Spa tourism is big business in Asia Pacific

Thanks to a global health and wellness boom, tourists visiting Asia for exotic holidays – whether for relaxation, wellness or even spiritual healing – are spoilt for choice.

Thailand is currently the world’s most popular spa destination with nearly 4 million international visitors arriving for spa holidays in 2009. China and Indonesia are Asia’s other key spa tourism markets, with 3.3 million and 2.5 million international spa tourism arrivals respectively in 2009.

Spas also feature heavily in attracting visitors to other markets across the region. Hong Kong and Singapore are popular urban hotel spa hubs for business travelers, whilst Japan and Taiwan’s natural hot springs attract travelers seeking a natural spa experience. The Ananda Spa in Rishikesh, India, enjoys huge demand as a spa tourist destination, incorporating yoga and ayurvedic massages in its treatments.

Vietnam and Cambodia have a fast-developing spa industry, and explosive growth is forecast, particularly in Vietnam, as hotel and resort spas are completed at multiple beach destinations such as Nha Trang and Hue. The Sheraton Nha Trang Hotel and Spa, which opened in March 2010, looks set to be an example of the many premium spas resorts which will expect to draw overseas visitors.

Asia’s spa tourism has differentiated itself from other regions in several ways. Traditional remedies such as shiatsu, ayurvedic treatments, Thai massage, yoga and traditional Chinese medicine, all originate from this region, already making these markets likely destinations for such treatments.

Furthermore, places such as Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui and Hua Hin, have leveraged on their beautiful beaches to create a winning combination of a spa service at a beach destination, which has appealed to Westerners seeking a beach getaway together with pampering and relaxation.

It also helps that some resorts in Thailand and Indonesia have benefited from international publicity. Luxury resort, Chiva Som in Hua Hin, Thailand gained appeal amongst UK travelers after high profile celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and David and Victoria Beckham were spotted at the resort.

Hotel/resort spa development in Asia is expected to continue aggressively. Brands such as Banyan Tree, Six Senses and Anantara are already known globally for their high quality spas and superior service, and will continue to be offering up premium spa services, as will international hotel players, such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Accor and IHG.

The rising number of players in the spa market will create stiffer competition. Their growth may hinge on the sustainability of a positive economic climate globally. Nevertheless, the health and wellness trends fared well in the global economic downturn, with consumers still demanding relaxing spa services despite cutting back on their discretionary spending.

This points towards strong and sustainable demand for spa tourism in the future, and ample opportunities for Asia Pacific to continue developing as a leading spa destination.