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Spa is the new hotel buzz word

International spa specialists call for improved industry regulation and spa classification

Spa is the new buzz word of the hospitality industry, that is according to Vanessa Main, general manager spa division of Per Aquum Resorts & Spas, a spa and hospitality group based in the Maldives. Speaking at the Seven Star Seminar Programme at last month's Hotel Show in Dubai, Main addressed some of the key areas of successful spa operations, as well as calling for industry regulation, standardisation and classification.

The seminar, entitled Spa Trends - managing and upselling, looked at the global growth of the spa sector, and how this will impact operations in the Middle East.

"Ten years ago, a spa was a simplistic service, but it was still very popular," said Main. "Now, it generates US $40 billion a year. It is an industry in itself, and an area that people want to be involved in. Investors are choosing to enter the spa business because they can see the growth in demand and opportunities."

According to Main, many of the global challenges of the spa industry are also being echoed across the Middle East. These include a shortage of trained staff, a lack of industry training programmes, and a need for international global tourism initiatives to promote spa tourism.

"A spa is now a deciding factor for consumers when choosing a resort," Main claimed, citing research from Intelligent Spas, a 2005 consumer spa survey. According to the survey, 96% of travelers went on spa vacations to relax, while 42% looked at the health benefits. Time and spend in spas has increased, with spa goers spending on average $150 per hour in the spa, although 34% of survey respondents only visit a spa when they travel.

Breaking down the spa spend, the Intelligent Spa research found that 66% of clients bought skin care. The survey also showed that 57% claimed that it was the therapist that made the spa experience, with 96% wanting more education on spa benefits.

"People are looking for a lifestyle and they want a spa to be a part of it," Main said. "Successful spa operations offer a spa experience that is an extension of the holiday offer."
Main offered up advice on how to extend the spa offering: "Take the spa into the guest room, through the use of amenities, turndown gifts, a bath menu or different mini bar offerings," she said.

"Offer spa as a lifestyle - with cuisine, fitness facilities and unique interior design, and educate guests. Provide home care programmes, to that they can take the experience back into their everyday lives," she urged.

In the seminar, Main also detailed the different types of spa now of offer, citing a shift towards wellness concepts that include naturopathy and nutrition. "The spa therapist has to understand that they are treating the whole body," she claimed.

Other spa concepts suggested by Main include investment by cosmetic surgeons in spas; spiritual retreats for stress management and meditation and dental spas for teeth whitening and cosmetic dentistry. More unusual concepts such as kid's spas, fitness spas that integrate training, pilates and dance, or fun spas that combine spa facilities with a nightclub to balance to good with the bad.

The Spa division of Per Aquum Resorts & Spas incorporates two different yet distinctive spa brands, Sen Spa and the division as a whole plays an integral role in the success of the company. Spa Collection offers an all-encompassing spa experience incorporating spa therapies, fitness and spa cuisine. At Sen Spa the emphasis is on the therapeutic elements of a spa experience focusing solely on the treatments, relaxation and pampering.

Per Aquum is preparing to open a 24-key unit at the Desert Palm development in Dubai.

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