With destination spas gaining in popularity, savvy agents can cash in on the demand for this growing trend, says Sam Lewis
While some of us employ personal trainers and health gurus to stave off illness and keep in shape, research shows a growing trend among an expanding middle class to integrate healthy living with travel and dedicated spa vacations.
These were the findings of a report published in September by the Global Wellness Institute, Global Spa & Wellness Economy Monitor, prepared by SRI International, which showed the global spa and wellness industry is worth an estimated $3.4 trillion and growing fast.
While day spas and hotel spas represent the majority of this revenue, wellness tourism is a growing niche of this global tourism market, with many spa goers believing spa time is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
According to the report, the number of people taking international and domestic wellness tourism trips grew by 12% from 2012 to 2013, while the wellness tourism economy amassed $494bn in 2013 — a 13% increase from 2012.
The report noted several trends, including the growth of destination spas, establishments offering all-inclusive programs of typically three to 14 nights’ stay with healthy cuisine, seminars, and classes in yoga, meditation and fitness — in addition to a more conventional spa menu of massages and beauty treatments.
From 1,485 in 2007 to 2,204 worldwide in 2013, new destination spas are springing up yearly, and increasingly in far-flung destinations — all eyes are currently on Six Senses which is due to unveil a ‘pure’ wellness retreat concept in Bhutan in 2016. Elsewhere, many spa resorts, such as Germany’s Brenner’s Park Hotel & Spa, are adding full-blown, on-site destination spas.
ASTA travel agents, such as Erina Pindar, managing director of full-service travel firm SmartFlyer, report growing demand among US clients for destination spas, particularly those in their mid-30s and 40s, and many of whom are repeat bookers for stays of up to two weeks.
“Some people just love the concept of destination spas, so they try to go to as many as possible to find out what works for them. Others book a specific spa famous for that particular issue,” says Pindar, who recommends The Ranch at Live Oak in Malibu to anyone looking to lose weight or ‘reset’ their system.
“One of our most popular spas is the SHA Wellness in Spain, which specializes in a macrobiotic diet. Guests go to SHA for many reasons: to lose weight, detox, stop smoking, sleep better, or for something a bit more complex, such as fertility,” she adds.
But while savvy spa goers know what they want, many don’t, and agents such as Pindar can play an important role in advising clients — particularly as the distinctions between the different spa types are becoming blurred.
Take Como Hotels & Resorts for example. While it has a dedicated wellness retreat in Bali, it’s also launching destination spa-style programs at its other resorts, including in urban areas, such as its new hotel in Miami. These offer a gentle introduction to destination spas — one that will surely help grow the market further, and result in healthier lifestyles for all.
We suggest: SHA Wellness Clinic, El Albir, Spain
Why: Popular with A-list celebrities, this pioneering medical spa is a contemporary and minimalist haven — think cool interiors and tropical gardens with double sun loungers framed by billowing curtains and waterfalls. Wave goodbye to caffeine, alcohol and sugar and say hello to blood tests, check-ups, weigh-ins and consultations, with doctors prescribing treatments to combat weight and sleep problems, or even addiction. This is also Europe’s first macrobiotic spa, but the food is anything but bland. Fitness is encouraged — there’s a yoga and Pilates studio — but most guests will want to relax by the pool, enjoy massage treatments, or play golf. shawellnessclinic.com
Where else: The FX Mayr Health Centre in Austria is famous for its strict detox programs. Prepare to discuss bowel movements with staff, chew mouthfuls of food 40 times and take a dose of salts every morning. original-mayr.com
On the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Clinique La Prairie is half-hospital, half-hotel, offering cosmetic and dental work, plus a variety of weight, sleep or revitalization programs to help boost the immune system. laprairie.ch
Central & South America
We suggest: Lapinha Spa, Lapa, Brazil
Why: A minimum five-night stay — and an adherence to a strict organic, egg-milk-vegetarian diet — is required. All food served is grown on the 1,350-acre farm, is free of pesticides and is gathered only a few hours before meals. Programs include detox, slimming and anti-smoking, with an extensive menu of over 50 body and beauty treatments. There are also classes in photography, cooking and dancing, including tango, salsa and samba. lapinha.com.br
Where else: Costa Rica’s Pura Vida Spa & Yoga Retreat offers themed week-long retreats, including Surf & Yoga for Women, where guests can reboot mind, body and spirit through surfing. rrresorts.com/pura_vida_spa
Guests heading to Mexico’s Rancho La Puerta will find a self-contained world suited to a range of needs, with its vast schedule of sports, activities, lectures and classes, from circuits and yoga to meditation. rancholapuerta.com
North America & Caribbean
We suggest: Canyon Ranch Miami Beach
Why: The Canyon Ranch brand is well known among serious spa goers, and this property on fashionable Collins Avenue is considered the nation’s first luxury beachfront wellness hotel, with treatments tackling bone health, weight loss, stress and couple intimacy. Best of all, the resort offers short packages for guests wanting to achieve results in as little as three days. At 70,000sq ft, its spa and wellness facility is the largest of its kind in Florida with 54 treatment rooms. canyonranch.com/miamibeach
Where else: Spa goers looking to focus on fitness and adventure should head to Utah’s Red Mountain retreat, offering more than 50 fitness classes, from kickboxing to yoga, as well as adventure sports, such as rock climbing and hiking in the nearby National and State Parks. The resort is lauded for its scenic location, affordable rates and being equally accessible to male and female spa goers. redmountainresort.com
Even alcoholic cocktails are on the all-inclusive menu at St Lucia’s luxury BodyHoliday resort, which also includes a free daily 50-minute spa treatment. But it’s the activities taking center stage here, with an 18-hole championship golf course and sports, including tennis, archery, fencing, beach volleyball, cycling, hiking and mountain biking. thebodyholiday.com
We suggest: Ananda Spa in the Himalayas, Uttranchal, India
Why: The jetset crowd head to this destination spa to de-stress, lose weight or detox, but there’s plenty of space if you don’t want to rub shoulders with other guests, which have included the likes of Oprah, Kate Winslet and the Prince of Wales. The 100-acre estate, located in the foothills of the Himalayas overlooking the sacred Ganges river, is situated close to the city of Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga. Strike a pose, learn the art of meditation or head to the spa for its menu of over 80 treatments, including traditional Indian practices of Ayurveda. anandaspa.com
Where else: Fusing Eastern philosophies and Western diagnostic skill, the Thai beachfront resort of Chiva-Som, Hua Hin offers everything from Thai massage to traditional Chinese medicine. Weight management, detox and yoga programs are popular but the resort also has a medi-spa offering innovative cosmetic procedures from US-trained experts. chivasom.com
Also in Thailand, programs at Koh Samui’s holistic Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary focus on sleep, detox, yoga and fitness. The nine-acre resort has open-air treatment rooms high up on a hill. Also attractive is Sanctuary’s affordable price point, meaning guests won’t be stressed by the check when they leave. kamalaya.com
PUBLISHED IN THE WINTER 2014/15 EDITION OF ASTAnetwork