The Future of Spa

by Jeremy McCarthy

As we all wonder how spas will change in the shadow of the pandemic, it’s well worth considering how they will also stay the same

“How will spas change?” This is the question I have been asked the most over the past year. It seems like every journalist who reaches out wants my predictions for how the world of spas might be forever changed by Covid-19. And every article that I read wants to define “the new normal” emphasizing how the world will never be the same. Social distancing, new hygiene procedures, new technologies and new customs of etiquette for human gatherings are all shaping human society in new and interesting ways.

But I think a more interesting question is, “What hasn’t changed?” This is not to diminish the impact of the pandemic. Certainly living through this experience will change us all in deep and meaningful ways. But it is also interesting to consider what timeless aspects of humanity will continue, even despite recent global events.

Here are a few examples of things that I think will NOT change:

1. People want novel experiences.

If there is one thing that our period of lockdowns has shown us, it is the yearning we have for travel. If people can’t stay in hotels, they will stay in rental homes. If they can’t fly, they will drive. But people don’t like to be locked down and as soon as they feel safe to do so, people will begin traveling and exploring.

2. People need to be touched.

Humans do not do well in isolation. To thrive as a human being, we need community, communication, interaction and physical contact with other human beings.

3. People will heal themselves.

Humans have an amazing ability to self-heal, if the right conditions are in place. People have always been drawn to places that foster healing. Books have been written on “healing spaces” that include things like connection to nature, fresh clean air, bathing experiences and access to fresh water, nurturing guides or healers, sacred architecture, etc.

4. People need to find balance with technology.

In the post-Covid world we are relying on technology more than ever before. Remote learning, digital wellness content, working from home, online entertainment— all keep us on our screens for more hours of the day than ever before. But people will still need opportunities to disconnect and explore their non-digital humanity. Being in nature, connecting with other people, non-digital hobbies, etc. will not go away.

5. People need to find a sense of meaning.

We have been experiencing an unprecedented time of change and anxiety, and we need time to process. People will benefit from spending time in silence, practicing mindfulness, and finding their own sense of purpose and meaning in the world.

When people ask me “How will spas change?” they are asking the wrong question. Spas have been around since before Covid, before SARS, before the Spanish Flu and even before the Black Plague. In fact, almost every culture and society across time and geography has had some version of a spa. There is always a healing place where people can go to explore rich sensory experiences, touch from a soothing healer, connect with their community, escape from modern technologies, and find some peace and quiet to help them reconnect with their own inner values and to ground themselves in their own purpose.

The question to ask is not “How will spas change?” but “What are the timeless aspects of spa that will not change?” We will offer novelty, touch, tranquility, silence, healing and community. The logistical details around how we deliver these experiences in the safest ways possible may change, but the fundamental aspects of what spas do will not change. And they never have.

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