Thursday, April 14, 2016

REVIEW | Spa and the Wellness Lifestyle: Focus on the Growth of Spa and Wellness in the Philippine Market


What is it about wellness that drives people the extra miles to achieve it? Nowadays, the idea of going to the gym to have the perfect body; of selecting organic food as opposed to junk food; of undergoing aging reversal surgeries- all these have become all too common that 10 years ago, were not deemed necessary for people. Well times have changed. People's orientation are now geared towards achieving the lifestyle balance. On the one end, you have the stressful work milled around one's neck; and on the other is the constant search for relaxation.

It is in this very reason that the Spas have become pertinent cultural force influencing not only how consumers manage their health, appearance, and stress, but also how consumers socialize, spiritualize, travel and work. Rising levels of income, education and sophistication among travellers and consumers worldwide have dramatically elevated the consciousness and desirability of spa treatments.

Secondly, spas of course, actually help improve health. For example, having a massage results in increased blood circulation, increased flexibility of muscles, detoxification of the body through the lymphatic system, decreased production of the stress hormone cortisol, and the release of endorphins, also known as the happiness hormones.

And then thirdly, there's the socializing aspect of spa going - some facilities even have grouped services, such as spa parties or sparties.

Spa Lifestyle

People go to a spa to relax, rejuvenate, restore, one of the other or for all these reasons. There are massages for those who want to get rid of muscle tightness and aches, and also to get some pampering and relaxation. Others come for the body treatments like scrubs and wraps to get rid of dead skin cells and acquire more nourished skin. For some people, the visit is for relaxing facials. But generally, the trip to the spa is for the purpose of looking good and feeling good.

And this is where the spa lifestyle comes in. It means wellness is more important than just being pampered. The approach is being promoted by destination spas. It was found that escape, relaxation and novelty are the most important travel motives and that pursuing health as a motive is not as important to experienced travelers as they are to less experienced travelers, hence the importance of health as a motive factor diminishes as one gains more travel experience. 

Further, it was found that safety and security is the most important characteristic of a destination that tourists consider when planning to visit countries. Despite the general positive view about spas, there continue to be concerns on perspectives about spas, of course as many still see it as a mainly elitist past time.

Wellness Industry

Spas are already providing wellness, even if they don't recognize it or claim it. The tradition of spa as a place for healing , renewal, relaxation and feeling well positions the spa industry as one of  the most logical sectors to take advantage of the wellness movement. Wellness also provides an opportunity to reshape the image of spa and to position spa as an investment or an essential element in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

As a tourism product, health and wellness are popular contemporary tourism experiences. There is a consensus among thinkers in many disciplines and specialisms that a wellness industry exists. The trend of combining the benefits of a spa visit with a holiday has increased. Awareness regarding the benefits of healthy eating, nutrition, exercise, beauty, relaxation and pampering is increasing and people love to include those elements in their holidays or purposefully travel to achieve wellness. Either it is visiting local spa or traveling overseas, more and more people are opting to take break from their speedy life to pamper themselves, relax, and rejuvenate.

As interest in physical well-being increases, spa therapy continues to be popular among consumers/travelers and has been recommended by many medical specialists.

Market Potential

The market potential of spa development is being captured by global and premium brand spas that have expanded their service menus. At the same time, establishments that offer traditional bathing, healing, herbal and therapeutic treatments derived from centuries old practices also recognized the potential of branding themselves as spas and some are investing in new services, equipment, facilities, as well as modifying their ambiance.

Quite remarkably, the spa industry is growing at a breakneck pace but its diversity and scope have always made it difficult to quantify its size and financial strength, as well as to harness the full power of its collaborative voice. The growth, admittedly tremendous, shouldn't come as a surprise. For one, especially when times are hard, and people want to feel good - if not with the situation, then at least with themselves - and spa facilities can help make this happen.

Potential and Opportunities

There are a number of business opportunities for the spa industry to pursue along the wellness continuum. While some opportunities will require long term effort and investments, others simply require spa owners and investors to make small adjustments to their service offerings and reexamine their marketing approaches and customers with a new, wellness oriented viewpoint.

An increasing number of people are seeking an escape from the stresses of urban living, and a day spa is an accessible sanctuary[A1]  where they can relax and recharge. Spas found outside the city are becoming popular destinations, serving as an oasis[A2]  where travelers can forget their cares and be pampered. Indeed, as this industry grows, consumers are becoming more accustomed to this affordablee luxury, which in turn gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to capitalize on different segments of the market.

