Historically the spa experience in the UK has had a number of inhibiting factors. Many viewed it as being a luxury reserved for the wealthy, plenty viewed it as a domain reserved largely for women, and there has been a big culture for thinking that a spa experience is just about superficial pampering. There has also been a big issue when it comes to people with severe illness, particularly cancer, finding that they are turned away from spa experiences due to a lack of appropriate training for therapists.
Behind the scenes there has been a lot of work, from people who are passionate about the real and varied purposes of the spa experience, to change all of that. Spabreaks.com’s own objectives have been to make spas more accessible – more package options, a range of price points and a range of venues to suit different preferences and needs.
Beyond that, there has also been a huge amount of work to improve education and information about health and wellbeing both inside and outside the industry. In the words of Julie Bach, Founder of Wellness for Cancer, spas aren’t about being in perfect health or not being in perfect health “this is about wellness – whatever stage of wellness you might be at.”
The result, galvanised by our increased cultural interest in meaningful and manageable health, means that there are a number of things that have changed in the spa industry, and it’s not about to stop.
“This is about wellness – whatever stage of wellness you might be at”
They are definitely not just for women anymore. Men, women, groups of friends, mums-to-be, mothers and daughters, hen parties, stag dos, women looking for guidance through menopause, people looking for time to focus on themselves, alone… you name it, there’s a spa experience for it.
Of course, that is a part of it, and something that is very much on offer, but it’s not the only thing spas have to offer. Each venue has something different to offer, but that original concept of spa is associated with health and wellbeing rather than just being an indulgence. At its simplest level, that means having time out, away from computers and mobile phones, that’s simply dedicated to doing something enjoyable in a calm space.
Spas are ideal places to spend time alone or with friends and loved ones, but there are also many that have expert knowledge in a variety of different areas from specialist treatments to nutrition advice. Perhaps the most important thing is not to underestimate the power of touch and the connection between physical and mental wellbeing – a massage, a facial – these are all things that can have a profound impact on how we feel.
Sometimes spas are just about having a really luxurious experience, although luxury beauty experiences shouldn’t necessarily be dismissed as not being helpful for wellbeing as well. However, that’s only one small fraction of the spa experience, and there are an increasing number of destinations that offer a much more health oriented service.
In Europe it is a practice that’s been much more historically accepted over the years and we’re really starting to see that influence in the UK. In other parts of the world weekly or monthly maintenance spa treatments are not an unusual concept to help look after long term health and we’re starting to recognise that here too.
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Wellbeing doesn’t discriminate by gender, ability or anything else. This idea that spas are a women’s domain is really linked to the idea that they are all about beauty treatments, and they are so much more than that. This is changing, but it does take time.
There is a lot more conversation about men’s mental health, and (broadly speaking) men are much more open to the idea of spa treatments and taking care of their health and wellbeing. In turn, spas are responding by designing themselves with a more gender neutral environment in mind and offering packages and treatments that are either specifically for men or for both men and women.
Looking after your body, giving yourself some mental breathing space, and even getting some expert guidance if you want it, is for everyone. Around 35% of our spa bookers are men, and while a percentage of those are buying gifts, a large number are purchasing for breaks that they will attend with their partners.
It’s helped that a lot of high profile sportsmen who are typically associated with the ‘alpha’ type are open about the benefits of the spa experience for health, wellbeing and even sports performance – the England rugby team amongst them – we have even had stag dos booked with us!
The topic of illness and cancer in particular is a really tricky one with a number of difference facets. It’s not an easy knot to untangle and the reasons behind the problems lie in good intentions – therapists and spas do not want to risk causing harm. However, the answer is largely in education, understanding and a personal approach, and it is something that many people in the industry have been working tirelessly to change, and it is working.
There are more spa venues that have increased their team training to support treatments for anyone with or recovering from cancer, product houses are also being approached. We ourselves have a collection of Recovery Retreats that have been designed for anyone with or recovering from cancer, so you can be assured you won’t have any barriers to enjoying your spa experience.
You can read more about spas and cancer here on The Hot Tub, and you can contact our team any time as well. This is an area that’s only set to improve over the coming years, and we continue to work tirelessly to that effect.
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