Trends large and small bubbling in spa industry

SHARE Trends large and small bubbling in spa industry

This product image courtesy of sha. shows the Alphasphere. Alphasphere users are surrounded in blue light, sound and vibrations while they sway to the rhythms of their own breathing. (AP Photo/sha.)

NEW YORK – From color therapy and medi-pedis to frigid blizzard rooms and swankier eyebrow bars, fresh trends are surfacing around the world in the $60 billion spa industry, according to an annual forecast.

As destination resorts, day spas and beauty salons shake off economic worries, new luxury is playing out in all price ranges through more intimate pairings with healthy fine dining, glamour and child-welcome options, said Susie Ellis, president of the online spa portal SpaFinder.

Past trends like wellness pampering and organic treatments haven’t been replaced but are being joined by a broader range of foot healing, multisensory experiences and icy cold therapies, Ellis said while rolling out SpaFinder’s 2012 trends report.

Look for more wow, fun and wellness, and for more spa options in Asia, which she said leads the world in industry growth.

With more than 100,000 spas worldwide, making sense of often-pricey services can be difficult, along with tracking evidence that they work. A nearly year-old, industry-funded website,, is a small but growing clearinghouse for clinical trials and published research on services ranging from yoga and music therapy to Ayurveda, the ancient holistic system of medicine from India, and “thalassotherapy,” the use of seaweed, algae and other materials from the sea.

“You are now moving from not only wellness but to wellness empowerment,” said Dr. Daniel Friedland, an internist and consultant who worked on the site.

Helping spa-goers hunt down research is a game changer, especially now that more insurance companies and employers are willing to reimburse them for preventive care, Ellis said.

More from the SpaFinder report:

COLD AND ICE: With saunas, steam rooms, Whirlpool baths and rock massages, spas have traditionally used heat to de-stress and detoxify, but the industry is taking a cue from the Romans, who more than 2,000 years ago finished spa-like experiences with a trip to the “frigidarium.”

Look for more ice therapies and cold rooms alternated with hot treatments to reduce pain and inflammation in muscles and joints, Ellis said.

At ESPA locations around the world, clients can scoop ice crystals from fountains to rub down after saunas. At the Qua Baths & Spa in Caesars Palace Las Vegas, visitors can head to the “arctic ice room” to sit amid falling snow as a more gentle transition from heat and steam than the usual cold plunge into a pool.

The luxury Dolder Grand in Zurich has a room for snowball fights.

With cryotherapy, spa-goers in bathing suits wear protective socks, gloves, mouth and ear gear to avoid frostbite in rooms cooled to minus 184 degrees (visits last just moments). The chambers are available at the new Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa in Vernon, British Columbia, and Champneys Tring Health Resort in Hertfordshire, England.

Elite athletes first took up cryotherapy. It’s earned mixed reviews from researchers for relieving pain and ailing muscles, but Mehmet Oz of “The Dr. Oz” show recently endorsed it. The first U.S. Cryotherapy Center, a 4,300-square foot facility in Roseville, Calif., opened in April.

COLOR, LIGHT, MUSIC, VIBRATION: Incorporating them as ambient afterthoughts is nothing new for the spa industry. Now they’re “becoming the main event,” the report said.

One innovation is software that creates real-time music, tones, beats and other sounds like wind rustling and rivers to beats generated by a therapist’s movements in tandem with the client’s bodily responses during massages, SpaFinder said. The client leaves with a CD of the “wellbeing music-art” they helped create. The technology, MUUSA, is from Italy and in use at the Tombalo Talasso Resort in Castegneto Carducci in Tuscany.

A Viennese artist who goes by the name “sha.” created canopied, cradle-like “tranquility pods” for use in “AlphaSpheres” built into spas around the world, including Berlin’s Mandala Hotel ONO Spa and Bulgaria’s Kempinski Hotel’s Zalez facility. Guests are surrounded in blue light, sound and vibrations while they sway to the rhythms of their own breathing.

HAPPY FEET: Chinese reflexology has been around for years. Now spas and wellness centers are targeting problems like high-heel pain as part of menus for the feet.

Computer gait analysis and foot treatments in zero-gravity chairs are available at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub in Las Vegas.

New York City’s Yamuna studio has stiletto classes, and the feet-only Stride in Palo Alto, Calif., includes foot Botox to reduce odor and a “Walking on Clouds” treatment of filler injected into the ball of the foot for padding and pain reduction.

The Mandarin Barber and Mandarin Salon in the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong are targeting men for a traditional Chinese foot treatment involving 10 razor-sharp blades performed by masters Samuel So and Ben Cheung.

GLAMBITION: While health and wellness have been a spa focus for several years, full-on Hollywood glamor and old European grooming are back at all price ranges.

In addition to affordable blowout bars for the hair, Blink bars for eyebrows have multiplied in the last year at London department stores – along with Henri Bendel in New York City – for eyebrow threading. Some offer brow tinting and false lashes.

FAMILY AFFAIR: More spas are accommodating adults and kids together. “The new thing is that it’s the family. P,” Ellis said. “We’re seeing now the spas responding and very much making it more of a welcome place for kids.”

WOWS BIG AND LITTLE: Some spas are trying to wow and woo with unusual, eye-popping decor that defies traditional minimalism.

At the Boscolo Milano’s Atomic Spa Suisse in Italy, LED-illuminated mirrors cover treatment room interiors, sauna and baths for a bubbly Champagne look.

In Thailand, a luxurious rainforest wicker treehouse, “The Nest,” serves as a private spa suite suspended from the branches of a banyan tree at the Coqoon Spa at Indigo Pearl in Phuket. Canada’s Sparkling Hill Resort is adorned with 3.5 million Swarovski crystals and has crystal glass fireplaces.

Not all spas are zen quiet or dead serious. The spa at Travassa Austin in Texas offers a workout on a mechanical bull. The CosquilleArte Spa in Madrid is the world’s first “tickle spa,” using feathers and light touch as stress-relievers.


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