Spa consultancy and wellness think tank Raison d’Etre recently identified five wellness trends for spas, hotels and lifestyle operators in 2019. One of the key features is the need for an ‘In Real Life’ (IRL) connection. This sparks an interesting conversation, because helping spas come to terms with a ‘real life’ approach has been a long-term process for many within the industry.
The story goes that consumers are taking a more dynamic approach to their own happiness. They’re opting for real-life experiences and connections, so spas need to adapt to accommodate those needs.
There are discussions about the design of the communal spaces at one end of the spectrum and a ‘back to basics’ approach to travel sparked by environmental awareness at the other.
Then there’s the area that has been central to our own raison d’etre for more than a decade. ‘The democratisation of wellness and wellbeing, making it available to everyone, not just those who can afford it.’ Importantly, this is said to include a move towards ‘kindness’ instead of mindfulness within any given spa ethos.
Whatever level you take this at, it is both a wonderful move forward and a slightly frustrating one. On the one hand, one wonders why this is even something that we all need to be reminded of. However, if we put that to one side, it’s also a profoundly exciting move forward.
In particular, it’s exciting for those, including the team at Spabreaks.com, who have worked hard to make the spa industry more accessible. Generally that has meant price points, variety, locations, information, booking options, and the type of marketing used. Specifically that has meant welcoming anyone with a serious health condition such as cancer.
To recap, spas have a checkered background in the way they have dealt with certain health conditions. When it has come to cancer, the barriers in place have been especially damaging. The issue lies in outdated insurance protocols, a lack of training, a lack of understanding, and a lot of fear about the potential for causing harm.
Since 2012 we have worked hard, alongside other industry leaders, to change that. We launched Recovery Retreats – specialised packages for spa days and breaks for anyone with or recovering from cancer. We have worked alongside key figures to help improve training for therapists and understanding in the industry. We have also worked to inform and empower spa goers with as much information as we are able to provide.
Today we are moving towards a space where specialised treatments and packages are not as necessary for people with cancer. This is because increasingly therapists are better able to adapt treatments or make recommendations, as they would in other circumstances. This makes Raison d’Etre’s research timely in a very meaningful way.
In an article that we published recently, Amanda Winwood, a pioneer of spa products and therapist training, wrote that the driver for most therapists is to make a difference to their clients. Essentially, to be kind.
This move towards improved training and understanding enables just that. The result can be profound for those both giving and receiving treatments. While the journey is far from over, that progress is an incentive to keep moving forward. It’s an emotional and significant milestone to have reached.
Of course, cancer is not the only wellness area to present complications to anyone visiting a spa, or indeed in their daily life. Positive stages of life such as pregnancy have also, historically, seen women turned away from treatments. It is thanks to the pioneering work of individuals like Sue Harmsworth, Founder of ESPA, that prenatal treatments and adaptations are commonplace.
What the concept of taking a kindness approach to spas and hospitality really comes down to is that health and wellbeing are extremely personal. Twenty years ago people thought that spas were places for ‘the beautiful people’. They were mostly for women with too much money and too much time on their hands.
Today we know that there’s no such thing as ‘the beautiful people’. They were airbrushed in magazines and corseted onto the silver screen. Now we have different challenges to contend with, but we’re beginning to accept that we all have bodies, and that health is not a static destination. It is fluid and evolving.
For some, our wellness takes the form of chronic conditions. For most of us there will be periods when our stage is altered more obviously than others whether it’s pregnancy, old age or illness. For others there will be times when we are presented with acute and perhaps distressing changes to our personal stage of wellness.
At its core, a spa break is about having time and space to enjoy your wellness, because whatever stage it’s at, it’s about you as an individual. That’s what we have been striving to make possible for more than 10 years, and will continue to strive for.
So this ‘kindness’ approach that research tells us is so important in 2019. Absolutely yes, but this is no trend. It’s human, it’s real, it’s life, it’s ongoing and above everything else, it’s personal.
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