Coyle Hospitality Group & WTS International Spa Sentiment Research Report 2009

Coyle Hospitality Group, the hospitality industry’s leading market research and quality assurance firm, has teamed up with WTS International, a world leader in spa management/consulting, to provide the industry with ground-breaking research on spa consumer sentiment.

Over 1,300 active spa-goers were surveyed in September, 2009 about their buying patterns, spending habits, best spa experiences, and other ‘burning questions’ of the spa industry. The goal of this research initiative was to help the industry understand the spa guest better and improve its offerings.


The spa sentiment survey asked respondents 38 questions in five main categories: demographics, spa behavior, retail and gift certificates, emerging trends, and spa opinions and experiences. A qualifier question asked if the respondent was an active spa-goer, and 94% of the respondents went to a spa at least once in the past year. The 6% that have not been to a spa did not continue taking the survey.

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A total of 88% of the respondents were female. The age and household income of the respondents are as follows:

Age of Respondents

Average Household Income

Spa Behavior

The following analysis reveals spa consumer behavior.

1. Respondents were asked how often they typically go to a spa in a year. More than 35% went to spas at least once or twice a year, and more than 5% went more than 10 times a year.

Frequency of Spa Visits per Year

2. How the consumer selects a new spa is an important indication of where to concentrate marketing efforts. Word of mouth referrals received 74% of the votes, followed by destination-driven decisions.

Spa Selection

3. For travelers staying at hotels or resorts, 62% thought it would be somewhat important for the property to have a spa. 15% felt it would be very important, and 23% did not feel it would impact their property-selection.

4. Of the types of spas in the marketplace, respondents were asked how often they frequented each category:

Day spas: A spa offering professionally administered spa services on a day-use basis. Day spas offer many of the same services and procedures as cosmetic spas.
Destination spas: A facility with the primary purpose of guiding individual spa-goers to develop healthy habits. Historically a multiple-day stay with a program that includes spa services, fitness activities, wellness education, and healthful cuisine.
Resort/hotel spas: A spa owned by and located within a resort or hotel providing professionally administered spa services, fitness and wellness components and spa cuisine menu choices.
Club spas: A facility whose primary purpose is fitness and which offers a variety of professionally administered spa services on a day-use basis.
Medical spas: A facility that operates under the supervision of a licensed health care professional whose primary purpose is to provide medical and wellness care in an environment that integrates spa services and traditional/alternative therapies.
Local Membership spas: Spas near home where consumers can subscribe to recurring treatments.

Spa Selection Types Table

5. Respondents were asked where they had their most recent spa experience. The majority stated that it was at a spa or spa located in a hotel near where they lived.

Response Percent

6. The following chart represents the treatments that are typically booked by the respondents. For example, 63% of the respondents said they typically booked pedicures.

Most Booked Treatments

7. Conversely, respondents were asked which treatments they would give up if they had to cut their spa budgets. More than 25% of the respondents said they would give up manicures, body scrubs, or body wraps.

Least Favorite Treatments

8. The following table shows the factors and their influence on spa-goers’ enjoyment of their experiences.

Spa-goers Enjoyment

9. Respondents were asked the importance of specific spa facility offerings.

Important Spa Facilities

10. Similarly, the importance of specific spa attributes are listed below.

Important Spa Attributes

11. Respondents were asked their perception of being educated about spa products and treatments. A total of 84% consider it helpful when the therapist discusses products that are used in a service.

If a spa had ongoing educational seminars regarding lifestyle, nutrition, wellness, skincare, etc., this is how it would affect guest loyalty to the spa:

Spa Guest Loyalty

12. If a spa were to offer series packages for increased benefits of skin care, health, etc., this is the likelihood respondents would purchase them:

Likelihood of Spa Package Purchases

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Retail And Gift Certificates

In the following section, a qualifying question was asked of respondents regarding their retail and gift certificate purchases at the spa. A total of 63% of the respondents said they did purchase products regularly at the spa.

1. For those who do not purchase anything at the spa, this is where they choose to spend their dollars. The ‘Retail-Only’ location refers to places like Bath & Body Works, where it is a standalone retail location that does not have a spa or salon attached:

Spa Retail Competitors

2. For the people who do purchase products at the spa, this is what they buy:

Spa Purchases

3. A total of 80% of all respondents stated that they have purchased gift certificates at the spa in the past. The average amount they spent was $150 USD.

Below is a breakdown of where gift certificates are purchased:

Gift Certificate Purchases

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Spa Trends

The following section shows respondents’ perception of current and emerging spa trends:

1. Respondents were asked which trends they found most appealing and would most likely try. A list of descriptions was provided as follows:

Holistic Spas Treat the individual as a whole – mind, body, and spirit
Green Spas Embrace environmental processes and sustainability
Organic spas Feature eco-friendly facilities, use of organic products in treatments
Family-Friendly Spas Cater to families
Customized Treatments Tailored to fit guest needs and lifestyle – i.e., WiFi massage
Increased Spa Amenities After a hot stone massage, take a plunge in the pool, sit in the sauna, or cool down in an ice room; spas that encourage loitering
Spa While Traveling Cruises, trains, etc.
Spa Memberships Series of treatments or discounts on spa services; instead of paying for treatments a la carte, a spa membership similar to a fitness club is purchased
Self-Service Spa Self-serve approach to spa treatments; apply your own body scrub or use a massage chair
Medical Services Prescribed by medical professional for health benefits
Indigenous Treatments Highlight indigenous plants and the environment in which the spa is located; i.e., seashell body treatment and blueberry body wrap

Interest in Spa Trends

2. Spas today are trying to provide value-adds in addition to the booked services to increase the perceived value of the experience. The following shows that add-ons are the most effective. Respondents were asked to select their top three choices on what would provide the most value to their overall spa experience.

