Wellness and Medical Spa’s, a service or amenity?

Wellness and Medical Spa’s a service or amenity?

The Spa market is clearly a growing one, you notice it simply by walking the streets of every city, but also it follows the trend of feeling better and looking after yourself. In fact according to the Horwath statistics by the end of 2015 the global wellness tourism economy grew till 438,6 Billion USD worldwide, with a growth of 9% compared to the previous year. Naturally these number really represent the destination spa’s. That’s where tracking becomes hard and the definition between the delivery and service vague.

The purpose of this article is to refresh the memory on what actually started the Spa concept and more so what the industry needs to do to maintain the incredible growth, hold on to roots and to stay on the right path to wellness and health. Mocinno International and partners will define your property to be the next destination Spa!


Spa defined

The actual definition of the Spa is very misunderstood. Dr Puczko of Xellum, states that the Spa in mainly Europe is often seen as a few massages and pool area, and has become a ‘catch all’ or bastardized name. Really that is far from what it should be and makes it a product of price and popularity. Both the business and the consumer needs to understand and appreciate the difference. Wellness seems to be the word that’s just added to give it that little extra marketing.

Traveling is already an experience, and originally together with a treatment, that is actually recommended by the doctor, created the need for a destination. That destination should be a pleasurable one, keeping well being the key delivery. There we have the start of the association between travel or tourism and the Spa. Some say that it was only in the 1940’s when the evolution of the Spa started, with the Rancho La Puerta, a dedicated destination spa, wellness retreat and health resort. Over the years the Spa’s have developed, also because of clear public recognition and awareness of bad eating and exercise habits, signs of allergies and increased number of diseases. The need for health grew, and kept growing. It was only at the turn of the century, the shift to a holistic and more medical approach within the Spa destinations became apparent. That trend continuous to grow to date, and some serious places attracted much attention and created a path for an entire new market segment, within the Spa destination tourism. A few examples of game changers are Chiva Som in Thailand, Palace Merano in Italy, Ananda in India and the SHA Wellness in Spain. Many activities which are now common came out of that, like Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine and the inclusion of a personal analysis.

Finding Wellness

The education continuous worldwide, with an increasing popularity, the knowledge of guests increases and more so from those who deliver. The destination Spa are purchased by those travelers who are choosing accommodation, personal consultation, a selection of spa treatments, that include meals, drinks and a range of activities. The objective of the visit is to feel better, to get something out of the visit, that creating personal wellness. That can be in combination with work, it can be in the city, in the deserts or at the sea; the objective remains. These guests are different they require more attention, as they are actively seeking health. The size of the room becomes secondary, and the atmosphere, quality of the bed (sleep), surroundings, access to music, and a healthy choice of meals, become of much higher importance. There is need to feel educated and bring home what has been learned or used during the stay, so the journey to well-being can continue. Destination Spa’s are clearly seeing a longer length of stay than usual, mostly between 3-7 days, a 60% higher spend from the guest inside the premises, than the usual guest, and a 40% higher chance of loyalty.


Spa Management

Apart from creating the most beautiful design, peaceful surroundings and all physical efforts, it looks like there is much more to it, to deliver the result our guests are really looking for. Mary Tabacchi who is professor of Spa management at Cornell University recognizes a need for a change in management, a change in knowledge and skill, and communication that starts within the organization. Education is a need that is taken way too lightly, in combination with marketing efforts that do not reflect the actual segment, the industry has to shape up. She even recognized an entire new generation, which in many destination Spa’s is practically untouched. Dr Puczko agrees, the marketing and starting with the simple naming of the packages offered should reflect the objective of the individual guest.

This is also where we need to differentiate the wellness travel of the medical travel. The wellness traveler is the returning guest, the medical travel, which could be a rehab, hip replacement or a clinical surgery often goes once or twice and are less like to travel for a long time. It is important to get a good mix of offerings that suits a wide variety but decisive potential guest.

There also is the pricing element, again within the marketing of the destination Spa. You can wonder whether there is space or a gap that can be filled for a less expensive option than many Spa’s are currently offering. As acknowledged before, you can start small, throw in one healthy dish on the menu, use thinner towels, which use less energy and water to clean etc. Intercontinental hotels launched Even Hotels, all based around fitness, Westin Hotels, with bringing green elements into the public spaces. Environment and sustainability factors will also continue to play a key role in the development of new Spa’s.


The Spa of the future

The future of the Spa is somewhat unknown, but according to Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder in New York it looks like this ‘by 2020 the health issues of travelers will be even more extreme than they are today. Stress, chronic disease and obesity will be at an all-time high, and hotels and spas will have to accommodate to the even more over-worked guest. No longer will things like fitness centers and spas be considered “amenities,” said Ellis. They’ll be necessities.’

I agree with Ellis. Generations to come will be more conscious about wellbeing and health, and more educated. Leaving the Spa’s with only one option; to start taking the business very seriously. Focus on reaching the guest objectives; through delivering the best within wellness and medical care. It starts with the analysis of the guest, of the actual and potential deliveries. Understanding the markets. Differentiating between Wellness and medical stays, and adjusting packages, pricing and other marketing elements accordingly, will be the platform for any Spa. It is not a side business, it is a serious business. Training and education of the management and team members in specific treatments, and service to these conscious, particular and rewarding guests are essential. I am convinced many of the authentic and antique methods and remedies will continue to keep a very strong place in the future development of the destination Spa, and there are many to be uncovered.


It is not a trend, it is not an amenity, it’s an evolution that will comfortably keep its place, and play a significant role in the overall development of Hotel & Resorts.


Horwarth HTL – Health & Wellness 2013 ,abacci Cornell University  Dr Puczko – Xellum Susie Ellis – SpaFinder Bruse Mayhew

Consulting SRI International – Global Wellness research

The tourism Observary – Health Wellness and Spa Report 2013

Albright&O’Malley Boston Consulting Mckinsey – Generations to come

Ethics Resource Centre – Research brief