Healthy Profits


Blue Spa at Carlisle Bay, Antigua
The Caribbean is still an exceptionally popular spa destination. (Pictured: Blue Spa at Carlisle Bay, Antigua)

Spa travel is becoming so popular it hardly qualifies as a niche market these days. After all, travel agents responding to the fifth annual State of Spa Travel survey by SpaFinder, released late last year, overwhelmingly ranked “increased interest in spa travel specifically for wellness and health” as the No. 1 fastest-growing spa travel trend.

While this was a first for the survey, it was the fifth straight year in which clients cited spa facilities as the prime consideration among services and amenities in influencing their choice for vacation accommodations.

“Spas’ ongoing, greatly expanded focus on health, wellness and prevention, rather than mere pampering— combined with their ongoing attractive pricing—have been the two keys to this travel category’s resiliency over these last tough years,” says Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder.

Travel to hotel, resort and destination spas rebounded in 2010 and registered significantly bigger gains in 2011. More than half (55 percent) of agents surveyed noted that these spas were rolling out more aggressive deals, attractive pricing and value added packages, with the most commonly booked price-per-night ranging from $250-$299.

Baby boomers (aged 46-65) remain the age demographic that is most likely to book spa travel, accounting for 68 percent of bookings in 2011. But the younger “Gen X” demographic is also a critical client base at 31 percent. Women still dominate, with two-thirds of agents responding that less than 20 percent of their spa clients are men.

Hot Spa Destinations

Ellis and her team offered Travel Agent their take on some of the current hot spa travel destinations. Asia is the fastest-growing spa market, with more spa hotels/resorts being built there now than anywhere else. While traditional favorites like Bali are still very popular with spa travelers, emerging ones such as Vietnam and Cambodia are making large blips on travelers’ radar screens.

The G20 Summit in June will likely create international buzz for host destination Los Cabos, home to numerous luxury spa resorts such as the newly revamped Las Ventanas al Paraiso, the Esperanza and One&Only Palmilla.

Other hot spa destinations include Morocco, Turkey (the hammam experience is key to most trips there) Nicaragua (where eco-spas are thriving), Tulum in Mexico, Chile, London and, in the U.S., Las Vegas and Santa Fe.

Agents cited the West Coast as the most popular U.S. spa travel destination or region, followed by Hawaii and the Southwest. Mexico / Caribbean led the international list. Following are some recent developments on that front.

A new Now Spa by Pevonia has opened at the Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun and features seven treatment rooms with 15 massage tables. Two of the rooms have treatment tubs, and every cabin has a private shower.

Under the supervision of newly appointed Spa Director Stephanie Rest, the 26,000-square-foot spa at the Regent Palms Turks and Caicos has been revamped with a new treatment menu, newly introduced product lines and a soft renovation of the treatment rooms. It incorporates elements from both Asian and Caribbean themes.

In Antigua, Blue Spa at Carlisle Bay, basking in the glow of some recently bestowed awards, features a range of body treatments, massages (hot-stone, Swedish, deep-tissue) and facials using Natura Bissé products. Yoga and Pilates classes take place four times a week on the pavilion in the gardens.

The BodyHoliday reopened in October following a $20 million renovation and now features a Penthouse Suite with private Turkish-style hammam. A steam room with a rain-head shower offers guests a unique spa experience in the privacy of their room.

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