Resort Spas Move From Mere Massage to Personal Awakening

Veteran spa watchers attending the 21st ISPA Media Marketplace this month in New York noted a marked shift in resort spa offerings lately from traditional massages, body wraps, and scrubs to more holistic, alternative healing-type experiences. They’re spa-based, but fall under the more general umbrella of wellness and have been gaining in number for some time.

Certainly, spa directors—also being marketers—are always on the lookout for new offerings to help set their resorts and spas apart from the competition. Competitive advantage aside, Gen X and Millennial spa goers came of age frequenting spas featuring traditional treatments (i.e. those popular with Baby Boomers) and are eager to take the spa experience in new directions.

For their part, planners of meetings, retreats and incentive programs in luxury resorts today expect a full-service spa to be a prerequisite as much as a golf course, swimming pool complex or fitness center.

These planners know a percentage of their attendees expect there to be an opening on the agenda on at least one day where a block of time has been reserved for booking spa appointments. Whether charges go directly to the master account or are the responsibility of the attendee depends on the culture of the company, but they want their spa time regardless.

Also variable is the number of men actually booking appointments. The resort spa industry for years has actively promoted the idea that male attendees are turning out in droves for the “golfer’s massage” or “gentlemen’s facial,” when the real number, in fact, may still be quite modest.

Among the latest wave of spiritual, New Age-style experiences presented at the ISPA event, these four stood out:

  • Forest Bathing, as offered at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Penn., draws on the belief that time spent in the deep woods has special healing powers. The Lodge’s master herbalist leads groups in this cleansing ritual.
  • A treatment at The Spa at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Shirodhara helps bring balance to the life force prana by releasing toxins.
  • The Aqua Thermal Suite at The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va., offers multi-sensory cooling after exposure to heat through three types of healing showers: Atlantic Storm, Arctic Mist and Caribbean Storm. It goes on to include a heated Herbal Cocoon, a cold cabin known as The Chill, and Aromatic Steam roomf, with aromatic essential oils and refracted color light.
  • Therapists at The Spa at The Mayflower Grace in Washington, Conn., analyze each guest’s internal body chemicals, key essences, and mineral components, then recommends steps on how to nurture these elements for greater spiritual fulfillment.

Photo credits: Cover photo, the Relaxation Room at The Mayflower Grace, courtesy of the resort. Above, clockwise from left: Master Herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore of The Lodge at Woodloch (photo courtesy of the resort); elements of The Omni Homestead Resort’s Aqua Thermal Suite experience: Chill, Herbal Cocoon, and Heated Loungers. Photos courtesy of the resort.

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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