Contactless check-in, touchless therapies & new menus. How spas have changed since 2020

This year’s ISPA industry study looked at changes spas have made to stay operational and keep customers safe.

ISPA recently released its latest report, the 2021 ISPA SPA INDUSTRY STUDY. This year’s report, for which the ISPA Foundation commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. spa professionals about their experiences during the pandemic and placed a focus on learning how spas have adjusted to the pandemic and the actions they took to mitigate or manage the impact on their business.

The Industry Studies are released annually and divided into two main parts, one looking at key statistics per spa establishment, including revenues, visits, and employment, and the second focusing on operational aspects, including employment and staffing, product offerings, core spa services, retail revenues, and spa administration and policies.

Spa revenue fell by 35%

Both revenues and spa visits fell by more than 35% in the period studied, and the total number of U.S. spa employees fell by just over 20%. The total number of spa locations suffered less, falling by only about four percent, while revenue per spa visit fell just two dollars to $97.50.

“As expected, this year’s study reveals the scope of the challenge spas have faced throughout the pandemic, but it also illustrates the industry’s resourcefulness and innovative spirit,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees. “Spas have worked tirelessly to continue safely serving guests, and recent indications of exceptionally high demand leave us confident in a strong recovery throughout 2021 and beyond.”

Findings highlight the ways spas adapted to safely serve guests

The findings highlight the ways spas adapted as they worked to continue operating and safely serve guests. The most common changes spa made between spring, 2020, and spring, 2021, include implementing social distancing protocols for guests and requiring guests and staff to undergo temperature checks. These are actions almost all spas have taken. On top of that, almost three in four  (73%) closed communal areas and 77% removed shared food and beverage amenities like water dispensers and buffet-style snacks.

More than half of spas implemented contactless check-in and another 56% added touchless treatments and/or treatments and services that don’t require the presence of a therapist.

Some of the changes spas made during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Implementing contactless check-in/checkout (58%)
Developing new spa menus (43%)
Offering outdoor or curbside treatments (40%)
Adding touchless treatments (34%)
Addition or expansion of services that do not require a therapist (22%)

Employees fear contracting COVID from guests

It’s not surprising to learn that the industry continues to struggle with staffing. As of spring, 2021, 53% of spas were actively trying to fill service provider positions and the number of unfilled service provider positions was estimated at 36,550, of which 22,060 were full time and 14,490 part-time. Massage therapist roles represented 56% of unfilled service provider positions and estheticians 25%.

Therapist concerns about close contact with guests due to COVID-19 was the most frequently cited issue around recruitment and retention of massage therapists during 2020, cited by 73% of spas. This was followed by therapists needing emergency time off for childcare (53%) and compensation (44%).

Most spas won’t require proof of vaccination from staff

Asked if they would require proof of vaccination for staff members, as of spring, 2021, one in four spas said they would require proof and 32% said they would not. Forty-two percent were still undecided on the question.

“This year’s edition of the study is critical not only to understanding the pandemic’s effects on the U.S. spa industry but also to measuring its recovery as we move forward,” said PwC Global Research Director Colin McIlheney. “The study’s findings provide a clear picture of a challenging moment in time for the industry, but taken in context, they also suggest that the industry is in a position to recover well throughout 2021 and into 2022.”


Is finding and retaining talent a challenge at your spa? Get insights from industry leaders, including Nigel Franklyn, Lynne McNees, Verena Lasvigne-Fox, and Daisy Tepper when you download our report: What will it take to fix the spa industry’s staffing shortage? .


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at

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