Wired wellness, urban retreats, hot springs and even death are among the top themes likely to shape the spa market in 2014, according to the eleventh edition of the annual Top 10 Global Spa and Wellness Trends Forecast 2014 from Spafinder Wellness 365, which is published today.
The report is authored by Spafinder Wellness Inc president Susie Ellis and developed by company research analysts. It’s based on ongoing surveys with spa and wellness businesses and stakeholders around the globe, thousands of travel agents and hundreds of thousands of consumers. The rigour that underpins it makes it more of a sector forecast than a speculative trends list, according to Ellis.
Speaking to Spa Business magazine ahead of its release, she said ever-increasing levels of stress in modern life are fuelling the growth of the industry. “I’ve been in the business 40 years, but the fundamentals haven’t changed – people go to spas to relax and de-stress, and now they're in need of spa and wellness retreats more than ever.”
One of the trends Ellis is most excited about is wired wellness and the growth of wearable tech which enables health tracking and preventative interventions: “There’s just so much happening in that arena that it will profoundly affect us all of us in the years to come,” she said.
The potential resurgence of the hot springs market is another major area for Ellis. In centuries past, springs were lauded for their life-giving qualities – one example comes from England, where the previously barren Queen Mary bore a male heir after a trip to Bath Spa in 1687 – but the advent of modern medicine saw hot springs slip down the wellness ladder.
“I realise we’re betting against the market slightly, but I really think hot springs are making a comeback,” she said. “Virtually every country in the world has hot springs and they’re often much less expensive to access, bringing spa concepts to a much wider audience than traditional treatments."
Ellis, who is also the chair and CEO of the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS), said: “At last year’s GSWS in New Delhi, the hot springs forum was very well attended and operators have subsequently formed a committee to promote better links between hot spring sites across the globe.”
Other trends identified by the report include death and the potential for spas to address customers’ needs during challenging times – a trend supported and previously identified by Spa Business in its 2013 Spa Foresight™ report (turn to page 116).
For Ellis, the chief reason for its inclusion is that Baby Boomers – the largest spa-going demographic – are starting to confront their own mortality.
“It sounds strange, but spas have alway been linked to life transformations and transitions, so death is a natural progression,” she said.
“We’re also beginning to see spa offerings moving into hospitals and assisted living facilities, allowing ageing populations to enjoy relaxation and comfort in their final years.
“Of course, many people are still uncomfortable talking about death, so we won’t see a huge initial wave, but a spa is a safe place for people and I think the industry will be able to overcome these initial hurdles – as it has many times in the past.”
Another example of the industry adapting to changing consumer behaviour lies in the predicted shift towards destination spas which are located closer to urban areas. In light of demand for short spa breaks and more regular access, Ellis predicts more spas will be reachable by car or train.
“People are sometimes too busy to travel to remote natural settings, so now they want urban retreats. Spas are beginning to curate whatever is immediately available into two to three day programmes - for example, New York City retreats might encompass walks in Central Park.
“Destination spas are expensive to run, as very few offer opportunities for cross-selling, so we also expect more destination spa programming to appear within existing hotels and resorts,” said Ellis.
The top 10 spa trends as identified by Ellis for 2014 are:
* Healthy Hotels 2.0
* Wired Wellness
* Hot Springs Heat Up
* Suspending Gravity
* Ferocious Fitness
* “Natural” Beauty Meets Social Media
* Aromatherapy: Scent With Intent
* Wellness Retreats Rise…& Urbanise
* Death & Spas: Thriving During Life’s Transitions
* Top 10 Surprising Spa & Wellness Destinations
The full 75-page report, which includes an analysis of factors influencing each trend and examples of early trend adopters, can be downloaded here: http://www.spafinder.co.uk/trends2014