02 Oct 2023 | Digital editions, magazines, websites, e-zines, handbooks and contract publishing for the leisure industry

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Industry insights

Industry predictions

What’s to come in the year ahead? We ask industry experts how they think this year will pan out and what will be the hottest trends...

Sustainability and nature has taken on unprecedented importance. photo: Alexander Haiden

Nils Behrens
Lanserhof: chief marketing officer
photo: Luke Walker

The pandemic has made it clear that wellness is a worldwide, red-hot public health issue. The imposed standstill gave people the room to change, rethink and reset their priorities and they have asked themselves questions about where and how they want to live. In my experience, the common thinking is that people have a need and desire for more wellbeing; greater security and familiarity; a greater connection to nature and sustainability; peace and deceleration and a healthy lifestyle.

But it isn’t just the pandemic which has had an impact on the wellness industry. Extreme, ongoing environmental degradation has given unprecedented importance to nature and sustainability in wellness. Acting sustainably and protecting our precious natural environment impacts wellness-oriented architectures and concepts. As a result, healthy environments which sustainably improve people’s lives and act with full respect for nature are in line with consumers’ new expectations and needs.

I am sure that between all these newly gained perspectives and opportunities, the desire for deceleration will remain and possible worries or fears of physical and especially psychological overstrain will arise. This makes it all the more important for wellness and health resorts to be a safe and natural place which provide support, increase wellbeing and promote regeneration. After all these draining months and intense changes, having a place where you feel secure, understood and welcomed is all the more important.

In order to be perceived as a safe haven for guests, spas must present themselves as a strong partner which has successfully mastered times of crisis and adapted to the needs of guests. A trustworthy concept in an atmosphere close to nature will be a great opportunity for the wellness and health industry.

Environmental degradation has given unprecedented importance to nature and sustainability
Lynne McNees
International Spa Association, president

Throughout 2021, many ISPA members reported seeing sky-high demand for spa services, and some are even surpassing pre-pandemic revenue totals. Spa-goers seem to be more focused on their health and wellness than at any point in recent memory, and treatments or products intended to relieve stress, improve physical or mental well-being and boost the immunity are among the most popular items on spa menus and retail shelves.

In both the long and short term, there is tremendous potential for the spa industry to serve a larger percentage of the population than ever before, as more people learn about the ways in which spas can be a vital part of their wellness routines. It’s up to us as an industry to spread that message and educate more people about the impact spa services can have on health and well-being. This isn’t news to industry veterans, but we should remember that many still see spa treatments as pure fluff – luxuries reserved only for special occasions, not important components of self-care.

A number of spas are also serving these wellness-focused guests by incorporating more technology, allowing them to incorporate “provider-free” service options into their menus. The goal isn’t to replace the human touch, but to supplement the benefits of traditional services with those offered by infrared saunas, halotherapy, cryotherapy and more. 2022 may be a big year for this hybrid approach.

At the same time, staffing challenges – which ISPA’s U.S. spa industry research indicates pre-dates the pandemic – continues to present operational issues. Many spas are making do by stretching staff roles, including those of spa directors and managers, to cover more responsibilities, while burnout and high turnover are increasingly prevalent among front desk staff, attendants and service providers.

These issues won’t be resolved overnight, but our industry must do everything in its power to promote the benefits of careers in spa and bring a new generation of spa professionals into the fold. ISPA has participated in a number of career events in 2021 aiming to do exactly that, and we’ve been working closely with stakeholders to develop a talent toolkit to aid spa leaders with recruitment and retention. In 2022 this area will be strong focus for ISPA.

Treatments intended to relieve stress, improve physical or mental wellbeing and boost immunity are popular
Staff shortages are one of the industry’s pressing problems / photo: shutterstock/hedgehog94
Simone Gibertoni
Clinique la Prairie, CEO
photo: Clinique La Prairie

Over the last two years, we have worked hard to make people understand the importance of healthy living and, with the opening of international centres, we are optimistic about 2022. The pandemic limited our overseas clients from visiting, but since refocusing on European clientele we bounced back to 2019 levels. Spas in Swiss city hotels, such as Geneva and Zurich, suffered greatly, but hotels with leisure offers have benefited from the Swiss desire to escape, especially on weekends.

