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Spa industry battles downturn by shifting to wellness

The spa industry is shifting towards preventative health and wellness as a means of combating the downturn, according to new findings released at the Global Spa Summit.

While the new research reveals global challenges faced in 2009, particularly within the high-end luxury resort spa sector, it also shows the strength and resiliency of the industry in fast-growing markets like Asia-Pacific.

(Pictured: Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of Six Senses Resorts and Neil Jacobs, President of Starwood Capital Hotel Group)
The third-annual Global Spa Summit held in Interlaken, Switzerland was attended by delegates from a record 32 nations. The 2009 Summit featured keynote presentations by Dr. Adolf Ogi, the former president of Switzerland and United Nation’s Special Advisor, and Reto Wittwer, the president and CEO of Kempinksi Hotels.

The economy also appears to be accelerating an ongoing macro trend: the expansion of an industry focus on preventative health and wellness, and a shared perception that opportunities lie in a collaborative future with the health and medical industries.

Commenting on the research, Susie Ellis, member of the Global Spa Summit Board of Directors and president of SpaFinder, Inc. noted that, “Rather than the economy causing largely adverse affects, it appears that new economic challenges are sharpening a shift that was well underway - with the industry today thinking far beyond ‘mere luxury’ to new markets, new consumers, and new offerings that now make spa a key player in the health industry, in addition to being part of the travel and luxury markets.”


Key Findings from Intelligent Spas Report include:
* The average rate for a spa treatment in 2008 was $90. Europe was the highest at $111, and Asia-Pacific the lowest, at $77

* In 2008, the average size of a spa was 8,847 square feet/788 meters, featuring nine treatment rooms. Employees per spa averaged 22.9, with the Americas averaging the most (33.8) and Europe the fewest (13.6). 50% of total spa revenue is spent on salaries and employee benefits, by far the most significant expense category. Spas spend, on average, 9% on operations/maintenance, and only 4% on marketing, and 2% on training

* The day spa guest has become critical for hotel spas: 38% of total spa visits at hotel spas now come from non-hotel, local community guests. In some regions (such as Europe and the Middle East/Africa) this is approaching the 50/50 mark. (53% hotel/47% non-hotel guests for both regions)

* In terms of the outlook for 2009, Asia-Pacific spas report the most optimism, with annual spa revenue expected to grow 24% from 2008 to 2009. While Middle Eastern/African spas show the most pessimism, expecting revenue to fall roughly 20%

The region with the largest percentage of outsourced spas (using a management company) was the Americas at 32%, three times higher than any other region

Spa revenue figures originally forecast in the last quarter of 2008 needed to be trimmed by 9.4% after the economic downturn in the first quarter of 2009

Key Findings from Smith Travel Research
Global luxury hotel occupancy fell 13.2% in Q1, 2009

The average luxury hotel spa treatment revenue rose from roughly $138 per customer in 2007, to $149 in 2008, and then fell to $113 in Q1, 2009

Similarly, average salon treatment revenue grew from $66 per customer in 2007, to $73 in 2008 - but fell to $61 in Q1, 2009

A bright spot showed the average retail revenue per spa treatment rose from $18 to $25 when comparing January 2008 to January 2009