Bubble economy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2007, 12:00am

Spas, 21st-century style, are a burgeoning global phenomena that have become an integral part of many people's lives. Gone are the days of dingy, cramped treatment rooms, grimy towels in an indeterminate shade of green and ineffective therapists who slap on a face mask and leave you alone for 20 minutes. Today's spa-goers expect slick interiors, excellence in service and only the best qualified therapists.

It's all about the latest advances and the newest trends. With holistic wellness being the new buzzword, spas are taking it up another notch.

All hail the medi-spa

When it comes to beauty, women are looking for one thing only: results. But cramming hi-tech facials, fillers, laser hair removal and breast augmentation into an already overloaded schedule just spells more stress. So what's a modern woman to do? Enter the medi-spa, combining aesthetics, medical procedures, complementary treatments and cutting-edge technologies overseen by a team of physicians, dermatologists, plastic surgeons and beauty therapists.

What this means in layman's terms is that after consulting with your personal medical team, you can have a mani-pedi and a massage, followed by a quick facelift or filler, potentially all in one afternoon. Almost anything goes, from microdermabrasion, glycolic facials, botox and dermal fillers to vein removal, endermologie cellulite reduction, massages, facials, colonic cleansing and much more.

'We used to accept it if we had a mole on our neck and face, crow's feet, the odd scar and wrinkles around the eyes or forehead,' says Hong Kong-based spa consultant Melinda Yon, from 360 Spa Solutions. 'But the question today is: why settle for that when it can be lasered or injected or peeled away?'

There has been an explosion in medi-spas in Asia in recent years, according to Apichai Jearadisak, chairman of the Federation of Thai Spa Associations. He says Thailand is the medical hub of Asia, promoting traditional health-care wisdom with herbal products. Last year almost 1.5 million medical tourists visited the country. Check out the following leading Asian medi-spas: Smed Spa, Thailand (smedspa.com), Bumrungrad International Hospital, Thailand (bumrungrad.com), Raffles Aesthetics Centre, Raffles Hospital, Singapore (raffleshospital.com), The Med Spa - Singapore (plasticandhand.com.sg/medSpa), and Ning Aesthetics, Singapore (ningaesthetics.com.sg).

Living the spa life

Pick up any magazine or newspaper, or switch on the television, and there's an expert advising on how to eat better, look younger, exercise right and live a healthier lifestyle. It's becoming a global obsession, and what better way to drop those extra pounds and overhaul your health regime than escaping for a few days to a peaceful destination spa, where qualified wellness professionals can cater to your every need? Thailand's Chiva Som (chivasom.com) led the way and now holistic wellness retreats are booming worldwide, including Arizona's Canyon Ranch (canyonranch.com), Mexico's Rancho La Puerta (racholapuerta.com), St Lucia's LeSport (thebodyholiday.com), and The Golden Door in California and Australia (goldendoor.com). Each has all-inclusive programmes that provide fitness activities, tailored diet plans, therapeutic spa and body treatments, educational classes and mind/body/spirit offerings to help you jump-start your healthier lifestyle.

Spas in the US have taken this holistic wellness concept to the next level by integrating it into everyday life. Theresa Chew, president of Spa & Wellness Association Singapore, says people are moving into spa lifestyle communities - luxury housing resorts where spas are incorporated into the complex. Yon says the same trend is taking place in Hong Kong, with development companies competing for the ultimate lifestyle facilities: 'Imagine enjoying your organic breakfast, attending a yoga session, walking to the gym, having a steam and sauna, and then dashing in for a quick massage, all without leaving home.'

The male revolution

Five years ago women were complaining that their partners were secretly borrowing their facial moisturisers and hair gels. Today men are unashamedly pouring into spas and driving the creation of dedicated men's facilities (go to the-refinery.com in London and Tokyo, mence.com.hk in Hong Kong, or the men's packages and facilities at the Four Seasons (fourseasons.com/hongkong) or The Landmark Mandarin (mandarinoriental.com/landmark). Move over ladies, the gentlemen are here to stay - and the grooming and skin-care product sector is booming as a result.

Research from Intelligent Spas reports an increase in male spa visitors as the most widespread industry trend in Australia.

Spas on the move

'Spas are going mobile,' says Chew, to meet people's busy lifestyles. This means therapists will increasingly come to your home or even your office. Yon says employee health is becoming just as important to firms as bottom-line results. 'So huge is the concern for employee health and executive burnout that many multinationals are including a wellness element in their corporate culture to help staff focus on wellbeing issues,' says Yon.

How green is my spa?

Spas are at the forefront of the green revolution, say industry experts Chew and Yon, with resorts and hotels placing increasing emphasis on eco-friendly designs and interiors, and using natural and organic product ranges. 'With the skin being the body's largest organ, consumers are starting to realise that using natural products on your skin makes a difference,' says Yon. 'Also, there is certainly a positive psychological advantage in using these products knowing you are putting something nutritious on to your body, and the comfort in knowing the stringent and eco-friendly practices involved in making such products.' Samantha Arnold, spa director at The Four Seasons, agrees that organic is a huge trend, which is why they introduced the Just Pure range of German skin care that follows the phases of the moon.