Chances are not only have you been to a spa in the last 12 months, but so has your spouse, your teenage daughter and perhaps her grandmother.
The spa industry is booming, and there doesn't seem to be any sign of it slowing down. According to the Lexington, Ky.-based International Spa Association, in 2003 the U.S. spa industry generated $11.2 billion in revenue, up from $10.7 billion in 2001 and $5 billion in 1999.
There are an estimated 12,100 spas throughout the U.S and 2,100 in Canada, and approximately 136 million spa visits were made in the U.S. in 2003. In the U.S., the largest spa category, accounting for seven of every ten spas, is the day spa. Resort/hotel spas are the second largest group, followed by club spas, medical spas, mineral spring spas and destination spas. Resort/hotel spas were the fastest growing segment over the past five years, growing 290 percent between 1999 and 2004, but medical spas have been the fastest growing in the past two years (109 percent).
The spa industry has exploded because it has undergone a complete makeover. Spas used to be considered the sole domain of bored housewives looking for a break or "fat farms" for people who went to lose weight in private. While some spas continue to focus primarily on weight loss, such as The Hilton Head Health Institute in South Carolina, these days there is a spa to suit every type of taste and activity, whether visitors are looking to get in shape, spend days getting pampered, or get the boot camp experience.
"People no longer see spas as pampering, but instead as a requisite to stay healthy," says Lynne Walker McNees, president of ISPA. "Because of consumer demand, spas are offering more services and programs to further align the mind and body. Spas around the globe are enriching their offerings by establishing wellness programs that integrate physical activities, nutrition classes and even counseling into their current offerings."
Sports spas such as Utah's Green Valley Spa will appeal to people who want to spend a few days challenging themselves rock climbing and hiking and not necessarily losing weight. But if the no-nonsense, tough-love experience is what you're after, consider The Ashram, in Los Angeles, where days start with dawn hikes and calories are restricted. Golfers who want to end a day on the greens with a massage to work out all the kinks should head to the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which also boasts a golf concierge.
Whether you're looking to sweat, steam or stretch, there's a spa on our list that will catch your eye.
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