The pandemic has made people prioritise health. Our research has shown that 79 per cent of people feel their own health has been affected in some way by Covid-19 and 92 per cent say they are now consciously taking better care of their health. In general, people now understand the importance of having a strong immune system, and a holistic approach to health. They understand that movement and food, paired with the best medical technologies and regular checkups, can be an important weapon to help strengthen the immune system and health in general.

Longevity is a key trend in wellness, and as a result we are focusing on longevity, genetics and epigenetics, stem cells, new nutritional technologies (what we call nutri-revolution). The future will certainly hold many surprises in the field of brain health, with enormous possibilities for development. For those able to create real value for customers, the future of health and wellness will be very promising.

People now understand the importance of having a strong immune system and holistic approach to health
The pandemic inspired many to look after their health / photo: shutterstock/FamVeld
Anne Biging
Healing Hotels of the World and Healing Summit, CEO and co-founder
photo: Healing Hotels of the World

Healing and hospitality go together for enabling transformative and more conscious experiences. By adding a conscious notion to travel, we enable deeper experiences.

Just like climate change, the pandemic mirrors back to us where we have lost balance. Balance is the natural state of health and restoring it is what we should focus on. Hospitality plays a key role in finding ways to responsibly shape travel experiences with the purpose to rebalance. To reshape travel, we have to bring a more conscious notion to what we offer, as guests’ needs and their attitudes are changing, too. Good-bye to looking for “the biggest bang for your buck”. We need to deal with resources more carefully.

There is a strong ongoing need to rest and slow down and a longing for more meaningful experiences. The healing hospitality community focuses on creating space to allow guests to find their inner connection at their own pace. The Healing Hotel partners offer an intricate mix of healing facets, including locations in pristine nature; organic, locally sourced, nutritious food and holistic healing, expert treatments to provide a positive and uplifting atmosphere for people to come home to themselves.

The future holds opportunities if we are open to learning new ways of doing business, especially by bringing social responsibility and a holistic mind-set to hospitality. If people travel less in a year but take more time at the destination to deepen their experience, we can provide programmes which meet this need. After their stay, we can support them with wellbeing offerings designed at establishing new healthy practices, we call it Healing@Home.

Healing Hotels of the World has compiled a collection of best practices we would like to share. As an industry let’s assume our role as change agents for healing the planet, by establishing conscious healing travel for the benefit of all.

The future holds opportunities if we are open to learning new ways of doing business
The future holds opportunities for new ways to do business / photo: shutterstock/Christopher Moswitzer
Noel Asmar
Noel Asmar Group of Companies, founder
photo: Candace Meyer

Covid-19 revealed the fragility of human resources in spas. We cannot fill job vacancies quickly enough to fulfill demand for spa services and this became exaggerated during the pandemic. Ironically, spa goers continued to book services and as restrictions lifted, spas were busier than ever in North America.

We are currently seeing supply chain challenges across every product manufacturer, as ports are experiencing staffing issues, there is a surge in demand and a limited supply of containers. As a result, the costs for both manufacturers and consumers are rising.

While doors were closed, the traditional spa business model was pushed into the digital age in order to create new revenue streams, as spa professionals got creative with how they were servicing their customers. We saw closer relationships with skin care brands willing to ship products, and a closer relationship with spa goers who were willing to order products and welcome facial consultations remotely.

Sharing information, guidelines and protocols became a source of survival as Covid-19 brought the world to its knees. Going forward, we expect to see a greater sense of collaboration among the big players, as well as improved technologies which will bring more efficiencies and new innovations to keep the industry strong and agile.

There is now an opportunity for the world of spa and wellness to find a middle ground with the medical industry. As humans live longer, it would be a wise investment for governments and investors to start investing more in wellness. In the end it will cost less and add so much more value for people.

The traditional spa model has been pushed into the digital age in order to create new revenue streams
Lockdowns created a desire for online facial consultations / photo: shutterstock/Syda Productions
Tony de Leede
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, founder
photo: Wellness Solutions

Covid has forced the industry to rethink how traditional services are provided to spa and beauty clients, as a result of lockdowns and lower capacity once facilities are able to reopen.

For this reason, touchless alternatives, such as massage chairs, meditation pods and infrared saunas are making their way onto spa menus and these experiences can provide additional revenue streams for businesses.

