It wasn't so long ago that luxury hotels were racing to add spas, realizing they weren't competitive without one. Today, luxury spas are racing one another. The pressure is on--and we're not talking about your massage.
As spa-goers become more sophisticated and better-traveled, they expect more from a spa experience than ever before, and they're willing to pay for it. The industry generates about $40 billion globally, according to SpaFinder, a New York City-based spa marketing and media company. So spas worldwide are adding private suites, Japanese baths, rain showers and an ever-more-exotic array of treatments, therapies and fitness programs, influenced by everything from the traditions of far-flung cultures to cutting-edge medical technology, in order to stand out, cash in and attract new customers.
Sure, you can still get a basic Swedish massage at any spa worth its bath salts. But some spas, like the Six Senses Spa at Soneva Gili in the Maldives, are now offering Abhayanga, a full-body massage derived from Indian ayurvedic medicine that is performed by two therapists. And forget the traditional facial. At the Terme di Saturnia Spa Resort in Tuscany, you can have a rejuvenating salicylic acid mask, which exfoliates away skin problems like wrinkles or acne and leaves the skin looking fresher and younger.
Even the traditional mud bath is passé. Terme di Saturnia now offers three varieties of mud: anti-fatigue mud, specifically formulated for swollen legs; toning body mud, which is laced with essential oils; and anti-cellulite mud, a mix of thermal mud and unspecified additives that promise to fight cellulite. And the cost for each one of these muddy luxuries? $70 a pop.
It's not just the treatments and facilities that are changing at modern spas, either. To ensure a ready supply of clients, spas are reaching out to new groups of potential guests. "The industry is finding niches and catering the experience directly to them," says Lynne Walker McNees, president of the Lexington, Ky.-based International Spa Association (ISPA). "For men, they are changing the titles on the spa menu, changing the oils and making the experience less girly."
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The demographic of spa visitors has shifted dramatically as a result. Men now constitute more than 31% of spa visitors, up from 24% in 2004, according to ISPA.
"Throughout the world, spas are really catering to men with special menus, treatments, facilities, mens' clubs, scotch on the rocks--all the trappings you associate as typically masculine--to put men at ease," agrees Ann Abel, executive editor of Luxury SpaFinder, a publication of SpaFinder. "They need to take care of their skin, and they enjoy massage as much as women do," Abel adds. And now, there are more places than ever for them to do it.
The Island Experience, a 100-square-mile private island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, is one example. The resort, which bills itself as an adventure spa, will introduce an "Alpha Adventures" program next winter, encouraging men to buff and beautify themselves in the most masculine way possible. Alpha Adventures will feature testosterone-filled activities like jungle hikes, sea kayaking, surfing, snorkeling, fishing and two nights of camping. (Lest that sound too much like roughing it, yoga and massage are available as well.)
And at Chiva Som, an exclusive destination spa in Hua Hin, Thailand, men get a spa menu of their very own, which includes specialties like the Volcanic Pumice Polish, a body buffing treatment done with Italian pumice, or the Executive Hand Treatment, which tends to the cuticles and nails (which are shaped, but not polished), and ends with a hand and arm massage.
Now that's pressure we can handle.