In the past few decades, hotel spas have gone from little more than a fitness room, sauna and pool to high-end destinations in and of themselves. It goes without saying that spas are a major draw for luxury travelers, but as a relatively new standard feature in top hotels, the industry is still evolving.
Chris Norton, general manager of the Four Seasons George V Paris, said at the recent Four Seasons Spa Forum in London that spas are a $100 million-per-year business for the brand's hotels, and he expects it to reach $300 million soon. The spas are not branded, so that each can reflect its location and show off its own style. The Four Seasons London Park Lane, with its floor-to-ceiling windows on a high floor, has a theme of bringing the outside in, while he describes the spa at the George V as being a “jewelry box.” There is also no corporate head of spas within the brand, but each region has its own senior spa director.
Treatments at the spas, he continued, tend to focus on facials and hair extensions. “Our guests want results more than pampering.” In addition, 22 percent of male guests visit the spas for treatments, which has opened up a new niche of therapies for men.
All things considered, Norton added, a minute spent in a spa could well be the most expensive minute of a guest’s stay at a hotel.
Each Four Seasons spa will generally have three distinct lines of products for the therapists to use and the guests to purchase: One is locally made, one is high-tech (just below prescription, Norton described it), and one is chemical-free. At the Four Seasons London Park Lane, the two chemical-free brands are The Organic Pharmacy and Sodashi. Megan Larsen, who founded Sodashi, said that chemical-free means the absolute absence of synthetic chemical ingredients. “It has to be effective,” she said about spa products. “It’s important to give people a choice. Spa directors are more educated in what chemical-free means.”
Margo Marrone, who founded The Organic Pharmacy, pointed out that with the growing demand for organic food, the need has expanded into the beauty world as well. “Customers want to know the ingredients they’re using,” she said. “Organic is no longer a trend.”
Of course, no one will care whether a product is organic or not if it isn’t effective, Larsen pointed out, and spa directors need to know what ingredients to look for when purchasing products for the spa to use. For example, while lavender is always popular, organic lavender from Australia isn’t good for skin care.
“It can’t not grow,” Larsen said of the organic spa industry. “There is so much more awareness, and educational platforms help.” Norton agreed, predicting that chemical-free products would take a larger share of the market and an overall increase in demand as lives become more stressful overall. He also predicted an increase in men and young people visiting spas. “They will become a place for all people, not just women,” he said.