President Susie Ellis Predicts “Aging-Raging,” An Explosion of Spa Brands, A Liberal Dose of Salt, and Dubs 2011
The Year of Asia

"woman relaxing at the spa"SpaFinder, Inc., the global spa and wellness resource, today announced its annual spa trend forecast, now in its eighth year. SpaFinder’s Spa Trend Report™ identifies global spa trends that will influence spa experiences for both consumers and the industry in the coming year and for decades to come.

As someone who’s watched the modern spa industry from its infancy, I have never seen the aggregate level of creativity and talent in the field, as wellness, fitness, beauty, design and cuisine are blended in unique new ways, just as the economy begins its upswing,” Ellis says.


1. The Pain Relief Massage

Relaxation – that’s been the number one reason people go to spas for over 25 years. With the oldest baby boomer reaching retirement age in 2011, look for relaxation to soon be replaced by pain relief.

Baby boomers are the fastest-growing demographic in the world. As millions of Boomers (which galvanized the spa/wellness revolution) are now turning 65 each year, spas will begin to incorporate exercise physiologists, chiropractors, orthopedics and naturopaths focusing on rejuvenation of joints, pain relief and mobility. Pain relief massages, “corrective facials,” and “everything anti-aging” are increasingly found on spa menus.

2. Salt Rooms and Inhalation Salt Therapy

Healing traditions involving basking in salt caves are coming of age in some of the most modern spas. The benefits to skin, breathing, and rejuvenation are making inhalation salt therapy — or halotherapy — one of the hottest trends to watch in 2011.

Spas are finding stylish new ways to recreate the natural salt cave microclimate, infusing salt and negative ions into the air. Some examples have encrusted, stalactite-drenched grottoes (comprised of tons of imported Himalayan salt crystals). And with decreased need of a therapist’s involvement, the treatments are attractive to spas from a cost side. Bottom line is that salty is sweet for spas and consumers in the coming year.

3. Sample, Express, Mini-sized, and Simultaneous Treatments

We inhabit a stressed-out, 24/7 world, and the spa industry is responding, helping people spa anytime and offering “sample” “express” mini-sized” and simultaneous treatments.

While “In a New York minute” is jargon for how things move faster in hectic New York City, it’s also the name of a suite of mini (15- to 30-minute) spa treatments (performed simultaneously by multiple therapists) at the new Auriga Spa at The Setai Fifth Avenue NYC.

Equally a nod to the “New York Minute” is the move toward simpler spa menus and a decline in elaborate rituals at many spas, to get right to the heart of the matter: the therapeutic treatment.

A 9 p.m. closing time is the new spa norm, and “open late” means 2:00 am. The explosion of airport spas worldwide plays into the “express” trend neatly. The quest for efficiencies is also reflected in new facility design directions, with locker rooms on the decline and even check-in counters being rethought, and 24/7 online appointment booking, and mobile apps helping people find and book spas on the fly.

4. Farm-to-Massage Table and Farm-to-Spa Cuisine

Spas have been moving away from the generic “could be anywhere” vibe for years, meeting spa-goers’ intensifying desire for authenticity and immersion in treatments, food, design and experiences indigenous to the spa’s unique place and culture. A maple scrub in Canada, organic food from the spa garden, or facilities built of local stone, while not new, were, until relatively recently, novelties.

But spas are now going hyper-local, putting unique twists on the “farm-to-table” movement, with farm-to-spa cuisine and farm-to-massage-table treatments. Hyper-local also means ramped-up community/philanthropic projects; 100% locally sourced building materials; mandating local hiring policies; and finding creative new ways to connect people more deeply with place and nature. Guests are gardening, farming, preparing their own food, and making expeditions to local artisans and schools.

5. Demand for Scientific Proof Behind Spa Treatments

Is there scientific proof that massage reduces stress? Are mineral-baths medically proven to alleviate pain? Is ear candling proven to remove earwax? The answers: yes, yes and no. Get ready for a new era where more questions about the effectiveness of spa therapies and products will be asked, and where questions will get answered more transparently, as the emphasis on evidence-based medicine and the “science behind spa” heats up.

A recent example: The New York Times reported on a major US medical study revealing that a 45-minute massage resulted in a significant decrease in stress hormones, while boosting immunity.