Most Added Value

3. On a related note, these are the methods that would entice respondents to try a new spa:

Trying a New Spa

4. The following shows how the respondents look for spa deals, packages, and offers:

Finding Spa Offers

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Spa Opinions And Experiences

This final section of the report delves deeper into spa guest sentiment and a series of open ended questions were asked. The answers were analyzed and more research from these answers will follow in the weeks to come.

1. Respondents were asked what he most pressing issues were preventing them from going to spas. These five categories came in with the most mentions:

Most Significant Issues

2. As a predictor for spa consumer sentiment moving forward, respondents were asked if they would go to spas more or less in 2010 vs. 2009.

Frequency of Spa Visits in 2010 vs 2009

Similarly, respondents were asked if they would spend more or less at spas in 2010 vs. 2009.

Spa Spending 2010 vs 2009

3. Each of the respondent surveys was read and the answers were gathered. At the end of the study of whether respondents would go to spas more or less in 2010, we grouped each reason into four different categories for both more and less.

Reasons Spa-goers Go to the Spa

Price This category refers to anything from the price of treatments to the current economic conditions.
Personal These are personal reasons and motivators for respondents that may include health, travel, relaxation, trying something new, etc.
People Refers to the people providing the spa experience; the spa staff, operators, therapists, etc.
Product Anything relating to the physical elements of the spa experience, including the spa itself, retail products, etc.

By discovering what were the drivers behind people who would go to spas more or less in 2010, spa operators can better leverage their existing offerings to cater to the mores while addressing the objections to increase frequency from the lesses. Respondents who answered they were uncertain or did not know about their 2010 plans still provided reasons for their indecision. Those reasons were considered motivators and were keyed into the categories where they fit.


In the More category, Personal reasons received 79% of the mentions in why people would go to spas more in 2009. This majority is comprised of five main motivators: 1) going to spas is an integral part of the guest’s lifestyle, 2) needing more ‘me time’, 3) relaxing and getting away from it all, 4) destressing for mental health, and 5) feeling better in general.

Price came in second with 28% of the votes. Surprisingly, 13% of the respondents would go to spas more in 2010 because they redid their budgets in this economy and allocated more funds for the spa. Nine percent of the respondents received pay raises or new jobs, and 5% cited specials and discounts as a key motivator to go to spas more next year. People and Product received a collective 4% of the votes.

At first glance, the large number attached to Personal reasons may seem disheartening to operators: “it doesn’t seem like there is much we can do to affect the guest’s personal reasons.” While this may be true to an extent, spas could capitalize on the personal sentiments and market products aimed to address those needs.

For example, since the idea of ‘me time’ was an important motivator, spas could market their services as ways for guests to spoil themselves or their friends and family. Likewise, operators could introduce affordable ways for consumers to integrate spas into their daily lives, capitalizing on what one-fifths of the respondents collectively agreed to be a key driver of their desire to spa.

Reasons for More Visits to Spas


Not surprisingly, the Price category had the majority of votes, coming in at 90%. We delved deeper and found that while 38% cited the economy as a general reason for going to spas less next year, there was an even split between respondents losing their jobs and those that just wanted to save more money. This is telling us that 20% of the people who said they would go to spas less did not actually lose any income, but the fear of an uncertain future has made them weary of spending more money.

Perhaps the spa is a good way to help calm that fear, and increasing the perceived value of services may help sway this large 20% number back to spending more at spas. This train of thought is further supported by 13% of the respondents believing that spas had actually raised prices and will be more expensive in 2010. Potentially, the two aforementioned groups of people represent 33% of the population that may change their mind depending on spa pricing and perceived value in 2010.

The ‘AIG Effect’ refers to people who would not want to spend on ‘luxury’ goods and services because they feel it is bad form to ‘flaunt’ while others are suffering. Spas could capitalize on this emerging trend by offering treatments and services that are not harmful to the environment or donating part of their profits to charitable organizations.

Reasons for Less Visits to Spas

Next Steps

Over the next few months, we will provide further insight into spa guest sentiment. Stayed tuned for the factors that make the very best spa experiences or break the worst spa experiences.

About Coyle Hospitality Group

Coyle Hospitality Group is a market leader providing mystery shopping and brand quality assurance services exclusively to hotels, restaurants and spas worldwide. Since 1996, Coyle has completed over 30,000 quality evaluations exclusively for hospitality clients. For more information please visit or call (212) 629-2083.

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