Healthy hotels, rise in ancient therapies expected in 2013

UNITED STATES - Healthy hotels, wellness tourism and the holistic medicine system Ayurveda are expected to be the among the top spa trends in 2013, according to a report that tracks the US$73 billion (S$89 billion) global industry.

Gyms, pools and spas are standard at many hotels, but international chains and boutique inns will be enhancing offerings by adding customised services like jogging routes, in-room workouts, sleep programs, and gluten-free and vegan menus.

"Hotels are realizing that as people travel they want to stay healthy," Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder Wellness Inc, which compiles the annual forecast report, told journalists.

The InterContinental Hotels Group plans to open a wellness-focused brand hotel called EVEN in New York next year, with 100 more to follow within five years.

"It will be all about health and wellness," Ellis said of the brand, which will revolve around fitness and include innovative touches such as coat racks that morph into pull-up bars.

Other US hotel chains such as Westin are featuring guided jogs with running concierges and menus stocked with superfoods, according to the report, while Las Vegas' MGM Grand has designed "Stay Well" rooms with vitamin C-infused showers, wake-up light therapy and air purification and aromatherapy.

Jeremy McCarthy, the director of spa operations for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, said all of his hotels provide jogging routes and are starting to lend running gear to guests.

The SpaFinder Wellness report, which was compiled by about 100 researchers who tracked trends, shows how the industry, which includes as many as 87,000 spas around the world, has shifted from beauty and pampering to health and wellness.

Along with healthy hotels, it predicts an increased demand for authentic Ayurveda, the 3,500 year-old Indian holistic system of medicine, and other ancient treatments.

"Look for more authentic Roman and Turkish baths, Russian banyas (steam rooms), traditional Chinese medicine and Nordic offerings," it said.

Traveling Abroad

Ellis predicted a surge of people travelling abroad to stay healthy. The report cited India, which has seen a 22 per cent annual growth in wellness tourism, as a prime example.

"Travelling for prevention and improving health is going to be huge," she said.

More men have been going to spas for several years, and that is expected to continue in 2013. In addition to massages, more men are seeking a manicure and pedicure, facials, fillers and so-called "Brotox."

The trend is fuelled by aging baby boomers wanting to hold on to their looks and younger men who are comfortable with the concept of male beauty.

"It's not just more culturally acceptable for men to spend on looking good, it's becoming perceived as a necessity," the report said.

In the United States, research by global company Mintel shows men represent about one in 10 cosmetic-procedure patients, while the number of males seeking cosmetic surgery in Germany has more than doubled in the past five years.

"Even territory once heavily reserved for women, like bikini waxing, is now being invaded by males ..." the report said.