It’s unlikely things will return entirely to how they used to be. While some consumers will happily return to in-person appointments, there will be others that will seek out contactless options for their favourite wellness and beauty services.

The positive here is that spas have the opportunity to expand their service menu. Tech-enabled wellness solutions provide great flexibility: from the traditional longer appointment to shorter sessions with faster turnaround times. Customers benefit from a wider range of options and owners can benefit from an increase to the bottom line. Going forward, I anticipate tech-enhanced wellness solutions will become more mainstream and consumer demand will drive spas to invest in these options.

Spa owners will need to be more conscious of how they stay connected with their clients given there may be decreased contact with therapists.

For this reason, it would be pertinent to consider ways in which customers can interact with content which keeps them connected to the business between treatments. This may be specially created online groups or via an app which delivers content like movement or mindfulness sessions.

Touchless alternatives are making their way onto spa menus
Touch free spa solutions could be the way forward / photo: Wellness Solutions
Touch free spa solutions could be the way forward / photo: Wellness Solutions
Mark Hennebry
Ensana Health Spas, chair
photo: Mo El-Faith

Many people now want to put the massive disruption of the pandemic behind them and find a way to continue their lives. Since spring 2021 we have seen our guests returning, slowly at first and then in greater numbers.

Like many sectors, spas have had to change, adapt and innovate. As a medical spa, Ensana has re-purposed some existing treatments to deal with new diseases, including long Covid. At Marianske Lazne, in the Czech Republic, Ensana has worked in conjunction with the Czech Spa and Balneology Institute on a study which demonstrated a comprehensive spa rehabilitation programme is an effective therapeutic procedure for those affected by long-Covid.

An increasing interest in the healing power of nature is also evident among our guests. This includes an uptick in interest for hot springs and thermal mineral spas. For decades, European thermal mineral spas have combined the natural therapeutic benefits of hot springs with modern medical knowledge, to treat numerous health conditions. Mineral-rich thermal waters can reduce muscle tension and inflammation, help regenerate cartilage, and support the production of collagen and elastin in sinews and connective tissue. Many locations with thermal water also have curative sulphurous mud which can be used in treatments: mud baths, compresses and body wraps.

The pandemic has devoured vast amounts of time, energy, human capital and resources. It will continue to be a challenge, however, it is imperative that we continue to plan for the future, re-examine our strategies and stay true to our values. This is where there will be opportunities for companies with strong balance sheets and strong management teams to expand through acquisitions, partnerships and operator contracts.

An increasing interest in the healing power of nature is evident among our guests
Lake Hevis in Hungary. Guests are showing a growing interest in the healing power of nature / photo: Ensana
Neil Owen
Spa Vision, director
photo: Spa Vision

One positive of the pandemic has been the opportunity to showcase Australia as a destination to Australians, which will enhance the country’s spa and wellness offering and make a positive impact on individuals and communities.

Previously, many Australians believed spa and wellness holidays were better catered for within the exotic Pacific Islands or South East Asia. While these destinations will continue to thrive and attract Australians, there has been a shift in attention as to what is potentially available on the doorstep.

Hotel development has continued despite the pandemic, however, creating a spa and wellness identity unique to Australia will be important.

Instead of developing facilities which purely offer treatment based experiences, offering thermal spa circuits, more aligned with European bathing traditions, would be a logical approach for Australian spas.

This model, which is globally proven, involves providing guests with a collection of self guided thermal experiences which could include a variety of saunas of varying temperatures, steam baths, ice, snow, hydrotherapy, relaxation and F&B areas designed to cater for longer packages. Although the upfront investment is higher, this model would allow operators to service a larger number of guests with lower staff ratios, creating higher spend and longer spa experiences.

Treatments would continue to be an integral component, however operators should not base their revenue potential purely on the availability of therapists and capacity limitations. Harnessing the Aussie sunshine and powering equipment with solar power further enhances the economic feasibility of such developments.

Although desirable, facilities should not limit themselves to being reliant on hot or mineral springs, but seek inspiration from the templates of many successful European spas which create such facilities without these natural resources and within easy reach of urban populations. Australia has so many incredible destinations on the periphery of its major towns and cities which would perfectly complement this model.

