Following the 2008-09 international economic downturn the international spa industry is now starting to grow again. New figures published in a recent report by Reuters show that the bookings for spa holidays by German tourists have increased by seven percent.
The history of the spa dates back to the Bronze Age. Early remains have been discovered in both the Czech Republic and France in close proximity to local hot springs that indicate their use as spas. The town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic still offers spa treatments today and is visited by travellers from all over the developed world.
Initially individuals visited spas in a bid to regain their health and strength, believing that the waters had great curative properties. The Cretan ruins at Knossos also reveal that ancient societies were starting to use the spas for a cleansing ritual as well as for medicinal purposes. Homer first wrote about the idea that a spa could also be seen as a place of relaxation as early as 500BC. The idea of the spa as a place of luxury started with the Romans. Their beautifully decorated bathhouses with sports and social areas helped foster the idea that a spa was more than a venue for purely medicinal purposes. The Romans spread this idea throughout their empire and the modern spa of Baden Baden in Germany was created as a direct result of Roman influence.
The global spa business is hugely valuable and The Director Magazine has recently reported that the value of this industry is £39bn with over £5.2bn being spent on spa services in the UK alone. In February this year, there were 800 spas in the UK with many of them offering health as well as beauty treatments. Mainstream outlets, including Centre Parcs and Bannatyne Leisure have opened up the market to a wider audience and this has helped to promote the industry.
Others prefer to travel overseas for their spa treatments, and increasingly tourists are visiting Turkey and other countries in the Middle East for holidays that are promoted as a ‘luxury break’ The Turkish ‘Hamm am’ is now seen as an important part of any trip to that country. The tradition of luxury spas in Turkey was established with the building of Roxelana in 1556, where clients could enjoy a massage, relaxation and steam rooms.
Japan is another popular spa destination. These spas provided luxury and a place for relaxation and were established in Japan as early as 737 AD when the first hot spring opened. The spas themselves started to cater for a wider public with the building of the first ‘Ryoken’ (inns).
The spa industry both in the UK and globally is a hugely lucrative market, Butlins recently invested £20m in a spa at its Bognor Regis Ocean Hotel and the trend of offering luxury for all is growing.