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It’s a magical combination: the vacation, designed to get you away from the daily grind. The spa, designed to rejuvenate your body and your mind. Imagine a cleansing mask, deep tissue massage, or therapeutic facial. Imagine lotions made from flowers, or a good workout. That’s just the start. Relax – body and mind. This is your ideal resource for the spa vacation!
By: Kelly Koster
Leisure travelers take vacations to get away from the stressful demands of the day-to-day grind. Temporarily removing yourself from the familiarity of daily life is all it takes to come back “refreshed.” However, the increase in spa-goers over the past decade hints that travelers are seeking more than just a breath of fresh air on their holidays.
“Today’s health-conscious society is looking at ‘health vacations’ as a vehicle to get a start on getting back on track,” says Hannelore Leavy, executive director of the Day Spa Association based in Union City, New Jersey. “But many go year after year to keep themselves in check.”
Although you might think manicures and pedicures come as packaged accoutrements, spa times have changed — dramatically.
“The word spa is overused in this country,” says Leavy. “Everyone thinks spa is the pampering of beauty, and that is not what it is.”
The International Spa Association (ISPA) describes a destination spa as a facility with the primary purpose of guiding individual spa-goers to develop healthy habits. Historically a seven-day stay, this lifestyle transformation can be accomplished through a comprehensive program that includes spa services, physical fitness activities, wellness education, healthful cuisine, and special interest programming.
“People no longer see spas as pampering, but instead as a requisite to stay healthy,” says Lynne Walker McNees, president of ISPA. “Consumers use their time at the spa as an opportunity to relax and revitalize themselves.”
What’s Behind The Experience?
To aid in revitalization, spas are best known for their popular therapeutic massaging and facials. Other services include scrubs, body wraps, and hydrotherapies. But the latest trends show that spa-goers are demanding more exotic experiences involving cactus flowers, sweat-lodge ceremonies, and even barbecue sauce. This demand in exotic treatments also parallels a revival in the ancient traditional spa ritual of purification via water.
“Guests who share a sensitivity to the future of our environment can also selfishly demand the best in premium grade products. The two objectives are fortunately not exclusive of one another.” — Michael Webster, Principal, Stevenswood Spa Resort
“The increase in the popularity of water treatments is a result of customer demand,” says Walker NcNees. “Consumers are asking for water treatments, features, and experiences — and spas are delivering.”
For example, Stevenswood Spa Resort in Mendocino, California features the Indigo Eco|Spa, which according to Experience Manager, Trace Cooper, is the world’s first eco spa and uses formulas and products which are never tested on animals, have all organic base ingredients obtained only through sustainable resources, and reusable packages or packages using recycled and recyclable containers and soy-based printing inks. Even the linens and towels are made with hemp, or renewable cotton. No synthetics or polyester fabrics are used.
“We believe today’s savvy consumer demands more from the provisioners they choose,” says Indigo’s principal, Michael Webster. “Guests who share a sensitivity to the future of our environment can also selfishly demand the best in premium-grade products, which also happen to be the most natural, pure, and quality products on the market. The two objectives are fortunately not exclusive of one another. Indigo Eco|Spa addresses this marketplace with a core based commitment to eco-sensitive, organically-based components of kind.”
The spa uses botanical and all-natural ingredients, including red earth masks from locally-harvested clays, Pacific sea plants, essential oils from local old growth Redwood extracts, and all-natural lotions. Skin care products include shea butter and eucalyptus elements, custom-made procollagen marine crиmes, and ground local seaweed compounded with lemon and juniper essential extracts.
”Most of our treatments feature our private label line of skin and body care products,” says Cooper. “(They are) locally formulated utilizing only the very finest organic botanicals, raw ingredients, and ecologically sensitive methods.”
This is all to say nothing of the base element of the spa experience: water. Today’s popular water treatments include vichy showers, Watsu pools, cold plunges, and mineral pools. The renewed focus on water stems from a movement to reclaim traditional spa health focus. At the beginning of the 20th century, Asian and European immigrants brought water-based healing to the U.S. through “spa doctors.” In the 1930s the medicinal cleansing ritual was declared to be hogwash by the American Medical Association. After Westernized medicine took control, health and wellness vacationers were mainly directed to Europe. Perhaps as a result of commercialism, the superficial American “beauty spa” was born.
For reasons not completely known, since the 1980s, destination and wellness spas have resurfaced. According to ISPA, in 1999 there were 1,374 spas operating in the U.S. In 2004, that number exploded to an estimated 12,000 spas. Since their rebirth, spas have started to incorporate elements that are indigenous to each locale and support the traditions of native cultures, which bring water back to focus.
At Stevenswood’s Indigo Eco|Spa, natural spring water from the neighboring “Spring Ranch” protected headlands is used in all operations, after being triple filtered with reverse osmosis and then being UV treated for maximum purity.
“For those who are nervous about massage, sensitive to facials, or are simply new to spas, water treatments are an inviting and exciting gateway for engaging in a spa experience,” says Walker NcNees.
Take Me to the Water
If it is the cool serenity of healing waters you seek, there are plenty of destination spas around the world to rejuvenate your health. The Mineral Waters of Saratoga Springs offer soothing hot baths in the crisp northern California air. The Taupo Hot Springs Spa in Lake Taupo, New Zealand provides relaxation in a picturesque setting. For a truly luxurious and exotic experience, Hokkaido, Japan possesses three volcanic mountain groups. As a result, more than 200 hot springs can be found throughout the prefecture. Take note, though, that a Japanese spa, known as an Onsen, often requires communal bathing.
First-timers shouldn’t be intimidated by the range or price in spas. According to Leavy, spa services have become affordable over the past eight to 10 years more due to the increase in income than the fall in prices. Still, the spa experience is made possible by years of professional training in practitioners.
“Spa treatments are very labor intensive and are administered by highly trained therapists,” says Leavy.
Overall, the message from those in the industry reflects one of preparation.
“It’s important for spa-goers to do their homework before going to a spa. Feel free to call the spa director and ask them your questions before you arrive,” says Walker McNees. “It is appropriate to ask if the employees are licensed and also to inquire about recommendations on therapists. It’s also smart to ask about specials the spa may be offering.”
Perhaps with the combination of a faster-paced world and the inherent need people have to occasionally slow down, the renewal of the traditional wellness spa was inevitable. If spa trends remain on the upswing, personal health might make a momentous leap to the forefront of our busy lives.
“It’s about using botanical and all-natural ingredients to pamper, detoxify, and re-energize the body,” says Cooper. “By making certain that anything which comes in contact with the guest is of the utmost purity and made from the highest-quality, synthetic-free, all natural materials, Indigo Eco|Spa affirms our commitment to an ecologically sensitive spa experience.”
“We are experiencing a revival,” says Leavy. “We are well on the road to wellness destinations.”
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