In a recent economic study of US spas, 30 resort properties were asked how their spa addition has enhanced specific aspects of their business. Here are some of the findings. In the five years preceding the economic downturn, room rates in those hotels almost doubled; overall occupancy increased from 57 to 73 per cent; an average length of stay grew 11 per cent which, in turn, significantly increased revenue per occupied room. But perhaps the most noteworthy observation comes from the guests themselves who, when asked if they would choose one resort over another because it had a spa, a resounding 81 percent of them said yes.
Although it’s a slow climb out of the recessionary hole, spas are proving their metal on this score too. With less people taking fewer vacations, almost 70 per cent of current guests cite the spa as a deciding factor for choosing a holiday destination. The key is to keep the experience new and fresh. Consumers are more discerning and there is an ever-pressing need for spas to set themselves apart.
Some destinations are designing entire spas around their geographic location. For example, spas proliferate around Israel’s Dead Sea; Poland, Russia and other Eastern European countries are famous for their salt caves. The Japanese flock to be buried in that country’s volcanic sands. Hungary’s healing waters have spawned nearly 50 spa baths in Budapest alone and in England, the World Heritage Site of Bath reclaimed its rich spa heritage when it opened as a state-of-the-art spa.
Alternatively, properties may tap into cultural traditions or incorporate a spiritual dimension. The Ananda Spa in the Himalayas bills a stay there as “a journey of self-discovery and rejuvenation”, based on creating harmony from wellness, fitness and relaxation therapies. A few cosmic rhythms and confident energies are thrown in for good karma.
Meanwhile, the Royal Spas of Europe lean on their aristocratic or star-studded appeal to tempt the potential spa goer. These include the Givenchy Spa in Mauritius, said to be a favorite of Geri Helliwell; the Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland which numbers Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev among its past clientele, as well as the opulent Chiva Som Spa in Thailand - favourite retreats for Elizabeth Hurley, Kate Moss and Desmond Lynam. Set in seven acres of beachfront gardens surrounded by lakes and waterfalls, Chiva Som is thoroughly fen shui’ed and offers treatments such as iridology and equilibropathy, described by the spa as acupuncture without the needles.
For the majority of North Americans, however, Hungary or the Himalayas are expensive and difficult to reach, although even closer to home, luxury US spa resorts seem to be geared to those with deep pockets. Certainly, the amenities of resorts like The Grand Wailea Resort and Arizona Biltmore are superb but for your average spa-goer, a better value for your spa dollar is likely found further south.
And where slower economies have postponed expansions, resorts like Arizona’s the Boulders turned to in-house creativity to keep its spa product fresh. Michael Hoffmann, Managing Director at The Boulders, explains. “First, we added value to our spa brand by doing our own reading, research and design work of an Organic Garden where spa goers can meander through fragrant herbs and indigenous flowers. Next, we found a new on-site wedding venue, named it Promise Rock, and have consequently not only expanded our wedding market but increased our wedding party spa experience. Then we reached out to the golfing market with a Fore by Four Ultimate Golfer’s Getaway – partnering with four, private golf clubs that are so exclusive we won’t disclose their names, thereby building the Boulders upscale image as well as providing a point of differentiation to our competitors. And spaaing is a natural adjunct to that.”
Mexico is fast-becoming one the most sought-after vacation options for potential spa users. Spa resorts are luxurious and locales are exotic, filled with a cultural dimension that speaks to history, eco-adventure and heritage. Here, you’ll find European style treatments alongside indigenous therapies such as a sweat lodge or fango mud facial, while the lush Mexican landscape lends itself to a wide range of activities from jungle trekking and golf to stress-release Yoga. Priced at almost half of their American counterparts, these resorts are remarkably affordable and are an ideal way to experience a fully fledged spa adventure without breaking the bank.
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