6. Extreme…and Painful Beauty Treatments

The common element in spa beauty these days is beauty-seekers taking it to the max. We are far beyond Botox®; stem-cell facials, plasma therapy (where blood is drawn and re-injected) and Ultherapy (no surgery, using ultrasound to regenerate collagen under the skin) are the new buzzwords.

There is also extreme pain, something people seem to be tolerating more and more, as long as it delivers the goods. Derma-rolling hurts, chemical peels can be uncomfortable and the zapping of lasers is no picnic. And facials aren’t just for faces anymore; now they are being applied to every extremity, including “booty” and “vagina” facials.

Extremes like military-style boot camps, Rolfing and Bikram yoga, where pain meets pleasure are on the rise also. Even organic and natural products’ boundaries are being pushed, with raw food cuisine gaining popularity during intense detox retreats.

What everyone can agree upon? They want extreme results.

7. The Asia Spa Boom

Asia’s impact on the spa industry is profound: Yoga, Thai massage, Ayurvedic medicine and acupuncture are staples on global spa menus, and the “Zen” nature of Asian design is felt in spas worldwide.

But if, historically, it’s been a tale of the mass exportation of Asian spa influences, a powerful new story is unfolding: The explosive growth of hotel/spa development within Asia (a market of 4.1 billion people), especially within the two fastest-growing world economies, China and India, where extraordinary new class mobility is being unleashed. Asia-Pacific has the largest number of spas and hotels under development of any region in the world, and by 2015, China will have 100 million outbound travelers, many seeking a luxury lifestyle, including the “western” spa experience.

8. Unique Group and Learning Experiences

Increasingly, spas are developing distinctive specialty programs to draw patrons seeking something more – a unique group or learning experience. While destination spas have been doing yoga and healthy cooking weeks for years, retreats now span everything from a high-flying “Trapeze Experience” to creative jewelry-making to the more sober and grounded gathering for survivors of loss.

Celebrity authors and artists now headline these programmed stays, like the recent “Dine and Dive Week” in the Maldives headed up by Jacque Cousteau’s son Fabien. We expect this trend to flourish in the coming year, as spas and resort destinations find creative new ways to prove that unique is indeed chic for the savvy consumer.

9. Spa Brands Go Global

Traditionally the province of standalone spas, the industry is moving rapidly in the direction of branded experiences. 2011 will be a watershed year for franchised/branded spas, as consumers seek the consistency of treatments they know and love, and major players expand into new markets.

A stratified market offers choice: From the cool, urban Bliss or Exhale to the eco-luxury of Six Senses; from, the lavish opulence of Mandarin Oriental to Mandara’s more affordable Chevana brand, or the low cost options such as Massage Envy, look to see a brand new world of spa lines going global.

10. Spas Embrace Deals and Coupons

Gone are the days when coupons were unfashionable things people snipped out of newspapers and spas wouldn’t think of using the term “deal.” Put an “e-” or “group” in front of “coupon,” and you suddenly have the hottest Internet mania of 2010, poised to accelerate at an even more dizzying pace in 2011.

Online group-buying deals have burst onto the global scene, and the old-fashioned “deal” has morphed into a hip online industry. And with spa/wellness deals a mainstay of generic deal sites like GroupOn or LivingSocial, it’s a sure sign that spa-going has achieved mainstream traction.

With so many spa deals being blasted into inboxes, millions of people are now expanding their spa horizons, trying new spa experiences they wouldn’t have without the “50%-75% off.”

About SpaFinder, Inc. ~ The world’s largest spa media, marketing, and gifting company, SpaFinder, Inc., connects millions of wellness-focused consumers with thousands of spas worldwide. SpaFinder Europe and SpaFinder Japan offer regional spa marketing and gifting programs, including localized, native-language websites. Founded in 1986, the privately held company is headquartered in Manhattan.

Copyright © 2010 SpaFinder, Inc. The report is based on analyses from a large team of experts who visit hundreds of day and stay spas each year; interviews with top industry analysts; ongoing research across the spa, travel and beauty sectors; and data derived from SpaFinder’s relationships with over 9,000 spas and salons across the globe.

The Spa Trend Report™ is developed under the direction of SpaFinder President Susie Ellis, who is also the author of an influential blog and column and a contributing editor to NewBeauty magazine. Ellis is credited for being the first to forecast numerous industry “mega-trends” that have taken hold in spas around the world.