Spas in the region are struggling to cater to the demands of savvy spa-goers in the UAE, according to a panel of experts speaking at the first Hotelier Middle East Spa & Wellness Forum held in Dubai on March 18.

Spa managers on the ‘Raising the bar - meeting consumer expectations’ panel said more guests are looking for trendy treatments they have researched on the internet, many of which originate in the developed markets of the UK or the US and have not yet reached the emirates.

The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina spa manager Deborah Castignani said: “Guests are more aware of the spa offering – they’re going online, researching what’s been offered all over the world, looking at spa reviews on Timeout, TripAdvisor and creating a preconceived idea of what to expect before they’ve even reached your spa".

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Similarly, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts group director of spa Paul Hawco said many “net-generation” clients are no longer opting for simple massages, rather opting for specific results-driven treatments they have looked up on Google.

“People are much more experienced in spa,” added Hawco.

Zen Asia Spa general manager Anjali Aggarwal explained: “What is happening is products and brands take a lot longer to enter the UAE market than they do the UK or US, so clients are on Google and online media, they’re doing their research on the latest organic and top products in the UK or the US.

“It’s challenging as they’ll say ‘I’ve heard about this product, do you have it?' Most likely it’s not entered the UAE market yet. So product availability is a bit weak in the UAE in this respect.”

Moderator Sarah Jordan Associates CEO Sarah Jordan said this was due to the lengthy process for registering new spa product brands – even those FDA or EU approved - in the emirates, which she described as “one of the biggest industry issues”.

Aggarwal added: “If a product has been launched and is huge [internationally], it takes 10 months to a year to enter the UAE market which is a bit late”.

She also called for more communication from suppliers and variety in new product lines being brought to the region.

The first Hotelier Middle East Spa & Wellness Forum was sponsored by official wellness sponsor Technogym, as well as Diversey, The Product House and Merchant Star International.