Projects such as Opuke Thermal Springs in New Zealand, Alba Thermal Springs & Spa in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and the planned development of Tawarri Hot Springs on the Perth Riverside are great examples of facilities which will make an impact in the region.

Creating a spa and wellness identity unique to Australia will be important
Opuke Thermal Springs will be a major draw for the region / photo: Lumo Photography
Ann-Marie Aguilar
International WELL Building Insititute, senior vice president, EMEA
photo: Iona Wolff

Going forward the design of public buildings to promote health and wellbeing will continue to grow in importance. Traditionally guests booked holidays and leisure activities with experience at the forefront, but we have seen a shift to them increasingly considering health and wellbeing. This means organisations must now prioritise guest needs by implementing thorough sanitisation practices, emphasising science and technology-based solutions and widely and effectively communicating those solutions with educational materials and signage.

Confidence may take time to re-emerge in certain markets, but if spas and leisure centres are proactive when it comes to their operational policies, and communicate their efforts in support of health and safety, they’ll be much better positioned to see the benefits.

Since its June 2020 launch, nearly two billion square feet of real estate has enrolled in the International WELL Building Institute’s (IWBI) ) WELL Health-Safety Rating for Facility and Operations Management, yet there is still more that organisations can do better.

To this end, the IWBI Task Force, made up of nearly 600 public health experts and building and real estate professionals has released a special report, Prevention and Preparedness, Resilience and Recovery, which makes recommendations around many issues including the importance of air and water quality; emergency preparedness; support for workers as they return to the office and the impact of the pandemic on health equity.

Building design will grow in importance
Suzanne Holbrook
Marriott International, senior corporate director spa operations
photo: Live Love Spa

Currently we are finding spas are incredibly busy, with high demand across all disciplines. As a result of Covid, society is realising healthier living needs to be a focus going forward and data tells us consumers’ interest in wellness is growing: we expect all areas of our lives to enhance our sense of wellbeing, from the clothes we wear, to the homes we live in. For example, the wellnes community in Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida.

Sleep, which has long been recognised as an essential determinant of human health and performance will be given even greater importance. We can expect more innovation in this area, like 8 Sleep’s mattress which creates a cooling microclimate and sensors to track sleep patterns.

Traditional treatments, such massages and facials, will continue to be popular as consumers look to reduce the stress of busy lifestyles.

Staffing is currently a big challenge the industry is facing, since many experts have left the industry. While ISPA is working on initiatives to inspire new generations to join the industry, touchless therapies will be added to menus, allowing for a smaller staffing model.

Yield management will become a norm in the industry, joining airlines, hotels and Uber. With the spa industry now catching on to these pricing strategies, it’s more important than ever to understand the trends in demand for our services and how our business can benefit from implementing the right yield management strategy.

Staffing is currently a big challenge
Lasse Eriksen
Farris Bad, development manager
photo: Farris Bad

As the pandemic has encouraged more people to be attentive about regular self care, the demand for spa treatments has surged and is expected to keep increasing for the next couple of years. With this comes the challenge of a shortage of professional staff.

Hiring talented people comes at a high cost, so we could start to see charges based on the quality of service and treatment, in effect paying a more experienced therapist a better rate than a novice one.

Another current challenge is how to create distinct policies which satisfy those who worry about maintaining social distances, as well as those who do not. Expanding outside offerings to include beaches, gardens, rooftops, woodland excursions, and even treatments in private cottages could help.

Long stays, vacations, particularly those concentrating on sleep retreats and nutrition, ‘connection seminars’ to help people reconnect after lockdown, and online follow-up consultations have also been popular requests.

More activities, such as meditation, sauna rituals, and hydrothermal treatments, will be demanded of future spa experts, who will be inspired by traditional methods and integrated with culture and communication. Schools should prepare students so that these types of tasks are not outsourced and spas’ revenue will be increased.

Pet adoption has increased by 250 per cent, which demonstrates how much people want mental health services due to loneliness. Demand for pet therapy and pet-friendly resorts and locations is likely to rise, so local tourism needs to accommodate pet owners.

Demand for pet-friendly resorts and locations is likely to rise
Sauna rituals are tipped to be popular going forward / photo: Farris Bad

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2022 issue 1
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