In good news for massage therapists employed at spas, spa travel was up in 2010 and 2011 from previous years, according to a new survey. The survey also indicates that wellness and health is the top reason people travel to spas.

According to SpaFinder‘s fifth annual State of Spa Travel survey released today, travel agents report that travel to hotel, resort and destination spas rebounded in 2010, and that spa travel is registering significantly bigger gains in 2011.

For the first time in the survey’s history, agents ranked “increased client interest in spa travel specifically for wellness and health” as the number-one emerging trend, with “social spa-ing” (group travel to spas) rated as the second biggest trend, and people traveling solo ranking third.

Despite the gradual economic and travel market recovery, 55 percent of agents reported that “stay” spas have been more aggressive with deals in 2011 compared to 2010, while another 37 percent report the deals are holding firm.

“Spas’ ongoing, greatly expanded focus on health, wellness and prevention, rather than mere pampering, combined with their ongoing attractive pricing, have been the two keys to this travel category’s resiliency over these last tough years,” noted Susie Ellis, president, SpaFinder, Inc., in a press release.

“And the number-one trend in 2011, what is called ‘wellness tourism,’ shows that a new vacation concept is gaining traction,” Ellis continued. “People are stressed and burned out, and they increasingly want to use their precious vacations to jumpstart healthy lifestyle changes, so they can return from trips feeling revitalized, rather than worse than when they left.”

The survey was conducted in August 2011 with global travel agents. It’s designed to provide annual insight into unfolding developments in the spa travel sector, including the overall health of the market, current pricing and consumer trends, traveler demographics and popular locations/amenities.

• 79 percent of agents report clients are more interested in spa vacations with a strong health/wellness component in 2011 over 2010, while another 18 percent report the trend remains just as strong. This is up significantly from the 52 percent of agents that reported that health/wellness-focused spa travel was on the rise in 2009.

• Rounding out the top 5 trends: 2) “social spa-ing,” or friends/groups hitting spas together; 3) people traveling solo to spa destinations; 4) spa travel for younger people (under 40); and 5) increased interest in international spa destinations.

To learn more about the survey findings and SpaFinder, visit