The spa business is big business, and it is also growing – probably faster than current statistics can track. Most of it is still local business, i.e. people use a spa in their local neighbourhood as many would use a gym club – to stay fit, lose weight, or simply feel good. Nowhere is this more true than in the USA, where the typical modern `Western` spa was first created.
Yet, according to Spa Finder, a US spa marketing and publishing company, the trend to link health/wellness with tourism is now even evident among Americans. In 2003, international spa treatments – Thai massage, Balinese rituals, Ayurveda, etc – were all the rage. In 2004, says Spa Finder, with a revived economy and stock market, more and more upmarket consumers are expected to go straight to the source – in other words, they will move beyond the Thai massage and indulge in a `spas of Thai-land` tour.
This is good news for the industry generally, but the health/wellness tourism trend has in fact been growing for some time. In the mid-1990s the French Accor group announced that it intended to devote a full 20% of its total investments in the hospitality sector over the following ten years to the development of health resorts. This confidence in the market`s potential on the part of one of the world`s major hotel and tourism groups sounded a clarion note for health tourism`s future prospects. And it only served to con-firm the likely future growth in demand identified by market research.
Growth and diversification of supply
Since then, the renewed popularity of spas has encouraged a boom in construction of new facilities and the upgrading and modernisation of older resorts – primarily, if not exclusively, for tourists rather than day visitors. In Spain, for example, there has been major investment in the renovation and restoration of the old Arab baths developed by the Moors 500 years ago. Hungary has earmarked health tourism as one of its markets with the best growth potential and has also embarked on a massive upgrading of the country`s spas and supporting facilities. Budapest`s Gellert Hotel and Spa is a very popular short-break destination for Europeans.
Two famous spa towns in the Czech Republic, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) and Mari