November 27, 2018

Spas and Technology

The origin of the word ‘spa’ is not completely known. It could refer to the Belgian town of Spa, known since Roman times for its public baths; to the Latin word “spagere” (to scatter, sprinkle, moisten); or be an acronym for the Latin phrase “sanitas per aquas” (health through water).

Whatever its origin, what is known is that people around the world have believed in the curative power of thermal waters for thousands of years - from the baths of ancient Greece & Rome, to the “Ryokan” of Japan, to Turkish Hammams and the saunas of Finland.

From medical, to luxury, to wellness

While in the early history of spas, visitors attended for their perceived medical benefits, in the 1980’s to early 2000’s the majority of spas were luxury establishments offering services to simply make customers feel great. Spa days were regarded as a treat for primarily wealthy women who visited spas in groups to celebrate birthdays, hen dos, and other special occasions.

Today, the leading spas focus instead on intrinsic health - the goal now is wellness. Millennials are leading this trend, and also changing the gender landscape with men making up 47% of millennial spa goers. According to the International Spa Association (ISPA), the number one reason people now go to a spa is to relax and relieve or reduce stress.

Given the changing face of spas, it can be useful to refer to the 10 domains of spa as outlined by ISPA:

  1. "The Waters"
  2. Food, Nourishment, Diet and Nutrition
  3. Movement, Exercise and Fitness
  4. Touch, Massage, and Bodywork
  5. Mind/Body/Spirit
  6. Aesthetics, Skin care, Natural beauty agents
  7. Physical Space, Climatology, Global Ecology
  8. Social/Cultural Arts and Values, Spa Culture
  9. Management, Marketing, and Operations
  10. Time, Rhythm, and Cycles

These domains indicate the breadth of offerings spas now provide to their customers, compared to earlier periods. While incorporating important elements of their past - “The Waters”, Aesthetics & Skin care - there is a clear focus on wellness with food, exercise and mind/body/spirit.


Technology

With technology permeating every aspect of our lives, the spa industry has been no exception in using it to enhance its offerings. Examples include:

  • “The Waters” : Sensory deprivation tanks, microbubble technology, specialised water jets for hydromassage, and hot tub sensors that enable remote temperature, chemical and lighting control.
  • Movement, Exercise and Fitness : Bod Pods and whole-body cryotherapy.
  • Touch, Massage, and Bodywork: Radio wave and TENS/EM devices that assist in reducing pain, electric massage chairs.
  • Mind/body/spirit: Virtual reality relaxation, meditation pods, EEG meditation headbands.
  • Aesthetics, Skin care, Natural beauty agents: Laser skin/hair/vein treatments, infrared & LED light based skin therapy, microcurrent therapy, transdermal skin analysis, hydradermabrasion devices such as HydraFacial.
  • Physical Space, Climatology, Global Ecology: Infrared saunas, digital screens that allow guests to control water temperature and mood lighting.
  • Management, Marketing & Operations: Most spas use a spa management system, online reservations & bookings, have a website and social media presence, use digital wellness forms to collect client information, and some even use apps for mobile check-in and to provide better customer service.

From their ancient origins of thermal bathing, spas have come a long way. While manual-therapy treatments still comprise a large part of existing treatments and offerings, there is no denying the increasing place of technology.

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