Why China is trending in spa and wellness

China might not be the first place that comes to mind at the mention of wellness, or somewhere most spa-goers would think to book a retreat, but just as innovation is gaining pace in the country’s other industries, the health and spa and wellness markets are flourishing.

Shanghai came out top in consultancy firm KPMG’s 2018 Global Technology Innovation Report, predicted to be the number-one city aside from Silicon Valley/San Francisco that will be seen as a technology innovation hub over the next four years. 

The report said China’s biggest city has “all the right tools to continue to drive cutting-edge technology and innovation in the coming years”. Egidio Zarrella, partner of clients and innovation at KPMG China, added: “Shanghai is bound to remain among the world’s leading innovation hubs, given its growing base of digital media and entertainment companies and a more pleasurable lifestyle and favourable climate that can draw top expertise.” 

Technology innovation is a national priority in China, and the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology showed its commitment when it announced plans earlier this year to boost the development of artificial intelligence technologies by 100 billion yuan (approx £11bn) over the next two or three years. 

With so much investment and innovation happening in the technology and communications sectors, it’s to be expected that other industries would follow suit. According to investor WI Harper Group, China’s health and fitness industry is set to reach more than $5bn (approx £3.8bn) this year, driven by the huge number of urban millennials interested in wellness who have money to spend. This was echoed by Catherine Feliciano-Chon, founder and managing director of branding and marketing agency CatchOn & Company, in her talk at the 2018 Global Wellness Summit, in which she said that there are now 37,000 fitness clubs in China and that the hotel and resort spas sector alone is worth $3.3bn (approx £2.6bn). 

Taiwanese boutique fitness and lifestyle company Space Cycle is preparing to expand further in the Chinese market, with 50 new multimedia studios planned over the next five years. The expansion plan follows investment from a series B funding round led by Alibaba Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund II of 100m yuan (approx £11m). 

On the other end of the fitness spectrum, ancient Chinese health method qi gong is experiencing a resurgence of popularity in the West, as seekers of mindfulness look to the tried and tested methods of other cultures to improve their lives. London boutique yoga studio Triyoga is now offering qi gong training for yoga teachers, several retreats have popped up in sunshine destinations, and Como Metropolitan London held a two-day workshop with qi gong healing specialist Per van Spall in October. 

As for spas, new openings have been plentiful in 2018, with yet more underway for 2019 and beyond. Here are four of the most important new spas leading the way in China. 

Anantara

Image: Anantara Jinsha Chengdu 

Set to be the first luxury global hotel property in the Qingyang District of Chengdu in western China, Anantara Jinsha Chengdu will join the brand’s existing portfolio in the country, which comprises three properties. Scheduled to open in 2021, the hotel will front a 47-hectare eco-wetland park, designed to create an urban oasis with a large amount of outdoor space. As well as a spa, the property will feature 150 guestrooms and suites, two restaurants, lounges, a fitness centre, and both indoor and outdoor pools. 

Swire Hotels 

Image: Mi Xun The Middle House 

July saw the launch of The Middle House Mi Xun lifestyle day spa in Shanghai, a Swire Hotels property. Billed as a hidden oasis with a tranquil ambience, it is the first hotel spa in China to offer Cha Ling treatments, using combined traditional Chinese medicine techniques to work on detoxifying skin and harmonising energy flows. The spa also features a 33m indoor pool with pool bar, Hypoxi fat-reduction exercise machines in the gym and a Colour Mad nail salon. There is also The Shop, where guests can browse products from premium lifestyle names including British organic skincare brand Bamford. 

Edition

Image: The Shanghai Edition 

“Chinese heritage meets the new generation of luxury with the opening of The Shanghai Edition”, says the official strapline of boutique hotel brand Edition’s latest opening. The art-deco former headquarters of Shanghai Power Company opened its doors in October and has been fused to a new skyscraper to make room for a huge array of leisure and entertainment options. The six-treatment-room spa on the sixth floor has an expansive relaxation area and delivers “authentic Asian treatments inspired by western rituals”, using products by Amala and Intraceuticals.

W Hotels

Image: W Hotel Away Spa 

W Hotels opened its seventh property in Greater China in July and its largest in Asia Pacific, with 385 guest rooms and suites, restaurants, bars, event spaces and other facilities spread over approximately 80,000sq m. Located in the Xi’an District, W Xi’an’s Away Spa houses five treatment rooms as well as two nail rooms, two make-up studios and a hair salon. A digital screen at the end of the swimming pool makes the space suitable to host events with projected graphics and the capability for on-water fashion shows. 

Lead image credit: Nikolas Koenig