Spa design in focus

Industry experts share their views on spa developments and current trends

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Talise spa.
Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Talise spa.
Relaxation area and spa interior by Barr+Wray.
Relaxation area and spa interior by Barr+Wray.
Thermal spa interior by Barr + Wray.
Thermal spa interior by Barr + Wray.
The Wellness collection by Bagnodesign includes a wide range of rattan accessories.
The Wellness collection by Bagnodesign includes a wide range of rattan accessories.

The global wellness industry is a US $3.4 trillion market, or 3.4 times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry, according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) report. Subsequently, the number of spas worldwide has increased from 71,762 in 2007 to 105,591 today. And while Europe and North America dominate this market, the number of spas in the Middle East and North Africa tripled during this period.

GWI’s report shows that MENA is the second fastest growing region in the world for spas and the countries with the largest growth are Morocco, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

With Expo 2020 on the horizon and the expected influx of 25 million tourists, UAE hoteliers are getting ever more creative in the competition to capture the market.

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Considering that wellness tourists spend, on average, 130% more than the average global tourist, quality spa design is a guaranteed way to improve a hotel’s standing in the market.

Commenting on new spa developments in the Middle East, Graeme Banks, design director at Barr+Wray, says that there is a continuous necessity to create that unique experience, not only to attract more guests, but to compete in a saturated spa marketplace.

“We are currently witnessing the inclusion of extensive wet facilities designed in a much more social way. The selective spa guest is now looking for a mix of quiet relaxing spaces with communal facilities for interacting. We see family and kids spas becoming more popular, giving parents the best of both worlds.”

Banks further explains that for successful spa creation, clients should consider three important components to the spa design process: operational design, interior design and engineering/technical design.

“To have one without the other leaves a gap in the process, which often results in issues during design and, most importantly, throughout construction. Many clients do not appreciate that the three elements are essential to creating a facility that not only offers the client a five- star experience, which is now expected by discerning spa-goers, but one that is also aesthetically, operationally, and technically successful and profitable.

“Many hotel operators who have invested time and money in developing their own spa brand, vision and design and construction standards appreciate the necessity for specialist spa design companies who can interpret their brief and provide all three components,” says Banks.

Spas may still be seen as silent sanctuaries or escapes from modern and busy lives, but Banks believes that technology can play an even bigger part within spa design. Interactive walls on which guests can customise the scene to their preference, or wearable gadgets, which can monitor and guide guests through the spa giving personal information to their therapist, will be incorporated in designs.

When developing a spa concept, Louise Pitt, marketing and CRM manager at Geberit, points out that it is crucial to consider every aspect of the visitor’s experience in the design — peace and serenity, relaxation and rejuvenation.

She says: “For this, acoustics need to be a top priority of the designer. The correct use and installation of acoustic materials ensures the visitor’s experience is not disturbed by unwanted airborne or solid borne sounds. In order to keep the spa fresh and up to date, the designer will also need to consider a long-lasting design theme that allows for flexibility for possible renovations and updates.”

Mohammed Ibrahim, CEO of the Wellness shares the opinion that design should always follow function, but that nowadays many spas are designed without taking into consideration how they will work for guests and staff.

“When designing a spa, future expansions and ways of integrating upcoming treatments and technologies should be considered in order to keep a spa up-to-date with developments and trends. Also, it should be integrative with the hotel theme and spirit, it should not be an isolated island so it is not seen as an unreachable experience only available to a few. Finally, in this fast-paced society, it is tremendously important to think ahead,” explains Ibrahim.

When it comes to the Middle East and its demands on spa design, all agree that it is necessary to incorporate local customs and traditional Arabic therapies along with all the other treatments one has come to expect in today’s spa retreat.

Banks comments: “Spas are similar around the world, but we need to be extremely aware of the Middle Eastern culture. We must consider gender separation in most of the key areas. This has to be carefully considered in terms of the budget and space available.

“The answer is not always just to design duplicates of each area, but by considering the journey and the operational flow you can design the spa in a way that will capitalise on the space, meet legal requirements, create an amazing guest experience and maximise the revenue for the operator.”

Barr+Wray has just completed the design for the St Regis Spa in Al Habtoor City, Jumeirah Saadiyat Island Resort in Abu Dhabi and finished the refurbishment of Talise Madinat Jumeriah in Dubai. It is currently working on five star projects in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

When talking about trends in the region, all share the opinion that sustainability and eco-friendly products are essential for spa design.

Pitt from Geberit says: “Our products are the first choice for architects, designers and planners being innovative, durable and ecologically efficient, providing high-end sanitary solutions. The durability of materials and systems and the economical use of resources play a significant role to shape the quality of leisure environments.”

Geberit recently supplied several important projects, such as The Four Seasons Sowwah Island in Abu Dhabi, Hilton in Dubai, Al Hayat Palace in Riyadh, Anantara Resort in Oman and Kempinski Hotel in Muscat.

“Continuously optimising and extending the product range is crucial for future success in the region. New and further developments of the traditional product lines are still at the forefront; however, the trend towards more comfortable bathrooms places new demands on sanitary technology.

“In accordance with changing customer demands, the aesthetics and attractiveness of the products is playing an increasingly important role. Design innovations have become more important, along with technical innovations, and have become a cornerstone of product development,” says Pitt.

The Wellness is currently working on more than 30 projects around the MENA region, including the Viceroy on Palm Jumeirah, RAK Khatt Hot Springs in Ras al-Khaimah, Four Seasons in Abu Dhabi, Ritz Carlton and Fairmont in Egypt, Kempinski hotels in Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as Al Messila Resort in Qatar.

When specifying materials, Ibrahim agrees it is always favourable that those are sourced from ‘green’ companies.

He adds: “It is also very useful to use recycled materials in the interior design works and to minimise the use of materials that are not recyclable. Recycled wood, aluminium and glass can easily be used in a spa in addition to the electrical items, which should all be energy star rated.

“Reducing the water usage and general energy consumption within a spa is extremely important and this can be achieved by reducing the heat up times of a steam room and ensuring that the humidifier is running on a specially programmed mode ensure it will only use water and electricity when it is needed.”

Ibrahim concludes that people are becoming more health conscious, which leads to a closer collaboration between spas and healthcare. Therefore, it is very likely that spas will continue to increase their role within the wellness industry.

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