Spa Data doesn’t lie…but we do!


Data can be a funny thing. The raw information itself is solid. Irrefutable. Yet the interpretation of that data can sometimes yield widely varying results. The same is true of any industry. Spa Data is no different.

I recently attended the Global Wellness Summit in Palm Beach, USA. One of the more interesting presentations came from what should have been one of the more boring topics – statistics. The speaker was Jan Freitag of STR Inc., a company that provides clients with premium global data benchmarking, analytics and marketing insights.

My favourite slide was one that showed a correlation between the Average Daily Rate (ADR) in a hotel and the presence of a spa from 2005 to 2017. The results… hotels with spas had higher ADRs. The spa industry has, over the years, seized on this data as proof positive that if a hotel built a spa on their property their ADR would increase by as much as 30% plus. However, as Freitag himself pointed out in his most recent presentation, this is not what he said.

Yes, there is a definite correlation, but not necessarily a causation. Is the ADR in these hotels higher because the hotel has a spa or is the ADR higher simply because it’s a more luxurious hotel? And as it is a higher end hotel, it has a spa as part of the amenities of the hotel. The data does not address this question at all. It’s not trying to. Yet we, the spa industry, have chosen to take a few liberties and assume that spas are the key factor. Maybe they are. I don’t know. But the point is, this particular set of data does not prove it one way or the other. The author himself said so.

Over the years, I have seen other presentations at spa industry conferences where speakers have made similar claims in relation to spend on F&B, increased length of stay, etc. A spa-going hotel guest simply stays longer and spends more than a non-spa-going guest, they’ve said. However, just as with the ADR / Spa Report from STR Inc., I am yet to see any proof that spas were the determining factor. Again, correlation does not always equal causation.

The spa industry has long suffered from a lack of hard data. So, it’s understandable that we would readily embrace any research report that might help prove our case. And a company like STR Inc. provides credible research and statistics. But we need to stay true to the facts and not get carried away in our interpretation of that data.