A just-released overview of the spa industry shows spas are working to adapt to new economic realities. Spas are a major employer of massage therapists, so what happens in spas affects the massage profession.

“We’re seeing the spa industry strategically adapt to the changes brought on by the economy. One thing is certain – spas have remained authentic to the core of their business, which is health and wellness,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees.

Over the past few months the International Spa Association (ISPA) member Snapshot Surveys have shown several hints of optimism, with 81 percent of spa members describing their performance outlook for the end of 2010 as somewhat or very confident.

ISPA spa members have a positive outlook for the year ahead, with 93 percent reporting that they are “somewhat optimistic” to “very optimistic.” As the fourth-largest leisure industry, spas have a revenue of $12.3 billion in the U.S.

ISPA, which released the report on Dec. 29, has identified seven key indicators that have effectively managed the change within the industry.

1. Employment. Reshaping their workforce was one of the primary ways spas managed the recession. Part-time employment has increased; according to the 2010 U.S. Spa Industry Study, one in five spas have had employees shift from full- to part-time hours. Spas work hard to retain quality employees, while 39 percent are reporting an increasing lack of qualified candidates in the industry. ISPA members note that non-compete clauses are a thing of the past as the industry adapts to the changing needs of the workforce. A key to maintaining quality staff will be investments in training and education.

2. Diversity. Spas have increased their appeal to broader audiences. The industry study reveals that 80 percent of spas have introduced special packages targeted at diverse client groups, including men, couples, teens, families, athletes and seniors. More than six in 10 spas introduced discounts and incentives to attract first-time clients, while franchises with membership rates took off in 2010.

3. Environmental Sustainability. Spa continues to reign as a top green industry, with 85 percent of spas indicating they apply environmentally sustainable practices. The industry study revealed that recycling, utilizing sustainable packaging, offering organic products and becoming LEED-certified are just a few ways spas are staying eco-friendly. As environmental sustainability grows in importance to consumers, ISPA members have responded by increasing partnerships with suppliers who practice the same Earth-friendly principles.

4. Value. Spas have reengineered their menus to offer discounts and incentives, without sacrificing quality. National spa chains offer affordable treatments to a large audience, while maintaining top-level service. According to the 2010 U.S. Spa Industry Study, 95 percent of spas have changed their menus to entice spa-goers with new offerings, including 60 percent of spas utilizing a customer-loyalty program, 67 percent offering half-day packages, and 75 percent offering express (30-minute or less) treatments. These treatments offer a less-expensive option that also give spa-goers with busy schedules options to enjoy the spa experience. Another way ISPA members are offering value is by utilizing discounting services such as Groupon, Rue La La and other deal-oriented Web sites.

5. Results oriented. As the economic downturn has caused spas to re-evaluate their businesses, they have focused on providing tangible results, often going back to basics in their menu offerings. In fact, a results-oriented deep-tissue massage is the most offered type of massage, according to the ISPA 2010 Spa Industry Study. A massage is the number-one treatment among spa-goers worldwide. In evaluating the product lines they carry, ISPA members look for packaging, pricing and advertising that align with the spa’s core brand. The authentic purpose and philosophy of spa, which is health and wellness, remains the most important aspect of the spa business.

6. Technology. While technology has not reinvented the spa industry, it has helped spas reinforce their core values by increasing customer service options. Ninety-six percent of ISPA member spas use social media, often to alert customers to last-minute deals or to fill cancellations. The millennials, the next generation of spa-goers, are constantly plugged in and demand that services be easily accessible with a few taps of their fingers.

7. Health and wellness education. Spa has always been about health and wellness, and the industry has helped people understand that spa treatments are a part of living a healthy lifestyle. Increasingly, spas look to educate their clients about the benefits of spa treatments, particularly stress reduction, the number-one reason people go to spas worldwide. Medical spas, while a small segment of the industry, continue to be the fastest growing spa type.

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