The desire to be and feel healthy has never been stronger. From shaman-led sharing circles to hyper-personalised programmes based on your DNA, here’s what’s shaping the luxury wellness scene in 2022, says Mark Smith, aka The Spa Man.
2021 was a watershed moment for the wellness industry. Learning valuable lessons during the pandemic, companies realised that there was a new global consciousness in the wellness arena. Guests were coming back to spas in their droves, wellness tourism has returned in some parts of the world, and localised and regional wellness travel (with a sustainable edge) is growing. When guests travelled, their demands were high and their expectations even higher. Here are five key luxury wellness trends that will be driving demand in 2022 and beyond.
1. The return of the bathing ritual
The bathing ritual is set to return in a big way in 2022. The self-care trend that blossomed in 2021 is growing, as bathing becomes an integral part of the wellness scene. The hashtag #bathtime has been shared more than 7.4 million times on Instagram, while Pinterest saw searches for “spiritual cleansing baths” rise by 180 per cent and a 90 per cent increase in searches for “full moon bath rituals”. It’s all about making the typical bath an elevated, self-care experience, using natural ingredients such as Dead Sea salt, essential oils or even seaweed. In the past year, Nàdarra Spa at The Coniston debuted outdoor seaweed baths, AIRE Ancient Baths opened in London’s Covent Garden and Aman Kyoto embraced its Japanese heritage with indoor and outdoor onsen bathing options. With consumer demand increasing, expect to see new product and treatment innovations for use at home and in the spa.
2. The pursuit of optimal health
The old saying “Health is the new wealth” is set to be overtaken by a new mantra in 2022: “The pursuit of optimal health”. This holistic quest, grounded in science and a demand for peak performance, is set to become the new luxury, as wellness becomes increasingly integrated into daily lifestyle, both at home and when people travel. From apps to wellness media (think The Goop Lab, Calm and Headspace), the convergence of wellness in every single aspect of daily life is almost complete. Medical wellness clinics and retreats, always one step ahead of the curve, have enhanced their offering with hyper-personalised programmes that examine DNA (SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain), epigenetic screening (Switzerland’s Clinique La Prairie and Chenot Palace Weggis) and microbiome analysis (The Body Lab, London).
The luxury traveller is increasingly interested in the concept of remaining healthy for as long as possible and living their best life. Spas and medical wellness centres that meet this demand will be highly sought-after in the coming years.
3. Experiences, not services
Coming out of the pandemic, the expected demand for touchless treatments didn’t materialise – in fact, it was quite the opposite: demand for massages soared even higher than before. Massage services already accounted for 70-80 per cent of a spa’s treatment revenue and, in some instances, this increased after lockdown. Spas also reported that clients became more demanding (in their expectations) and more discerning (in what they want).
This shift has also seen clients expecting a range of “experiences” on offer in their spa. They are bored with the pick-and-mix treatment menu and want an authentic immersion in nature while deep-diving into their soul. Increasingly spas are adding the option of booking time with a therapist. A concept first introduced by Mandarin Oriental, this is now gaining traction but relies on an expert, well-trained team of therapists and specialists who can adapt their offering to what the guest needs there and then.
4. The shaman will see you now
Following on from the trend for experiences over services, spa-goers are showing renewed interest in all things spiritual. Moving away from Ayurveda, attention is turning to Central and North America for inspiration.
Spas that know their stuff have a local shaman on speed dial. One spa director recently told me that whenever there is a spiritual journey or something that mentions shaman or shamanic ritual on the treatment menu, bookings skyrocket. And while it’s true that shamanism has been offered in spas for a few years now, it tended to be on the fringes, rarely making the crossover into the luxury wellness space. This will change in the coming year. Expect to see more cacao rituals, aura cleansing, soul work, sacred circles, sweat lodges and rite-of-passage ceremonies.
Already widely used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, adaptogens have started to replace CBD in the luxury wellness arena. In essence, adaptogens are a group of plants – think herbs, roots and mushrooms – that are said to help your body adapt to stress and other ailments, for example by modulating the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands. They can have a preventative and remedial effect on the body, helping it to adapt, adjust and recalibrate itself depending on the emotional and physical surroundings. There has also been renewed interest in the role of adaptogenic plants in treating menopause symptoms (especially the herb ashwagandha). From a luxury wellness perspective, expect to see tinctures, smoothies, nutritional supplements and even spa treatments incorporating these ingredients as people seek to find their own pathway to wellness through plants.
Mark Smith is the founder of The Spa Man and a contributing editor at European Spa Magazine.