It would have been pretty difficult for us to miss on this prediction since we threw a lot into the soup: Vibration, Sound, Music, Light and Color. And clearly we are seeing more attention paid to sensory experiences. So while I think we have earned an “A” I do feel compelled to assign a failing grade to a brand that, I think, will surprise you. Continue reading
Reviewing this trend prediction for 2010 makes me smile. That’s because I think we were right on; in fact, this trend exceeded our expectations! That has some very important implications for the future of our spa industry.
Go ahead and reread what we wrote about Wellness Tourism a year ago and then at the end I will share with you the ”ah ha” that happened for me between the time we wrote the prediction and today.
7) Wellness Tourism Trend
We’re familiar with people seeking spas for wellness—and also with “medical tourism,” crossing borders for medical procedures (often plastic surgery, dentistry, knee replacements, etc.). Well, make room for “wellness tourism,” a term now being used to describe traveling across borders for preventive services, diagnostics, spa and well-being vacations, even the wow’s of DNA testing, stem-cell banking, and the like. The concept not only dramatically broadens the appeal of the medical tourism model (which has suffered from its narrow association with plastic surgery), it’s increasingly poised to become the way we define our time away from home and work in the future.
“Wellness tourism” is part of an evolving terminology that’s not merely verbal industry nitpicking, as governments, insurance companies, medical establishments, as well as consumers, wrangle with the skyrocketing costs of healthcare and the need for people to take greater responsibility for their own health. The focus of “wellness tourism” is squarely on prevention and helping people make lifestyle changes. The opportunities are immense, as governments all over the world begin to look at this arena as a way to attract tourism dollars as well as lower health care costs. After all, this trend is at the intersection of two of the largest industries in the world: tourism and health care. Now that’s a wow!
Examples include stem-cell banking at a facility like Medical City Hospital l in the Philippines, to executive physicals at a Lanserhof in Austria or at Kurotel in Brazil. Traveling across borders to destination spas such as Champney’s in the UK, Rancho La Puerta in Mexico or Chiva-Som in Thailand for a life/health turnaround (and being immersed in exercise, nutrition, stress-reduction therapies, etc.) are, of course, examples of core, established “wellness tourism.”
Many global consumers opt for these journeys because another country/region offers significantly lower costs or greater procedure/treatment availability. But the upswing is also part of a wider trend toward “mindful,” not “mindless,” travel. Given the economic and moral climate, people are increasingly embracing travel with a higher benefit to either themselves (and their bodies) or others, whether that’s wellness tourism or “voluntourism” (travel with a philanthropic component), environmentally aware (eco) travel, or educationally or culturally immersive travel.
The additional insight that has evolved since we predicted this trend last year is the importance of positioning spas under the umbrella of ‘Wellness Tourism’ as opposed to ‘Medical Tourism.’ Until the term wellness came along, traveling for your health didn’t really have a label and therefore wasn’t something that a government would invest money in. But all that has changed – and quickly too!
I am in the middle of a project gathering data from 20 different countries regarding their use of the terms tourism, health, wellness, spa, thermal, medical, etc. One of the things I am studying is how they are organized and how their relationships with their Ministry of Health, Ministry of Tourism or Ministry of Economic Development are organized. While each government seems to have a unique structure, what surprised me the most is that a large percentage of the countries reported that they are ‘in discussion’ regarding a reorganization and that Wellness Tourism is something on their radar and something they are likely to invest in. That is good news for spas.
In addition, it is clear to me now that Medical Tourism and Wellness Tourism should be two seperate concepts. Medical Tourism (people traveling for medical procedures) should sit under the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Tourism. This is where hospitals and clinics would fall and where the many rules and regulations involved make perfect sense. Wellness Tourism on the other hand is the arena in which spas should be positioned and this should be seperate from Medical Tourism. Freed from the tightly regulated medical arena, Wellness Tourism can adopt a more entrepreneurial approach. In the end, consumers have a variety of models to choose from that will improve their health and well-being allowing both Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism to flourish. Occasionally there may be opportunities to work side by side. Supporting and recommending each other is also possible, however this will avoid the often ill-fated effort to integrate these two very different cultures.
So what’s our grade for this spa trend prediction? Well, I am going to give us an A+ here because not only did we see this trend far in advance, but we have also had a chance to shape the trend around the world for the good of our industry and consumers. I think that deserves a pat on the back!
My twitter address: @susieellis
6) The Price Is (Still) Right
2009’s headline spa story was the industry’s aggressive response to the global recession and the near-universal focus on deals, deals, and more deals. While there’s (cautious) consensus that the economy is in recovery mode, there’s great news for consumers in 2010: The spa bargains will continue apace, not only straight discounting, but also more innovative incentives smartly designed by spas to drive incremental revenue and retain loyal customers. And keep an eye out for savvy new spas combining less expensive treatments and facilities with a touch of glamour, hitting that sweet spot between “nice” and “price.”