The relatively lower prices in the Philippines help make the country competitive[A3] . According to the University of Asia and the Pacific, compared to local rates, visits to spas in Singapore ($81), Malaysia ($51), and Thailand ($48), also adding to its growth potential.


According to the Global Spa Economy Report, done by the Stanford Research Institute and released at the Global Spa Summit in New York in the US at the end of May 2008, the global spa industry is estimated to be worth over $250 billion (approximate worth of $254.8 billion in 2007) - an amount including $60.3 billion in core spa industry revenues (such as capital investments, spa facilities, education and consulting, associations, and events), and $194 billion in global tourism, hospitality, and real estate "enabled" by the spa industry.

The massive wellness industry is fragmented by various global sectors. The highest generatimg sector is beauty and anti-aging ($679.1 million), mind and body fitness ($390.1 million), nutrition and weight loss ($276.5 million) and preventive health ($243 million) are also identified as huge profit-generating sectors of the wellness industry.

In the Philippines as of end 2006, there were an estimated 87 spas operating in Metro Manila alone, a figure 74% higher since 2003; and with those offering spa services varying, as hotels and resorts jumped on the bandwagon, with 20%  spas located in hotels and resorts and 76% of spas stand-alone day spas. This according to Intelligent Spas which released the Spa Industry Profile Philippines 2003-2007 that also noted the growing size of spa facilities (averaging 609 square meters), with an average of 10.9 treatment rooms, making them the largest across the Asia-Pacific region[A4] .

The growth in the Philippines is not just limited to Metro Manila. Cebu City already has 160 spa centers, more than in Metro Manila and up from only 90 in 2006. In the Queen City of the South, Cebu City for example the local health and wellness industry is expected to grow further as more people seek out spa services. More people have realized the benefits of going to a spa, even those in the lower middle income bracket. The trend can be seen even among people who have never been to a spa before. However, even with the growth many small spas will close and those who will survive are those that have captured their own markets[A5] .

A mid-priced spa will cost 5 million for a 220 square meter space with a full water facility. One must have enough capital to run the business for a year. While mass-market and mid-priced spas go for volume to profit, posh spas have greater profit because of their higher margins. To generate more income some spas open their doors to functions and events.

Massages at midrange category spas costing around P500 to P800 already covers the use of wet floors and room. Treatments at luxury spas on the other hand are typically priced at P800 and above depending on the exclusivity and extent of service.

Target Market

The first step to open up a spa business is to identify the target market. Spas can cater to low, mid-range and high-end clientele. A typical mid-priced spa has treatment and shower rooms, and offers complimentary use of steam or sauna facilities. Some outlets even have pools and jacuzzis. The ambiance is serene, with piped-in soft music and simple interiors. The most important element, however, is water because spa s healing through water.

The demographics of spa goers have also changed in the last 20 years. A generational shift in the spa industry has become more apparent; from a traditionally baby boomer industry, the modern spas are now shaped by savvy spa goers who include members from Generation X and Y.

Spas are not exclusive to females. It is reported that while women make up the bulk of spa-goers, men also go to spas for relaxation. This is underpinned by the ISPA's (2007b) study which showed that men accounted for more than 40% of spa goers in Australia, Austria, Germany, Japan, Singapore, Spain and Thailand.

Furthermore, savvy spa-goers are shaping the trends. Spa professionals want to create the best experience possible, so it's a buyers' market for consumers who express their wants and needs. The spa lifestyle is in fashion, though it's also timeless. As a leading leisure industry, spas have the staying power similar to that of cruise lines, skiing and golf.

The changing demographics in the spa industry can be linked to the changing lifestyles of spa-goers. Spa going activity has presumably grown as a result of the busy and fast paced lifestyle of people in many urban areas by becoming a form of preventive care and stress management. In fact, ISPA's (2008b) Global Consumer Study reports that "to relax and reduce stress" has become the core motive of many spa goers. In addition, customized spa experiences which fit one's need have become available in many spas (e.g. Wifi Internet). Indeed, spa going is no longer about luxury but has increasingly become a necessity; it has become more about the notion of health and the spa lifestyle.

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 [A4]Largest in the Asia Pacific Region

 [A5]Capturing own market to survive

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