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Archive for October, 2011

Spas Still a New Phenomenon In Some Regions

by Lisa M. Starr, Community Ambassador, GramercyOne

While the U.S. spa business has faced many challenges recently, it is still looked upon as the model to aspire to in other parts of the world, which I was reminded of on recent visits to spas and conferences in South Africa, Brazil and China.  Seeing current practices in these countries reminded me of how hard we have worked in the last 15-20 years to create viable spa businesses.

All three countries have active spa markets, albeit in various stages of their growth cycle, and brought back memories of the good old days in the U.S.   It’s not that these markets have not been affected by the economic crisis, but the number of spas per capita and expectations of the client base have not yet reached the levels we were seeing stateside.

South Africa has the most sophisticated spa market of the three; with a vibrant spa association with almost 300 members, and the country is well represented in both the day and hotel/resort spa categories, with the addition of the safari spa option.  Many spas offer advanced skincare, global spa brands, wellness options, and massage and body services; very few are attached to salons.  Day spas here are beginning to offer medical services such as IPL, Laser Hair Reduction, slimming body treatments and microdermabrasion, but very few are providing injectables or services performed by a medical professional.  Having once been the province of the British Empire, South Africa has a well-defined legal and licensing system which is observed by the citizens.

The personal care market in Brazil is broken into several different areas; salons, skin care clinics (approx. 4000), and spas (approx. 1000), and the day/resort/destination categories are all represented.  Beautifully appointed resort spas are mostly located in and about Rio de Janeiro and other cities near the ocean, while day spas are found in all major cities.  Many of the spas have been opened by entrepreneurs from other industries, who may have little understanding about how to create a profitable spa venture, and they are beginning to realize there is more to the story than just building a good-looking facility.  There are a few active spa franchising operators, who are taking great pains to create viable brands.  A large university in Sao Paulo has just created a wonderful spa facility to train therapists, who receive a four year bachelor’s degree which includes study in areas such as nutrition and psychology, but there is no licensing regulation and few therapists throughout the country are actually licensed.  Brazil has a developing medical tourism business, with 25 JCI accredited hospitals, and is especially known for plastic surgery, currently performing the second-largest number of procedures annually, after the United States.

The spa market in China is, like everything else in China, growing very quickly.  Chinese spa operators are quick to recognize their shortcomings and are working hard to bring their spas up to international standards.  The number of viable spa businesses is difficult to define; there are at least three national spa associations, one of which is endorsed by the government, but there are many small spas that do not belong to any of the associations.  One of the panel presentations at the Spa China Summit discussed having the government mandate the definition of “spa” so as not to confuse consumers, something we still face here stateside.  The large hotel and hospitality groups are opening mega-spas in the large cities, especially in the east such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, but day spas are proliferating elsewhere.  There is currently no recognized licensing for beauty therapy, and very few formal beauty schools.  Few, if any, spas are performing aesthetic medical services, although some do offer TCM treatments.  China is currently listed as performing the second-highest number of plastic surgery procedures in the world, although on a per capita basis it still ranks far below both the U.S. and Brazil.    

It is worth noting that all three of these countries pay their therapy staff a monthly salary, which is standard in most of the world, with the exception of the U.S.  In some cases the salary is augmented by a small commission on service sales; retail commission is often low or non-existent (making retail sales non-existent as well!).  Monthly salary/draw is variable, but ranges from the equivalent of US$350 (China) to $750 (South Africa) and $1100 (Brazil).

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Join Us at ISPA

We hope to see you at  the 2011 ISPA Conference & Expo November 7-9 at the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.  Stop by booth 225 to meet Susie and Pete Ellis, president and CEO SpaFinder, as well as SpaFinder’s senior editor, chief marketing officer and your account manager at the largest event for spa professionals. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about SpaFinder’s Wellness Week™ 2012, SpaRahRah™, editorial opportunities, our new partnership with MINDBODY and other exciting initiatives.  Plus, we will be honoring winners of the prestigious 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards from 10:30am until 2:30pm on Monday, November 7 and from 1:30 – 5:30pm on Tuesday, November 8.  Academy Award nominee and wellness advocate Mariel Hemingway, our national spokesperson for Wellness Week™ 2012, will be presenting awards to our Readers Choice winners!

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In Demand: Complimentary & Alternative Medical Services

It appears that more people than ever want complementary and alternative medical services, including services like reiki…and even hospitals are listening.

In fact, according to a recent article from the American Medical Association, the number of hospitals offering complementary and alternative medical services has tripled since 2000, with 42 percent of the 714 hospitals surveyed stating that they provide unconventional therapies. Hospital executives listed patient demand as the top criterion in choosing which therapies to offer, according to a report released in September by the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum and the Samueli Institute, a think tank that supports alternative medicine. In 2000, just 14% of hospitals told AHA researchers that they provided complementary therapies.

