After attending the 2013 International Spa Association (ISPA) annual conference, it certainly was apparent to me that all is well and good in the wellness industry. From my observations, the $14+ billion U.S. market looks to be growing at a steady and healthy pace. “Things certainly are looking up.” Said Roberto Arjona, General Manager of the legendary Rancho La Puerta Resort and Spa. “We have not seen reservation bookings for our resort like this since before 2008 and we are now over one hundred percent capacity going into next year.” Rancho La Puerta is not the exception. According to ISPA’s 2013 research, people visiting day spas, hotel and resort spas, and destination spas are all on the rise from 156 million in 2012 to 160 million in 2013 and spending has increased to an average of $87 per visit ; almost a two percent increase over the previous year. ISPA organizers said conference attendance was also back to pre-2008 numbers with packed educations sessions, and a busy expo floor showcasing interesting new products and services. I have been coming to this show for several years and here are some of the major observations I see trending in the wellness space:
It appears that spa product companies are becoming more intelligent and in touch with ingredients that promote healthy-aging rather than anti-aging. In previous years it was sometimes difficult to find truly natural and organic brands that were not greenwashing. Labeling is a tricky thing and not many brands carry certifications such as USDA organic, Ecocert, or Natrue to verify their claims of being organic. This is because many are small boutique brands and find certification expensive. I did see a lot of companies claiming to be eco-friendly or natural and when questioned further most had intelligent responses and provided a deeper back story on sourcing and manufacturing.
Evidence and Earth Based
I saw a lot of brands promoting benefits of natural ingredients such as seaweed, oils, stem cells and anti-oxidants. Although these ingredients have been used in spas for years if not decades, it seemed that there are more or perhaps I am just now beginning to recognize them. The science and evidence based elements of research as it relates to natural and organic based skincare regimes is more apparent and bringing about a new products that are very interesting including brands like OSEA, Dr. Hauschka, and Pino. However, with the FTC green guidelines recently released it is important that brands be aware that any eco claims that cannot be backed are subject to fines.
Kniepp claimed their sales of salt bath products have doubled in the past year due to the growing awareness of the ability to re-mineralizing the body through salt mineral bathing. Salt products harvested from salt mines of the Himalayas or from European seas such as Kerstin Florian seemed to be more prevalent. I love salt baths and think they are a great component of a healthy regiment. But hearing that salt demand is on the rise globally is concerning. I hope the purity is maintained while the mining of this is also environmentally conscious.
It seemed like every other vendor was promoting essential oils which I think is a good thing. For years many aromatherapists have claimed the healing benefits of essential oils. I ran into an old friend Michelle Roark, the founder of Phia Lab, who was a professional skier, engineer, and now perfumer. She is doing energetic measurements of essential oils in kilojoules. She claims she has scientific proof of the calming or energizing qualities of oil frequencies. Here reports should be public soon and will demonstrate scientific proof of health benefits in using essential oils which is quite exciting and I am sure will be welcomed by the aroma therapy community.
Wellness Tourism on the Rise
My favorite session was on the growth and expansion of Wellness tourism presented by Suzie Ellis of SpaFinder. She spoke on “Why You Should Care About Wellness Tourism: Latest Research on the Global Wellness Tourism Market - And How Spas Can Benefit.” She covered the distinctions of medical tourism vs. wellness tourism. Susie said medial tourism focuses on reactive, symptom based medicine that people travel to another state or country to fix and heal. This includes cosmetic surgery, cancer treatments and organ transplants. Wellness tourism promotes a more proactive and less invasive approach that promotes a healthy lifestyle focusing on physical activity, diet and personal development or mind body experiences. This has become a $439 billion dollar global market with major potential. It encompasses not only spa but alternative medicine, active lifestyles, yoga and mind body fitness which are all overlap the LOHAS market.
I was very impressed at how far the industry has not only grown but also how LOHAS values on wellness have become more integrated. It appears that spa goers have become more conscious of how they surround themselves in spa settings and what type of ingredients they are putting on their skin and the spa companies are responding. The recession has made brands and properties smarter in their decisions as it relates to communicating their mission to consumers and property greening as it relates to dollars and cents. Although work still needs to be done, I look forward to what the industry has in store in the coming years.