Spas, think your biggest competition is other spas? Survey says you’re wrong

If you want to appeal to the fastest growing global market as a destination wellness spa, you might need to update your offerings to suit their demands.

What are those demands? Food and fitness gurus.

​Well+Good recently conducted a survey with 4,600​ ​of its readers about their​ ​wellness​ ​travel​ ​preferences, the results of which were presented at the recent Global Wellness Summit.

The findings of the Well+Good survey

Sixty-six per cent of respondents said they were planning or would like to go on a wellness retreat in the next 12 months, and  you’ll be happy to learn that a “luxury spa or resort” was chosen as a top dream wellness vacation by 42% of respondents. It was beaten, however, by a “retreat in nature,” chosen by 44%. These were followed by a beach destination (40%), and authentic yoga/wellness retreat, such as in India or Bali (36%).

Among the most interesting findings is that 91% of Well+Good’s millennial readers have never been to a destination spa such as Miraval, Canyon Ranch, or The Ranch at Malibu, and only 53% claim this is a travel goal.

The survey also found that millennials were almost as likely to want to go on a trip with a “favourite fitness instructor” as to visit an established retreat property. The retreat property coming in at 55% and the favourite instructor at 40%. According to a report on, Well+Good co-founder Melisse Gelula called these results “shocking,” and said that they had been expecting it to be 80/20 in favour of the established property. She told Skift spas were “out of the loop” when it comes to giving travellers what they want in a wellness retreat.

Well+Good’s other co-founder Alexia Brue is quoted as saying “The spas don’t even realize that their biggest competition isn’t other spas,” but fitness and lifestyle”gurus” with big social media followings leading their own retreats, for which they can apparently charge up to $1,000 a day.

Destination spas would do well to look closely at that competition and see how they can compete.

Food, glorious food

The “fitness guru” makes another appearance on the list of  top priorities when choosing a retreat, though “high quality food” is by far the top priority. That list is as follows:

  • High-quality food (99%)
  • Cultural offerings (97%)
  • Nature experiences (96%)
  • High-quality fitness offerings (94%)
  • Something innovative they can’t get anywhere else (93%)
  • Fitness guru they know and trust (70%)

Food is no small consideration. It’s not enough to serve organic juice and kale salad. You have to bring your A Game, thanks to the now almost overwhelming smorgasbord of gourmet, healthy/wellness food options available in most urban areas. My Toronto neighbourhood alone has several juice bars, vegan and gluten free bakeries, healthy butchers, a “vegan butcher,” several gourmet cheese shops, a variety of health food stores, and many specialty food shops within walking distance. This alongside high-end restaurants with offerings from all over the globe.

It’s increasingly difficult to impress with original taste experiences people can’t get elsewhere. Buy it can be done. For example, Park Hyatt’s new Miraval spa in St Kitt’s will be offering a “sensory dinner” (or lunch), which is personalized based on your tastes. The chef asks you about your likes and dislikes, then combines these into a four-course meal which you are then fed while blindfolded.

Admittedly, that’s really going the extra mile.

Creating personal brands

Back to fitness gurus, one way to incorporate this into your offerings is to encourage existing instructors to cultivate their own personal brands online and in real life – or to hire those with existing personal brands and social media followings. This doesn’t mean getting sucked into the “influencer” trap, which, as often as not, is smoke and mirrors. It means recognizing a genuine personality who can bring real value.

Other key findings of the survey:

  • 67% chose a long weekend as their preferred wellness travel timeframe
  • 55% go on vacation 2-3 times per year
  • 17% go on 4-5 vacations per year
  • The majority of millennials determine their vacation destinations through travel websites and magazines (43.69%)
  • 63% would spend as much as $500 per day on a wellness retreat
  • Millennials prefer to vacation with a spouse/significant other (60%) or with a friend (43%)

Spa Executive magazine is published by Book4Time, the world’s most innovative spa, salon, wellness, and activity management software. Learn more at

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