AS THE NEW YEAR rolls in, along with it comes a plethora of trends and buzzwords, and in the spa world it's no different. Spa Finder, a US resource group that conducts yearly trend predictions within the industry, says changes are afoot for spa-goers. Using spas to socialise, spa fusion and spa detoxing will become more popular, while savvy customers will demand organic products, seek speciality spa retreats and residential spa living. 'As the spa lifestyle is woven more prominently into mainstream culture, several trends are actually becoming expectations for spa-goers,' says International SPA Association president Lynne Walker McNees. 'Spas around the globe are enriching their offerings by establishing wellness programs that integrate physical activities, indigenous products, services for men and even classes on healthy eating and stress relief.' Best of all, Hong Kong customers don't need to travel too far to experience innovative treatments and programmes, as many of Spa Finder's trend predictions have already taken shape here. Catherine Feliciano-Chon, managing director of a lifestyle and wellness marketing consultancy, says this is no coincidence. 'The spa scene in Asia is vibrant, dynamic and in many ways leading relevant worldwide trends,' says Feliciano-Chon. 'Asian influences will continue to define spa trends, whether it's healing concepts or in design. The tables have somewhat turned: the west is looking to the east for cues and inspiration.' In 2007, Spa Finder says, consumers will turn to spas as a place for detox treatment and solutions. However, this concept isn't exactly new. 'Detoxing in spas is central to the very existence of spas,' says Feliciano-Chon. 'Going back to the ancient Roman and Greek times, when 'taking to the waters' meant purification, an intense cleansing ritual and a sort of purging of sins and life's excesses [took place]. More specifically, it's our obsession with detoxing that is new and trendy.' The Chuan Spa at Langham Place Hotel, the Spa at the Four Seasons Hotel, and the Oriental Spa at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental have returned to their roots and offer detoxifying heat and water therapy before or after treatments. 'The bathing ritual features an array of wet facilities to exploit the body's reaction to hot and cold stimuli,' says Chuan Spa manager Barry White. 'The aromatic steam or sauna allows the heat to loosen and soothe tightened, congested muscles.' Elsewhere in 2007, resorts and hotels are predicted to move into the retreat business by offering speciality programmes that appeal to the spa customer. Marie Harrison, director at the Mandarin Oriental Spa, says guests are becoming more interested in yoga and pilates workshops as well as personalised pre- and post-pregnancy programmes. Other Hong Kong hotels are expected to offer wellness programmes this year, and that's good news, says Harrison. 'Bringing the wellness from resorts and retreats to city spas give the guest better choices and awareness for their health,' she says. Spa Finder says that residential spa communities complete with child-friendly facilities will gain popularity. On the mainland, Mission Hills is already well ahead of the game, says Judy Chapman, author and former editor-in-chief of Spa Asia magazine. Whereas the enclosed 'spa community' concept is mainly driven by ageing and retiring baby-boomers in the US, it's a different case on the mainland. Increasing disposable incomes means that many are searching for new status symbols to tell the world they've made it. Living on a 25 sq km property complete with the world's largest golf course and signature spa brand fits the bill nicely. Mission Hills may sound like a villa for the nouveau riche, but its teenage wellness programme also has eager parents vying for a stake, despite the million-dollar price. 'Teaching kids how to better take care of themselves will hopefully help reduce problems that face our younger generation such as obesity and diabetes,' says Chapman. Sense of Touch spa director Anna Orvay says that some Hong Kong spas have also moved towards child-friendly treatments such as gentle massage therapy, which she says calms hyperactive children and improves circulation. And it's not just children who are joining mum for a day at the spa. Spa treatments for couples or groups are also predicted to become more popular. Four Seasons Hotel spa director Samantha Arnold says Hongkongers are already making spa visits a social gathering. 'Sparties [spa parties] are very popular with new mums, bachelorettes, and businesswomen,' she says. As well, the trend of Hong Kong companies offering their staff spa treatments as rewards or incentives is set to be given a boost. Consumers now are smarter and more informed about their choices, and a manicured spa customer is no different. People are factoring in a spa's green commitment when choosing facilities, says Spa Finder. 'Spas of the future will be chemical-free zones where the products used inside the treatment rooms will be sourced organically,' says Chapman. 'Spas are in a powerful position to bring about global changes when it comes to being green and eco-chic.' One trend that may not feature in Hong Kong for some time is the medical spa - hotel and resort spas offering pre- and post-operation care. 'Medical tourism is growing in Asia, but the medical spa movement (in Hong Kong) isn't taking shape at the same speed as it is in the US,' says Feliciano-Chon. Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore market themselves as a medical tourism destinations, with hospitals and integrative medical centres also jumping on the bandwagon, she says. Another prediction - of self-treatment under the guidance of a pre-recorded voice, without staff - has local spa directors cringing. And rightly so, says Paua Spa group director Lee Stephens. 'Touch is a vital part of what makes our industry so special,' says Stephens. 'Take that away and you lose the true meaning of wellbeing.' Other trends that local spa directors agree will emerge in Hong Kong this year include fusion massage, which means blending various massaging techniques into one treatment; simultaneous treatments, be it an all-in-one facial, manicure and pedicure session or head and foot massage and manicure; and express treatments, such as using a lunchtime to re-energise with a much-needed massage. Home spas, such as a girl's night of champagne and spa treatments delivered to your doorstep, are also expected to get more popular, and more spa's will be developing their own signature products.