GOCO’s Nicholas Clayton on the future of the hot springs market

Nicholas Clayton

Nicholas Clayton, GOCO hospitality’s president, talks about wellness and the future of hot springs.

“Traveling for a distinct purpose, wellness tourists are proven to spend more money and time on-property, stay longer, return more often, and reduce hotel seasonality. As the global wellness economy surpasses $4.2 trillion, the rising interest in a holistic and preventative approach to health and wellbeing is not going away.”

GOCO Hospitality is a world-leading spa and wellness consulting, development and management company that specializes in wellness communities, wellness resorts, resort spas, urban spas, and lifestyle centers. Headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand, GOCO Hospitality has completed more than 400 projects across 42 countries and five continents. GOCO Hospitality is known globally for its properties and is considered a leader in the wellness hospitality industry.

GOCO’s projects are designed with an in-depth understanding of local practices and cultures, consumer needs, and operational requirements by experts in wellness hospitality development, management, and ownership.

In addition to management and consultancy projects, GOCO owns Glen Ivy Hot Springs, a unique destination in California’s Riverside County with mineral spring pools and lush landscapes, “a hub for happiness and good health.” Once a seasonal home to some of America’s indigenous people, for whom the mineral water sources had spiritual healing powers for body, mind and spirit, Glen Ivy Hot Springs celebrated 163 years of healing waters and extraordinary service in 2023. Glen Ivy serves 200,000 guests annually and features spacious outdoor mineral pools and California’s only therapeutic red clay mineral bath. The spa at Glen Ivy offers an extensive menu of treatments and therapies while the onsite restaurant serves up delicious clean cuisine.

GOCO is also developing a world-class wellness community on 65 acres of adjacent land amidst established orchards and the beautiful Santa Ana Mountains.

Nicholas Clayton is GOCO’s President. A wellness devotee, Clayton oversees Glen Ivy Hot Springs and business developments in the Americas and Europe.

“We have also purchased a 70-villa resort in Koh Samui, Thailand, that we plan to convert into a wellness resort,” he says, “and are hoping to confirm the acquisition of a second resort in Bali.”

Glen Ivy has 60 treatment rooms and can administer 300 treatments on the busiest days. And yes, these days are busier than ever. Asked if he has noticed a change in the hot springs market lately, Clayton says, yes, indeed.

“Our business has remained relatively buoyant, but 2023 was our best sales year to date. We budgeted for higher sales in 2024 and are meeting those objectives.”

“I think hot springs are having a resurgence because everybody wants to feel like they’re doing something about their health.”

To what does he attribute this increased interest? “I think hot springs are having a resurgence because everybody wants to feel like they’re doing something about their health. People with some discretionary income to spend beyond just the basics of life are thinking about wellness and want to participate in this movement, and soaking in mineral baths is highly social and simply fun and easy. We’re bringing some joy to taking better care of yourself and doing so in a way that is social and fun.”

Eighty percent of Glen Ivy’s customers, he says, are women. “And do you know what they’re doing? They’re engaging with their friends, which offers its own therapeutic benefit.

“People are doing a lot of good when they come here to spend time with their friends, talk about their lives, have a spa treatment, take a little sun, and have some laughs in the mineral bath. We have aqua and land-based classes here as well, everything from sound bowls to different styles of yoga. We do full and new moon ceremonies and try to bring a little mysticism into the picture.”

Unlike most hotel spas, Glen Ivy’s customer base is local.

“It’s all local. We’re within an easy drive for 22 million people. We have a unique scenario here where you have that many people in such close proximity. Even when we have the hotel, we will attract more tourists, but I think it will remain mainly domestic.”

Asked if there are challenges specific to thermal bathing spas rather than typical hotel spas, Clayton says instructing customers on proper etiquette is one.

“Maintaining etiquette and proper behavior in bathing areas, ensuring that these standards are met can be challenging but is essential for the overall experience. We aim to balance instructing our customers on the best practices while allowing them personal freedom during their visit.

He also says, “Educating the customer about the benefits and optimization methods. For instance, we offer a regenerative bathing circuit designed as a six or seven-step process for maximizing the benefits of soaking in thermal waters. The sequence, based on our research, offers the most value. However, customers often follow their preferences and deviate from the recommended path. So, we face the challenge of guiding customers effectively while respecting their individual choices.”

Plans for Glen Ivy’s future development loom large and are quite exciting. Among them are the addition of more soaking offerings, additional food and beverage concepts, and more luxurious locker rooms.

“We are planning a new arrival and treatment building and we just finished a million dollar renovation of our esthetician treatment rooms. We are planning to do the same on the massage side.” The hotel, meanwhile, while still “probably five plus years down the road,” is envisioned as a boutique offering with about a hundred rooms.

Do hot springs have a bright future? Again, if you ask Clayton, the answer is yes.

“I think there is a bright future. We’re seeing large thermal bathing spas being developed with technology, heating water that has been mineralized or supplemented, versus having an actual ground source of mineral rich water. People will always be more drawn to natural hot springs, but if people are creating hot springs where there isn’t a natural spring, that tells you that there’s demand worth investment. This underscores that there’s new money coming into this niche market and creating more opportunities for people to enjoy this kind of passive wellness.”

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 book4time.com.

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