Technology: friend or foe for spas?
Scientific advancements have significantly improved our lives over the past decades, and in the spa and wellness world, from booking services to products and equipment, new technologies have transformed the spa experience – but are these changes all for the better?
“ Science permits discovery, identification, understanding and… reproducible solutions,” says Ronald Jean, director of international business development at Pevonia International, who will be one of the panel speakers at this year’s Spa Conference on ‘Technology: the Future of Spas’. He points out that technology has an impact on multiple areas, including online marketing, spa and staff performance analytics, skin diagnosis, product development and new equipment that increases absorbency and performance of ingredients.
Andrew Gibson, FRHI Hotels & Resorts’ vice president, spa and wellness, has also observed the same improvements, adding that guests, designers and spa operators all benefit from technological advances. One interesting change he’s seen is the result of online booking: “Online booking does not always increase the number of bookings at the spa. However, we did notice that the average price of treatments was increasing. We suspect this was because online bookers were able to take more time to research the treatments when making their selection.”
For designers and developers, technology is certainly good news according to Gibson, as software and online support offer great help in planning, layouts and construction. Jean concurs by giving the example of “spa design domes and ceilings with dynamic lighting that help recreate experiences in nature”.
“Equipment has progressed far beyond a good massage table and steamer,” he continues, “with fractional light therapies, ultrasound, mesotherapy needling, multipolar radio frequencies and electroporation.” As for water therapy, there are “automated water journey modalities from fine mists to drenching waterfalls combined with aromatherapy and chromotherapy”, and some even incorporate sounds. Gibson also believes thermal bathing will continue to evolve to be a multisensory experience with holograms, moving images and more efficient machines.
When it comes to treatments, technology has allowed for the creation of more sophisticated menus, and Gibson notes that there are more spas using equipment to aid beauty services. Jean agrees, “We have instruments capable of scanning the skin at depths not visible to the human eye and project on a screen in perceptible form.” Indeed, as our knowledge of the skin, its functions and physiology grows, skincare products and treatments can target more specific concerns, such as premature ageing, hyperpigmentation and inflammation. “With manufacturing technologies, delivery systems, new ingredients, enzymes and transcription factors, we develop products that address not only the skin but that part of the skin of concern,” he says.
So it does seem that technological development has been reshaping the spa industry in many positive ways. However, while technology is becoming globally available, spa owners need to keep several factors in mind when choosing the right tech. Jean lists the maturity of the spa market and spa therapist education as factors to consider, whereas Gibson thinks regional differences including cultural expectations and climatic conditions play important roles. In Asia, he says many resorts are able to use technology to “subtly help the guest experience while still appearing very natural in the design and build of the spa; city spas however are in danger of being the same worldwide and their best innovation will come in the form of concepts and thought behind the spa”.
He also warns against an over-reliance on technology and sales pressure to buy machines and drive new treatments. “These beauty treatments may appear lucrative as they command high prices and have the opportunity to sell multiple products. However, over the last 25 years of my experience, massage has remained consistent at over 65 per cent of the business. Although this may change slightly, the power of human touch and the benefits of a good massage are difficult to beat.”
Learn more about how technology is revolutionising the spa industry and join Gibson and Jean in their discussion on technology and the future of spas at the Spa Conference, to be held on November 17 during Cosmoprof Asia 2016. This year’s fair will continue to act as a key platform for international experts in the beauty, spa and wellness industries. Visit the show’s website for registration and more information on the conference’s agenda and speakers. www.cosmoprof-asia.com