Photo used under Creative Commons from ** RCB **
There's been much talk about wellness and wellness travel as a lifeline to many businesses, especially spas that had a rough go of it when the economy took a nose dive. Pampering and indulgence are no longer "in" and healthy lifestyles, life balance and inner reflection are of high value today. The big multimillion dollar companies that shape the spa industry have the ability to either help or hurt themselves -- as well as put the entire wellness industry at risk.
A big problem I've observed lately stems from inconsistent messaging. In the last year a global spa marketing company and their non-profit assembled a "round table" discussion intended to give valuable recommendations to wellness tourism stakeholders. The group suggested wellness tourism businesses should abstain from using wellness in marketing to consumers. This is a mega opportunity to promote wellness, not hide it or malign it, or treat it as if it is an unpopular word that should be stricken from marketing vocabulary. This seems especially odd, since the same company recently rebranded themselves and their multiple entities with wellness, wellness, wellness.
Adding to the confusion, a spa marketing website recently promoted "wellness deals" including $15 haircuts, discounts on hair color and Brazilian waxes. These are spa services.
Awhile back, I attended a spa event where a speaker stated enthusiastically, "Spas = wellness and wellness = spas." These terms are not synonymous and are not interchangeable. Spas hold a very valuable role in wellness. While a large number of spas have made significant changes in staffing, service mix, equipment, space allocation and marketing to incorporate wellness, I hope the rich history of spas will be honored, fully leveraged and not forgotten.
Last year spa stakeholders were asked at a conference if spas have lost relevancy and if the word should be changed. Maybe the thought was to claim wellness. Who knows.
If you are a spa, tourism, hospitality, healthcare or wellness professional, you have the ability to move wellness forward by using the word "wellness" responsibly and protect it's integrity. If wellness and wellness travel is to be taken seriously, the concept has to be clearly understood. It's more than semantics. A lot is at stake including population health and the economy.
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