Spas – The Organisational Face of Wellness


In January, the Global Wellness Institute released their latest research in the form of the Global Wellness Economy Monitor. This report declares the global wellness industry, comprising of ten sectors, including spas, is now valued at USD $3.7 trillion. This latest news reminds me of a discussion I had a few years ago at the Spa China Summit in Chengdu with my good friend Professor Gerry Bodeker, who is a senior faculty member at Oxford University, Chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Mental Health Initiative and co-editor of the bestselling book Understanding the Global Spa Industry. What he said back then resonated with me at that time and to this day I believe it offers great opportunities for the spa industry.

What Professor Bodeker said was that spas are ideally positioned to be the Organizational Face of Wellness. Honestly, when I first heard this, I didn’t understand what he meant and so I had to ask him to explain. Once I understood it, the idea intrigued me. Could this be the future of the spa industry? After all, in many ways it feels like the spa industry has been forever trying to define itself, to find its true identity. Are we spa? Are we wellness? Maybe instead, the world will come to know us as the Organisational Face of Wellness – whatever that means. Let’s look at what the good Professor meant by this and what it may mean to all of us and the future of our industry.

What the Professor was trying to tell us is that spas have an opportunity to act as a safe entry point into the world of otherwise unknown and largely untrusted alternative solutions to health and wellness. The market has come to see spas as a safe place. They may not understand everything we do inside, but they now accept, by and large, that nothing bad is going to happen. Also, either in spite of, or perhaps because of, the way we have created such a colourful language and mystifying descriptions of our treatments and services, the average consumer has come to expect something a bit more exotic and unusual when they enter a spa. So ultimately, spas are good for you, right? All these factors position the spa as a natural place to explore alternatives. Whereas it might be considered risky to try some herbal supplement from that odd looking shop in Chinatown, offer that same supplement to me in my spa, where I already have a relationship of trust and safety, and I might just be willing to give it a try.

Spas, according to Professor Bodeker, can be that bridge between modern medicine and the alternatives. And I believe he could be right. At least he was certainly right at the time he said it. However, when I speak with him today, just a few years after he made his bold proclamation, he is not so sure. He feels we may have missed the opportunity. But I don’t think it is too late. Why? Well, firstly, nothing else has stepped up to take our place on this front. Hospitals are definitely not out there telling patients they do not need pharmaceutical assistance and surgeries. Nor are they likely to do so any time soon. As many have said before, the business of modern medicine – and it is of course a massive business – is to treat sickness, rather than to promote wellness. The other reason I think we still have time to put our Organisational Face of Wellness on, is that spas are still in need of that new identity I mentioned earlier. One that has real substance and a clear reason for being. Hotel spas simply have not changed much in the last twenty years. Hotels have changed. Travel has changed. The world has changed. But not hotel spas.

So, what could you do to position your spa as the Organizational Face of Wellness? The good news is it does not have to be about extensive changes and lots of additional expenses. It is more a case of repackaging some of the things that you are already doing so that, as the market comes to accept us as the place to go for Wellness, you will be well positioned to deliver on their expectations. What is most important is to make sure the mindset of your team is on educating and informing their guests about all the possibilities out there. Help them move from a beauty and pampering mindset to a mindset of wellness.

The simplest way to move forward is to look for experts in the areas you want to add to your spa offering and find a way to partner with them. Instead of just having one your therapists lead a yoga session, approach some of the local yoga teachers in your area and partner with them for a special Yoga Week at your spa. Agree on a few session times during the week, then you promote it to your guests, your yoga partner promotes it to their regular students as a nice new venue to try out, you create a special menu with chef for the week, offer special discounts on food, beverage and even hotel rooms, exclusively for the students of your yoga partner, etc. Now have also have an event that you all can promote, so it becomes a great public relations opportunity too. There are many different ways you can make an event like this a big win for your spa, your guests, your hotel, your yoga partner and their students. Take the exact same partnership model and apply it to any wellness related area you can think of. Meditation, Tai Chi, Nutritional Advice, Breathing Exercises, Aromatherapy, Sound Therapy, Light Therapy, Nature Therapy, etc. could all be introduced to the world through your spas. Also, do not forget that every one of these additions gives you a new retail opportunity. You can bring in your own retail items especially for the event or just take some of your visiting expert’s retail on consignment.

So, the next time you look to make some changes to your treatment menu, maybe it is time to think about what you could introduce that would help your guests bridge the gap between modern medicine and alternative wellness choices? What could your spa do to help your guests discover and explore wellness? Are you the Organizational Face of Wellness?