founded by Charlie Thompson, chair of the UK Spa Association and former group spa projects and support at Q Hotels, and Elliot Walker, former UK managing director of Murad, operates on a subscription model similar to that of a gym.
Aiming to make massage affordable and easy to access, the company plans to roll out 30 locations in the next five years, via a franchise model. Back in the US, franchise-based Massage Heights continues to grow, earlier this year announcing that it’s on target to open 40 locations by the end of 2016. As part of a wider expansion, Massage Heights, which currently has 130 locations in the US and Canada, plans to have a total of 300 sites open by 2018.
4. Spa and wellness fests
Spa and wellness has joined the festival circuit, both as spa pop-ups at existing events, and new festivals wholly centred around wellness. Examples of the former include fashionable California music festival Coachella, with a wellness centre offering massages, foot soaks and personalised essential oil blends. The UK’s Wilderness festival not only has its own spa, the Lakeside Spa, but also offers a wide range of yoga options, ballet and pilates classes, in-festival life coaches, mediation, mindfulness classes, massage and aromatherapy workshop, and much more on the wellness spectrum.
Restival, which launched with an event in the Moroccan desert in November last year, describes itself as a blend between a retreat and a festival, and is entirely wellness focused. The second Restival will take place in Arizona in September, followed by a return to Morocco in November and an event in Swedish Lapland in June 2017. Restival activities include yoga, meditation, wellness and writing workshops, gong baths (a type of sound therapy). Seems festivals are no longer all drunkenness and debauchery.
5. Outdoor spas
While outdoor areas have long been a feature in regions with a more favourable climate, including Asia and the Caribbean, they haven’t always been as popular in our much colder part of the world. That is now changing, however. Many new spas and those that are refurbishing are raising their game by adding an outdoor element. Rockliffe Hall last year opened a £1 million spa garden with facilities including an infinity hydrotherapy pool, heated loungers, a glass-front sauna and a fire pit.
When the new spa opened at Ramside Hall last summer, it featured an outdoor vitality pool and a herb garden, and Bath House Spa at the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath opened its spa garden, sponsored by Taittinger and serving drinks and healthy food, in July last year. Speaking to Professional Spa & Wellness magazine, Alistair Johnson, director of spa design and consultancy Spa Creators, said: “We try to encourage every site we work on to, if it’s logistically feasible, have some form of outdoor activity within the design.”