Spas are not a very new invention. They go back, like many other things, to the ancient Romans who invented spas. Back then it was not only a place where people took advantage of the healthy mineral water but where they could find some rest, socialize, do business, refresh their bodies as well as their minds. This idea was then lost for several hundred years and came back in the medieval ages, for instance in Carlsbad, Europe, where the famous bath industry began around the year 1300. But unlike the Romans there were only bathing and drinking cures. It was not until 1800 when the first bathing and leisure facilities were built. Only from then on did the old Roman concept of a spa really come back in people`s mind. Today the market, especially in the USA, is huge and the supply of different spa resorts is numerous (it is predicted that the spa industry will double in size every four years) ( Sabene, 2001). Considering this and the increasing number of spas, there is the question: What features in terms of Food, Fitness and Fun must a spa provide in order to stay competitive in the changing resort spa market in the USA? Offers can be almost endless, from beauty and skin care services, massages, body wraps, aquatic and other therapies or additional fitness programs to simple bathing pleasures in differently designed springs of varying temperatures. What is becoming more popular nowadays is the health-conscious eating habits of guests. This can be integrated into programs as for example in Palms Springs, USA, where there are nurses employed who guide the guests individually in terms of nutrition (Madley, 1999). Another example is the Aspen Club & Spa in Aspen, USA, that offers special products with vitamins, herbs and other organic supplements also guided by nurses and even doctors (Madley, 1999). The majority of guests are electing the spa they want to visit according to the services and facilities it offers (Madley, 1999) . So it is obvious that a spa resort that wants to attract and keep guests has to think about its programs to be outstanding.
By definition a spa is “1. A mineral spring. 2. A place, especially a resort, having mineral springs. …” ( Webster`s, 1996, p.648 ). With this definition every hotel or resort having a mineral spring can call itself a spa hotel or resort. So the “spa” included in a resort name does not tell you very much about the property itself except that there must be some mineral springs. But there are as many different spas as there are stars in the sky. The springs could be used only for drinking cures in connection with a regular hotel stay or could be the focus in the middle of a medical-clinical resort where everything is included from skin care to healing of severe diseases. I will talk about possible features and offers of spas later.
But what type of clientele is visiting spas? The majority of people going to a spa are the so called “Baby-Boomers”. With this expression the generation born after World War II is meant, the group aged between 30 and 49 years. As seen in the diagram, they contribute 60 percent of the spa-goers, whilst the people over this age (50-69 years) have only a share of 16 percent. Generation X ( people under 30 years ) increased its numbers 17 percent in 1992 compared with only 13 percent in 1992. Contrary to that the group of people over 50 years had been shrinking from 23 percent in 1992 to only 17 percent in 1997. Spa-goers over 70 years are the smallest group with only 1 percent ( Monteson & Singer, 1998).
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Seen in terms of gender, female visitors are the vast majority with 74 percent compared to males with only 20 percent. Most of the spa guests are married (63 percent), less than one quarter are single (22 percent), a small part is divorced ( 6 percent) and one out of fifty is widowed ( Monteson & Singer, 1998 ).
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(all pictures above: Monteson & Singer, 1998)
Most of the spa guests earn $200,000 plus annually (Monteson, 1997 ) and come from a wealthy background and live stressfully ( Sabene, 2001 ). So spa-going is a female-dominated area for better-earning women, aged between 50 and 69 years. But the travel-booking company Spa Finder, New York, said calls from men have increased nearly 900 percent in the past four years ( MacDonald,2002 ) asking for spa vacations! According to Steve Buck, president of the online company Spa Finder, “men are finding that spending time at a spa is not only relaxing and rejuvenating, but can also be fun and adventurous” ( MacDonald, 2002). These numbers show that more and more men are thinking about or do go to a spa. But with this good news for spas according to Mr. Koser, employee at Datamonitor, one has to keep in mind that the women`s market will always be bigger (MacDonald, 2002). Most guests go to a spa together with either their spouse (38 percent), a family member (15 percent) or a friend (22 percent), while only the minority goes on their own (14 percent) ( Monteson & Singer, 1998 ). On average people stay primarily one day or two to four days ( Monteson & Singer, 1997 ).
So we have seen so far that the market is getting bigger and bigger, and 81 percent of spa-goers want, and expect spa services at the resorts they visit and they will seek out those with spas ( Singer, 2002 ), but what is the purpose of most guests visiting a spa? Like back in the days when the ancient Romans used spas (as mentioned before) as a place mostly to rest and relax, this main function of a spa (as a recreation center) has not changed even today, 65 percent of spa-goers seek it ( Monteson & Singer, 1998 ). Today´s offers have added even more reasons to visit a spa (more about that later). Any activities done during a spa-stay contribute to the well-being and body care of the guests. After a spa-stay 70 percent said they feel relaxed, which is obviously people who prefer rest and relax, but 36 percent said they perceive a spa-stay as a possibility to get in good body shape by training ( Monteson & Singer, 1998 ). So there is a big difference in the purpose of visiting a spa, mostly between women and men. For example, 60 percent of women and only 34 percent of men like being “pampered” ( Monteson & Singer, 1998 ). This might be the result of a different perception of recreation. This comes from the Latin “recreatio” which means “restoration to health”. But since every individual has their own idea of feeling well, there have to be different approaches to fullfil the particular “targets”. So men like more rest and relaxation, training and seeing the result of getting fit, whilst women like pampering more than rest and relaxation. On the other hand, 41 percent of men, compared to 50 percent of women visit spas when they are stressed ( Monteson & Singer, 1998 ).