Spas Stress Local Ingredients, Spirituality, and Male Market

As spa industry fundamentals continue to strengthen in the aftermath of the 2008¬–2011 economic downturn, hotel spa directors are placing more emphasis on incorporating the latest trends to attract more visits and boost revenue. According to the International Spa Association, which revealed its 2014 U.S. spa performance metrics at a media event in New York City last week, revenue for the year reached $14.7 billion, up a healthy 5.1 percent from 2012’s $14 billion. The number of spa visits year-over-year increased but only by 2.5 percent, from 160 million to 164 million. Similarly, revenue per visit rose 2.5 percent from $87 to $89.

During the event, hotel spa representatives identified common trends that continue to resonate with guests, such as treatments made with local ingredients. The Spa at Omni Resorts’ Mount Washington property in Bretton Woods, N.H., takes the concept to its logical extreme. Guests who sign up for the herbal body treatment start the experience by walking through the spa’s herb garden, where they can choose from the half-dozen varieties planted there.

To aid in the decision process, a spa therapist describes the medicinal qualities of each herb, Spa Director Jaime Dubreuil said. “The herbs are then mixed with organic sugar to exfoliate the skin during the treatment,” she explained. “This is followed by a mud wrap, soothing shower, and application of herbal oils.”

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Dubreuil compared the emphasis on the local environment to the farm-to-table trend that has taken hold of hotel chefs’ imaginations. “Guests really respond to the whole idea.”

Another trend spas have embraced involves stressing the connection between the physical treatments and the spiritual (i.e. New Age) dimension of health and wellbeing. While massage plus energy work are at the core of treatments at the Mii Amo Spa at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz., the component that really sets the experience apart is more spiritual, Corporate Spa and Programming Director Serene Sanders said. She cited two spa treatment rituals that are based on age-old Hopi and Navajo customs.

“In the Spirit of the New Moon [treatment], guests get to write down their deepest desires and wishes on paper, which is then buried in the canyons near Sedona,” Sanders said, “while in the Spirit of the Full Moon [treatment], they write down the old habits and patterns they believe are holding them back. These papers are then burned.”

Spas also are going further afield to attract men, who with the exception of sports-related massage remain fairly ambivalent about embracing the larger spa experience.

To generate greater demand among this segment, the spa at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Penn., has begun incorporating a craft-brewed ale from Delaware-based Dogfish Head, among the country’s leading microbreweries, into one of its treatments.

The latest incarnation starts with a body exfoliation using hops, barley, and honey. Then it’s on to a tranquil soak in a bath of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch Ale, followed by a massage. The property also offers a Mud and Suds Pedicure, which involves a warm bath of sudsy beer while the guest enjoys a cold brew.

“Our male clientele continues to grow at The Lodge, and we think one of the reasons is programming like this,” Marketing Director Brooke Jennings Roe said. “We created it, in part, because we wanted to be more inviting and down home to men. We wanted them to feel more comfortable in the spa environment.”