It's a competitive industry - particularly in an economic downturn - and spas around the world are under as much pressure as any other business to come up with new and appealing services that customers will be willing to pay for. Here is a rundown of some of the latest trends in treatments to come out of the US, as seen at the International Spa Association's recent annual trend showcase in New York.
Miraval, located in Tucson, Arizona, is offering a unique treatment called Taiz Sensorium that combines aromatherapy, massage and sound. Guests listen to a soundtrack ranging from sounds of nature to composed rhythmic and instrumental music while vibrating wooden balls are applied to shoulders, neck and other pressure points (US$250, Dh918, for 50 minutes). "Someone likened it to being a human tuning fork," said the centre's spokeswoman Maura Duggan. "People who aren't familiar with yoga or meditation, it allows them to quickly and easily reach that meditative state."
The Spa at Trump demonstrated a pulsating light treatment on hands, an LED therapy that is used in facials at Trump Hotel spas ($150 for 30 minutes at Trump Soho). And the mall franchise Massage Envy, with 700 locations in 43 US states, now offers a free iPhone and iPad app so customers can custom-order their own massage in advance according to what hurts. "Back in the day, a massage was something you did to treat yourself," said CG Funk, Massage Envy's vice president for industry relations and product development. "Now it's to manage pain and stress. People are fitting this into their wellness regimen."
Aspira the Spa in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, grows colourful flowers and herbs such as chamomile and lavender for use in a "chakra massage", one of a number of yoga-related treatments offered by the spa ($190, 80 minutes). The spa at the Oneida Nation's Turning Stone resort in upstate Verona, New York, uses "things indigenous to the area like pine, cedar and flowers", and even maple syrup in various treatments, products and massages, said Loretta Taylor, director of spa operations.
Spas are also zeroing in on specific symptoms and causes of stress. Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland, Australia, has a programme "dedicated to sleep", said founder Tony de Leede. "People come for four days to learn how to sleep."
The centre trains people to learn how to relax their minds, providing information about how food, exercise and other factors can hinder good sleep, he said. Rates vary depending on accommodations but the four-day programme starts at about $1,810 per person, double occupancy.
Water has been an essential component of the spa experience since Roman times, but Kohler Waters Spa in Wisconsin and Illinois is updating the tradition with its signature wet treatment rooms. In addition to the Custom Vichy Shower, the centre also offers an Acoustic Room featuring a "VibrAcoustic bath" that aims to invigorate and relax the guest with sound vibrations from underwater music. Kohler's American Club Resort recently introduced the luxury Eau de Vie suite ($1,500 a night) with a deep whirlpool tub offering different hues of coloured light at the touch of a button.
Other spa trends
Retrosexuals Nina Smiley, director of marketing at Mohunk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, says the spa is seeing more men seeking a traditional masculine style that could have been inspired by the television show Mad Men.
Portable treatments Suite Spa, which has branches in Michigan, New York and Washington, offers in-room spa treatments that can be ordered and delivered the same way as room service.
Fusion Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland, has developed Rockupuncture, a fusion of acupuncture and hot stone therapy, to help its guests relax.
Partnerships The Eden Roc Renaissance Hotel in Miami Beach recently partnered with the American edition of Elle magazine to open the Elle Spa. Working from New York, the publication's beauty editors advise on unique boutique brands including Ahava, a brand that uses minerals from the Dead Sea in masks and treatments.