Travel affiliates should take note of the melding of seemingly disparate consumer trends like interest in preventative health and wellness, casino gaming, cruises, and train travel with the traditional spa experience.  Although these and other spa related industry trends and findings were presented outside the context of affiliate marketing at the recently concluded Global Spa Summit, if properly leveraged in the marketplace, these can also lead to new sources of profits for travel affiliates.

The attendees gathered at the third annual Global Spa Summit held in Interlaken, Switzerland May 17th – 19th were presented with these as well as a host of other emerging concepts that are causing ripples today but simultaneously shaping the industry’s future.  The audience at this think-tank like conference was comprised of the veritable ‘movers and shakers’ of the spa industry, representing some 32 countries from around the world.   Research reports were presented by such prestigious firms as Ernst & Young, Smith Travel Research, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and École Hôtelière de Lausanne, among others.

Two of the key findings which caused quite a stir among the delegates were the accelerating trend of the global spa consumer’s focus on preventative health and wellness, and how this trend provides the spa industry with an opportunity to forge collaborative business relationships with the health and medical industries.

Commenting on this phenomenon, Susie Ellis, President of SpaFinder, Inc. and a member of the Global Spa Summit’s Board of Directors said, “Rather than the economy causing largely adverse affects, it appears that new economic challenges are sharpening a shift that was well underway – with the industry today thinking far beyond ‘mere luxury’ to new markets, new consumers, and new offerings that now make spa a key player in the health industry, in addition to being part of the travel and luxury markets.”

Similarly, in a live poll of conference delegates regarding the current performance and future directions of their companies and the spa industry as a whole, several eye-popping trends of notable interest to travel affiliate marketers were revealed:

  • The Internet, along with preventative health care, rank as the two forces predicted to have the most influence on spas’ business moving forward, significantly outranking sustainability and an aging population across all regions
  • 48% of delegates reported revenue gains in ’08 over ’07, with 34% having seen no change, and only 18% reporting declines
  • Despite the severe economic downturn in ’09, 39% of spa companies report they actually expect revenue to increase this year; 30% expect it to stay the same; with 31% anticipating declines

Additionally, emerging trends from SpaFinder’s sixth annual forecast of the Top 10 Spa Trends to Watch – 2009 were presented at the conference.  SpaFinder, which in TravelDividends’ opinion offers one of – if not the best – travel affiliate programs in the spa industry, bases its annual trends report on analyses from a large team of experts who visit hundreds of spas each year, interview top analysts and conduct ongoing research in the consumer, travel and spa sectors.

From a travel affiliate marketing perspective, the most relevant – and business opportunity laden – trends in the 2009 Top 10 Spa Trends forecast were:

  • Casinos and Spas: A Good Bet “Placing a high-end spa in a casino hotel was once a long-shot idea, but today casino spas are the most profitable spas in the world. For example, the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino’s Canyon Ranch SpaClub has expanded to become the largest spa in the world with 90 treatment rooms, and Las Vegas’ forthcoming Fontainebleau-slated for fall 2009-will be one of the most expensive spas ever built.And the stakes are rising in Asia: Macao has surpassed Vegas in annual gambling revenue, and the gargantuan Venetian Resort features the impressive V Spa. Singapore, which recently legalized gambling, will see the opening of the Marina Bay Sands in 2009, which will no doubt breathe new life into the award-winning Sentosa Resort & Spa, and there’s also talk of Banyan Tree opening a casino-spa resort.”
  • Trains, Boats and Planes: In-Transit Spa-Going “Being treated to a spa experience while traveling is reaching a whole new level: trains with fully equipped gyms and spas, planes with spa showers and massage treatments in-flight, health and wellness-oriented cruises, and more.What began as a novelty has turned into big business that uniquely targets today’s captive, over-stressed traveler. Southern India’s Golden Chariot train already features an onboard Ayurvedic center with a fully equipped gym and spa.Almost every major airport now boasts a spa; London’s Heathrow Airport alone has four to choose from.

    And cruise ships are broadening their health and wellness options beyond the spa facility itself: Crystal Cruises offers Mind-Body-Spirit cruises and Disney Cruises has joined the trend by offering a ‘Detox for Weight Loss‘ program.”

  • Move Over Baby Boomers: Gen X & Y Are ‘Spaing’ Their Way Up “The core spa clientele is rapidly shifting from baby boomers to Gen X and Gen Y, and it’s more than a simple demographic switch: younger generations are now hitting the spa in record numbers, and they’re shaping the experience to meet their unique desires.To compete, spas will need to rethink everything from design, treatment menus and standards for use of personal communication devices. Some spas are now allowing iPod usage during massages, and are adding party-size treatment rooms and trumpeting philanthropic endeavors and their commitment to sustainability.All spas will learn to embrace technology; including encouraging online bookings through sites or sending mobile alerts when last-minute spa deals become available.

    Cutting-edge experiments can be seen at the new Ciel-Spa at SLS in Beverly Hills with its playful social lounge experience and a myriad of light and technology options, or Zurich’s forthcoming spa at the Dolder Grand featuring chill-out spaces with suspended basket chairs with headphones and quirky features such as a snow paradise room or lounges where people can bury themselves in heated pebbles.”

So it seems to TravelDividends that ‘the stars are aligning’ for travel affiliates to make significant sales in the spa super-travel niche.  An increasing dependence by the spa industry on the Internet for distribution; new customer catchments from among the tens of millions Gen Xers and Yers who are also technological sophisticated and wired to the Internet; burgeoning experiential-based ‘spaing’ travel combinations with other travel affiliate friendly travel suppliers like casinos, trains, airlines and cruise lines; and, unlike most other travel industry segments, an industry segment that has a rather stable financial outlook despite the global recession – all point to a great opportunity for the savvy travel affiliate marketer.

And for those affiliate marketers that have yet to sell travel products, here’s your opportunity to generate incremental revenue for your firm by leveraging your sales prowess in the health related products sector with the growing consumer demand for combined preventative health / wellness and spa travel programs!

TravelDividends is interested in hearing from travel affiliates who have worked in the spa travel niche.  What has been your experience, and what impact and implications do you see these trends having on your business?  We are also interested in hearing from owners or executives at spas that offer travel affiliate programs, managers from affiliate network that number spas among their travel clientele, or anyone else related to the spa industry as to how travel affiliate marketers can best work with them to increase their affiliate channel sales. Drop us an email and let us know your thoughts…as always, your comments are truly appreciated.