Is Wellness Killing the Spa Industry?


Wellness and its impact on the Spa Industry is something I’ve been think about a lot lately.

I’ve written before about how when I first stepped over from hotels in to spas the hottest discussion at the time was whether we should call ourselves Spa or Wellness. At the time, I didn’t really see the point of the discussion. Now, 12 years later, wellness is all we talk about. And to many people, spa is wellness and wellness is spa. The two terms are basically interchangeable in many conversations today. But they are not one and the same.

Wellness is a Concept. Spa is a Building.

In all the years that I’ve been around the spa industry and the wellness world, I’ve never heard anyone make this distinction. Infact, until just recently, I’d never even thought about it this way either. But now that I have, I reckon it’s a pretty significant distinction to make.

Wellness, Wellness Everywhere

Wellness can exist in a spa. But it doesn’t have to exist only in a spa. Indeed, if you accept the premise that wellness is something you need to live and breathe every day, it logically can not live only in the spa. Wellness is really a lifestyle choice. By all means, you can go to the spa to get a wellness fix, at least a partial one. However, what matters more is what you do after you leave the spa. How you eat. How you sleep. Where you live. What products you buy and consume. How you exercise.

In other words, wellness is everywhere.

To put it in the context of a hotel, true wellness is about the room, the furniture, the air conditioning, the linen, the food, the lighting, etc. So, if wellness is everywhere, guests don’t need to go to any one specific place to get it. And if wellness is everywhere, why do we need the spa? In a world where wellness is everywhere in a hotel, are spas as we know them going to become obsolete?


The good news for hotel spas is that they don’t need to panic just yet. At this point, Wellness is not everywhere. But it looks like it is coming. Hyatt’s purchases of Miraval and Exhale are presumably a sign that they want to ensure more of a Wellness focus in their hotels. Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness rooms also show their intent to help guests be well. And fitness and Wellness have long been a focus for Starwood’s Westin brand.

The Tomorrow Spa

I believe the role of the spa in the hotel of tomorrow will need to be very different from what it is today. Maybe the spa becomes the introduction point to Wellness. A bit like I suggested in Spas – The Organisational Face of Wellness. Maybe spa becomes the monitoring and tracking point for wellness. Maybe spa becomes a combination of a whole range of services, including a little bit of what we know as spa today. Something like what I wrote in The Future of Hotel Spas. Or maybe spa becomes something completely different.

Precisely where we end up, I’m not too sure. But what I do know is that the spa industry must evolve if we want to ensure we are relevant in the hotel of the future. And I mean really evolve. Not like the way we have evolved so far on the journey. Coz as I’ve said before, in a lot of ways, we haven’t evolved much at all up to this point.

Change is the only constant in life – Heraclitus of Ephesus