“They are responding to the needs of their patients and the communities they are serving, while trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace,” said Sita Ananth, a Samueli Institute researcher who wrote the report, in the AMA article. “These hospitals are really trying to see how they can address the needs of the person as a whole — mind, body and spirit.”

Nearly two-thirds of hospitals offering alternative services provide massages on an outpatient basis, and half offer pet therapy in the hospital. About 40 percent of these hospitals offer acupuncture or music and art therapies, and one in five alternative-friendly hospitals provides reiki,  said the report, based on a survey conducted in March 2010.

About 70% of executives at hospitals providing unconventional therapies said they are doing so because they are clinically effective. This is in line with SpaFinder’s 2011 Trend Report, which highlights evidence-based medicine as a driver in the spa industry.

While there are plenty of spas that have been offering alternative therapies for a while now, perhaps medical and wellness spas that don’t may benefit by including a few alternative and complementary therapies in conjunction with its medical spa services, as Ananth said that the alternative therapies are intended to supplement conventional medical interventions.

“Many of these services are low-risk,” she said in the published article. “Patients are looking for the best of what both conventional and complementary therapies can offer, and hospitals are responding by offering these choices.”

Medical spas: Do you offer alternative therapies and how responsive are your clients? To help you in your research in implementing new therapies to your treatment menu, check out Spa Evidence. It’s the world’s first portal designed to help people explore the medical evidence that exists for spa and wellness therapies. The site covers 22 modalities, from acupressure to yoga, and has aggregated all of the evidence-based research from four respected databases. The best part about it is it’s free!  The portal also has logos and banners available for download that you can add directly to your website; and, for those looking to customize, there is a “white label” option (cost associated) by SelfOptima, the portal’s developer.

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Surefire Tips to Increase Holiday Bookings

’Tis the season for some feel-good spa deals! As the holidays begin to approach, consumers are keen on finding the very best values around, whether it’s a vacation package for the family, a spa getaway special for couples, or a destination spa special to give as a holiday gift. So if you’re not taking advantage of our Spa Deal section – a FREE component of your overview listing – we strongly encourage you to do so.

A Spa Deal is a special savings or discount offered to SpaFinder consumers, which should include accommodations and spa treatment(s). In order to increase your bookings through, we cannot stress enough the importance of having a Spa Deal complement your SpaFinder overview listing. We’ve seen that when a property has a Spa Deal posted, the clicks to the property’s website, booking requests and phone calls can double! Plus, your Spa Deal or promotion has the chance to be featured in an upcoming holiday-esque story in the Club Spa e-newsletter (circulation: 350,000) or on the Club Spa blog.

Here are a few sure-proof ways to get your holiday Spa Deal noticed on

1) Include a discount or savings in the headline

2) Give your promotion a snazzy, appealing name

3) List all components of your spa deal in an easy-to-read format

3) Simply submit your spa deal – it’s quick, painless and is designed to boost your bookings through!

  • To post a Getaway Spa Deal (which requires accommodations and spa components), fill in the form here.
  • You can also post a Group Special for parties of four or more (must include accommodations and spa components) here.

So keep those Spa Deals coming! And if you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact our Travel Editor at

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Last-Minute Breast Cancer Awareness Month Marketing

Though the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is approaching, there’s still time to integrate the cause with your spa and offerings to ultimately bring in more clients. And since creating new treatments or offering special pink products in honor of the campaign may take some planning, try these quick and easy ways to get involved in the cause, promote your spa and best of all, get your clients engaged and feeling good about their loyalty to your spa.

Just Say It

Pick a foundation you’d like to donate to and let your clients know that your spa is involved in the cause. Simply advertise on your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or send out a special email telling clients to mention Breast Cancer Awareness Month when booking and that for those appointments, you will be donating a percentage to your organization or foundation of choice. You can even offer a discount to the client for added value, which is what Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa at The Plaza in New York City is doing. In addition to 10% of the cost of the treatment will being donated to Breast Cancer Charities of America, clients also receive a 10% discount during the month of October.

Gain More Followers

Run a social media promotion/fundraiser for the remainder of the month. Get more Facebook likes or Twitter followers by asking clients to like you or follow you and for every new like or new follower, donate a certain amount to a foundation. Send this out in an email to your database. You can donate any amount you feel comfortable with, whether it be 10 cents for every new like or follower, or $2. It’s a win-win!

Host a Breast Cancer Awareness Spa Day

Host a Breast Cancer Awareness Day, where guests can enjoy a sampling of mini services. Donate a portion of the proceeds to the foundation of your choice. You can put together a mini treatment menu, or feature other services pertinent to your spa, whether it be wellness and healthy living activities, or medical spa services. Get inspired and pick a nonprofit that speaks to your spa.

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