While economists predict there will be a modest economic recovery next year, don’t fret, spa-goers. You’re still going to see very attractive spa pricing and specials. In fact, a new industry survey shows that, rather than a discounting backlash, spas are planning either to maintain 2009 deal levels, and even increase them, across the whole spectrum of spa incentive categories. One reason is the continued increase in supply. After all, there were spas in various stages of construction at the start of the recession, and while some scrapped or delayed plans, many saw it through, and we’ve continued to see a significant growth in new spas across these two difficult years.
When it comes to “pure” discounts (straight percentage/dollars off), 51 percent of spas plan the same level as 2009, and 35 percent actually expect to somewhat or significantly boost them (only 14 percent plan less). But watch for more imaginative, personal, retention-focused offers on the (massage) table in the new year: Sixty-six percent of spas plan to increase their “value-add” offers (extras thrown in to keep prices the same), while another 31 percent will stand firm on these value-add offers. Sixty-three percent plan to increase their “creative” discounts (like memberships, two-for-ones, sampling programs), while another 29 percent will stand firm there. And 41 percent plan to increase “overall value pricing” (not deal-focused, but setting the right, upfront price). Basically, fewer than 1 in 10 spas report they expect to decrease discounting in the year ahead.
Consumers will see more unique offers like loyalty points/rebates toward future services, generous rewards for referring friends, VIP pricing for regular clients, and even open house events where consumers sample new treatments for a nominal fee or free. These deals will keep brands and the spa/wellness value perception front and center.
So get ready for more deal days ahead, and in March, SpaFinder will roll out its own “Deal Days,” when $50 treatment prices hit a spa near you!
Discounting and creative incentives did abound this year, and if anything, there might have been more deals and more creativity than we even expected! I think that Groupon, Gilt, Rue La La and the like are what added to the frenzy as we learned how important the spa category is in their programs. Despite some luxury brands trying to hold their own with pricing (Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental) creative pricing was the norm. We get an “A” for this prediction.
My twitter address: @susieellis
So let’s take a look at our 5th spa trend prediction for 2010 called “The Hybrid Spa” and see how we did. (Hint, my grade is lower than the first four trends on this one.)
Last year at this time we were noticing a movement toward fusing several concepts together. For many years we had seen a certain cookie cutter approach to spa: an establishment with massage, facials, body treatments, mani/pedi, make-up, Enya music, soft lights, a boutique, and a name that usually started with the letter A that linked itself to Sanskrit. (ok, I just threw in that last bit to vet my frustration about all those A spas I have a hard time keeping straight…Amani, Amano, Avania, Aji, Amatra, Aspira, Anara, Alilla…you get the picture. Sanskrit? Or internet search advantage? Hmm.
So here is how we described the Hybrid Spa.
The modern spa is increasingly a “hyphenated” affair, with spas incorporating far more fitness, fitness centers incorporating more spa, hospitals incorporating spa elements, and spas bringing in more medical doctors and specialists. The era of the spa/fitness/integrated-health-center/hospital/spiritual-retreat/wellness-center/beauty-clinic is on a serious upswing. It’s one integrated human body, after all, and the “pure” spa is on the decline, while the hybrid spa is busy inventing new you-name-it, plugged-in models.
According to a recent industry survey, 64 percent of spas today still identify themselves as a “pure spa,” but 38 percent of those plan to add hybrid (fitness, complementary medicine, etc.) elements in the future. So with only 26 percent of spas vowing to remain “pure,” the profusion of hybrid models on today’s spa showroom isn’t surprising. Twenty percent of spas now offer exercise/fitness, 29 percent offer wellness/complementary medicine (acupuncture, etc.), 35 percent feature spirituality/mind offerings (meditation, etc.), while 25 percent offer classes on wellness topics, etc. For consumers, it means your exercise and overall health and wellness regime—and your spa—are naturally merging.
Consider the hyphens: “club spas” combining fitness and spa, chiropractic and spa, “Biggest Loser”-style boot camps and spa, mobile spas within hotel spas, every breed of medical and spa, “beauty bars” combining manicures and martinis, hospitals morphing into “integrative health centers” or “spa-spitals,” spa and fertility, spa and meditation, spas providing cancer care—even spas integrating fitness programs that are themselves fusion-hybrid models: spinning yoga, pilates, ballet, kettle balls, weights, hula hoops—you name it—into new amalgams. Fueling the trend: Investors are more keen on spending on the broader health and wellness category today than on pure spa.
