Trillion-dollar trendsetters

Be calmed: the spa at the Four Seasons Langkawi uses local herbs and plants.
Be calmed: the spa at the Four Seasons Langkawi uses local herbs and plants. 

Spa treatments become more innovative and unusual as travellers seek new ways to unwind, writes Rachael Oakes-Ash.

The global spa industry is sitting pretty, with $1.9 trillion up for grabs from cashed-up customers annually. Eighty-eight per cent of spa users say they do so to manage stress and, with life becoming technologically faster, the spa industry is coming up with innovative and unusual ways to lure travellers.

The local and organic trend continues in 2013 as destination spas, day spas and resort spas turn to their own communities to create treatments and products. The Four Seasons Langkawi in Malaysia includes the ancient energies of the area's United Nations-endorsed Geopark in its spa treatment menu. The resort's spa has a dedicated yoga pavilion and uses local herbs and plants for skin treatments.

The Botanique Hotel & Spa in Brazil is surrounded by rainforest. All treatments incorporate native healing and relaxation rituals, while spa products were developed with local geologists and scientists.

In Tibet, "singing bowls" are used to signify the beginning and the end of a meditation. Western spas, such as Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland, Chiva-Som in Thailand and the Hard Rock Hotel spa in Penang, also use sound as a form of treatment therapy. Tibetan bowls, rhythm sticks and didgeridoos are among the instruments used. Karma spa in Bali uses "spa music" dictated by the body, the flow of time and moon phases to create a personalised soundtrack for guests' massages. Customers are given a CD copy of the music to take home.

To keep up with the demand for one-stop mind, body and soul centres, many hotel spas have introduced active movement onto their spa menus. Karma in Bali has stand-up paddleboard yoga while 45 Park Lane in London has the "Exercise Matt at 45 Park Lane" program with five professionally led workouts by trainer Matt Robert, healthy dishes from Wolfgang Puck and de-stress muscle baths from Aromatherapy Associates at The Dorchester Spa.

Precious stones, minerals and metals continue to be integrated into spa treatments in 2013. The W Hotel in Seminyak uses specks of glitter with diamond dust and a 24-carat-gold body wrap in some of its treatments. UMO Salon's gold facial at the Four Seasons in Mauritius claims its face mask, infused with 24-carat gold, will help reduce fine lines on the face and lift and firm skin.

Medi-spas are one of the fastest-growing trends, with doctors, registered nurses and spa therapists offering non-surgical medical treatments to inject, plump and laser skin to turn back time. One spa, Sri Panwa in Phuket, has a unique take on medical spa treatments with "blood-type therapy". Said to strengthen, detoxify and protect skin and the immune system, the treatment uses infused oils and massage techniques designed for each blood group.

Gender-specific treatments are now appearing on spa menus as more men attend them.

Santa Monica's Tikkun Spa has two steam treatments designed for men and women. The V-Steam treatment for females aims to improve uterine health and help regulate monthly cycles. The A-Steam treatment is designed to assist men with fertility and cleansing.

QT Hotel Sydney's new spaQ has a barber for hair cutting and shaving, with guests seated in old-style barber chairs, while the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong offers a gentlemen's club atmosphere at the Mandarin Barber.

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