Discount is not a word that traditionally has been associated with the spa industry. Yet, people looking for relief from the stress brought on by their shrinking portfolios will find that spas nationwide are vying for their business. "I've been in the spa industry 30 years, and I have never seen so many deals, and so many good deals...unprecedented deals," says Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder.com, a website that helps people research and book visits at more than 5,000 day, resort, and destination spas worldwide. Many vacation spas, Ellis says, are lowering room rates, tossing extra services or meals into their overnight packages, allowing a free guest, or slashing the package price of midweek stays, for example.
At least so far, the discounts aren't a sign that the industry on the whole is hurting, says Lynne McNees, president of the International Spa Association, a professional group representing thousands of members. In 2007, there were more than 138 million spa visits, up from about 110 million the year before, and preliminary data from 2008 suggest that while spending per guest is down, people haven't stopped going, McNees says. "This is probably the most stressful time we've had since 9/11, and just like after 9/11, consumers [have] flocked to spas," she says. In fact, stress is being typed into SpaFinder's keyword search three times as often now as during the summer months, and it's the top reason that people visit spas, industry studies have shown. "We are crazy busy—busier than we've ever been before," McNees says of the industry.
One reason, perhaps, is a marketing effort by spas to shed an image of extravagance and indulgence for one of necessity. The new approach, which McNees calls an industrywide sea change, focuses on health, wellness, and de-stressing. About 70 percent of ISPA members offer educational classes, from good nutrition to stress management, she says. "We're a vacation of need," says Tracey Welsh, general manager of Red Mountain Resort and Spa in Utah. (This is not to suggest that pampering is obsolete, of course. There's still the Evian Bath, a $5,000 soak in 1,000 liters of the brand's spring water at Hotel Victor in Miami Beach, Fla., for example.)
If you feel the need for some relief from your financial worries—without adding to them—check out what 12 spas are offering this season.
- Lakeview at Fontana, Bryson City, N.C.
- Red Mountain Resort and Spa, St. George, Utah
- The Oaks at Ojai, Ojai, Calif.
- Sundara Inn and Spa, Wisconsin Dells
- New Age Health Spa, Neversink, N.Y.
- The Hills Health Ranch, British Columbia, Canada
- La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, Santa Fe, N.M.
- The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, Pa.
- Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass.
- The Cliff House Resort and Spa, Ogunquit, Maine
- Mii amo, a destination spa at Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Ariz.
- ESPA at Acqualina Resort , Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.