Examples include: Nuffield Health (200 U.K. facilities), combining the hospital/clinic/diagnostic center with the health club and full spa services, interweaving yoga, physiotherapy, etc.; the Malo Clinic Spa at the Venetian Macau-Resort Hotel in China, an integrative wellness center offering both comprehensive medical treatments and executive health checkups (six operating theaters, a staff of 50 doctors, etc.) with a full spa featuring 100 spa therapists; Exhale MindBodySpa (15 day spa locations from Los Angeles to the Caribbean), integrating yoga and fitness classes, acupuncture, nutrition, workshops, fertility programs, etc., around the core spa model; and Joan Lunden’s Camp Reveille, combining a traditional women’s “summer camp” with spa, set to travel to destination/resort spas across the U.S. next year. Still to come? Word has it that trendy global clothing giant Urban Outfitters will be rolling out a hybrid of its own.
Upon review, I can see that, yes indeed, we are seeing lots of hybrids. But I am also struck by how broad of a definition we were using for hybrid! It pretty much cast almost any spa that added a point of differentiation as a hybrid. Tsk Tsk. On the other hand I have heard from people – including someone as astute as Michael Tompkins, GM of Miraval – that this trend was a real inspiration for 2010. Michael mentioned that it spoke to him in a way that resulted in all kinds of creative additions to Miraval’s programming!
So while I would probably grade myself a C for not defining hybrid more clearly, I am going to balance that out with a A for having listed a heck of a lot of great examples of hybrids happening out there. So in the spirit of the hybrid…I will give myself a B on this one.
My twitter address: @susieellis
Reviewing our spa trend prediction for 2010, “The Online Spa,” I think it is pretty clear that this did in fact happen during an unprecidented year of advancements and adoption of everything virtual. If anything, I would say there have been some things that became big news in the tech world this year that we didn’t mention. More on that in a bit.
Spa Trend #4: The Online Spa
2010 will prove a watershed year for the spa’s virtual presence. Consumers are already finding spas online, booking treatments, joining online weight loss and coaching groups. They are printing out instant gift certificates, shopping virtual spa stores, being influenced by online reviews, and embracing social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. (Some even play the Sally Spa game (http://sallysspa-game.com/). But there’s more to come.
Get ready for gaming while you exercise, for having health information (like your blood pressure and heart rate) automatically uploaded for access online by your spa or doctor, and for spas to use yield management software that (much like the airlines) enables price variation, so spas can offer a less expensive massage on weekday mornings, compared to Saturday afternoons. And in early 2010, you’ll be able to stroll down any street in the U.S. and check your iPhone to pinpoint the spa nearest you, thanks to the upcoming SpaFinder App.
Sure, the Internet’s been around roughly 15 years, but there’s always that breakthrough year when online really clicks for each industry, and 2010 looks to be the defining one for spa adoption of Internet and social media marketing, along with new cutting-edge spa apps. It’s all being driven by global consumer behavior—the Web is simply where they “live” now. And these consumers expect instant information on spa services and offers, and even instant gratification with 24/7 reservations.
A recent SpaFinder survey reveals that 76 percent of spas are already selling gift certificates online, and an additional 8 percent have plans to. Thirty-three percent have embraced online, real-time appointment booking, and 21 percent plan to. Thirty-two percent currently sell online retail products, and 27 percent plan to. And spas are jumping into new social media platforms to connect with clients, albeit with a significant preference for Facebook over Twitter: Fifty-five percent of spas are now using Facebook (another 17 percent plan to), while 32 percent are using Twitter to get their deals out, and 19 percent plan to. (A more modest 29 percent currently use/plan to use mobile marketing.)
And with the explosion of online review and booking sites (i.e., Citysearch and Yelp in the U.S., Booking.com in Europe, SpaFinder.com globally), consumers are increasingly selecting spas based on what real-world consumers say online. Thankfully, spas are beginning to pay attention to their online reputations: Sixty-one percent now encourage their clients to write online reviews, and another 14 percent plan to.
In general, the way spas virtually connect with consumers is getting far, far more creative. But, while it seems you can almost “spa online” these days, there’s still nothing that can (or will) replace human touch. Spa, in fact, may be the ultimate countertrend to the world’s online virtual mania.
Since SpaFinder is on the cutting edge of technology, I am not surprised that we were quite accurate with our predictions regarding spas and cyberspace. (Ok, maybe the Sally Spa Game didn’t quite hit the big time…) However, one big thing that we didn’t mention in our trend prediction was the Ipad. Furthermore, I think that mobile became more important than I mentioned in our write-up. Being an iPad user myself, I can now see what a great tool it is for reading online and enjoying beautiful photography, all while staying connected. That is all a huge plus for spas and consumers.
Mobile has been on the trend radar for quite some time, and everyone predicted that it would be huge. However there has been a lag in companies creating mobile websites; it isn’t just a matter of taking what you have online now, flipping a switch, and having it work for mobile. You basically have to build your site all over again – and that is costly and time consuming. Nevertheless, SpaFinder has recently taken the plunge and I can see now that the idea of life becoming almost completely mobile is beginning to look plausible.
I think I am going to give an A for this spa trend prediction. And I won’t penalize myself for not trumpeting the Ipad. Hey, no one can keep up with everything going on in technology these days!
My twitter address: @susieellis