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Spas Seek to Move Beyond Pampering

With growth slowing, the spa industry is shifting focus from pampering the elite to health and wellness for all.

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — With growth slowing, the spa industry is shifting focus from pampering the elite to health and wellness for all.

To keep loyal devotees, spas are moving beyond basic treatments to more personalized experiences that treat the whole person. Using music, biofeedback, meditation and yoga, spas are not only touting stress relief, but nutrition, fitness and how to get a better night's sleep.

By stressing healthy lifestyles, the industry hopes to demystify the spa for the estimated 75 percent of Americans who've never visited one.

"Spa is no longer just about lotions and potions," said Jim Root, chairman of the International Spa Association. "Spa is not a place, but a lifestyle of wellness, aliveness and happiness."

The inclusive tone was reflected in products, services, education and speakers at the International Spa Association's conference, held Nov. 12 to 15 at the Gaylord Palms here, where the event drew more than 130,000 attendees to view an eclectic mix of products from 280 exhibitors. Over 40 educational and networking events included keynote speeches by writer Maya Angelou, who closed the event.

"The show has gone beyond skin care and equipment exhibitors to include the softer side, with music, clothing and candles," said Root. Though high-tech equipment is still a part of the show, "it's now more about high-touch," Root said. ISPA, based in Lexington, Ky., is expanding internationally, with 3,000 members in 76 countries.

In the U.S., the spa industry's rapid growth of the past decade has slowed, according to the Spa Industry Study presented during the conference. Total revenues of $9.4 billion in 2006 declined from $9.7 billion in 2005. The number of U.S. spas, 14,600, is still rising, but at a slower pace, with medical, resort and destination spas outpacing the growth in day spas.

Industrywide, profits increased, more attributable to price increases than consumer demand, which has changed little since doubling from 1999 to 2001.

"We have to eliminate barriers of price and time constraints to be accessible to everybody, and change the perception from pampering to staying healthy," said Lynne McNees, president of ISPA. She urged spa owners to consider niche markets, including men, who make up 31 percent of U.S. spagoers, as well as teens, who still offer opportunity.
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