Spa People: 20th anniversary issue

Charles Davidson

There's a 'healthcare to self-care movement', where guests top up medically-guided lifestyle interventions with self-guided wellness habits


How is the spa industry evolving?
In the hot springs sector, a key change has been internationalisation – a collaboration of events, research, staff exchange/development and guest education around the world.

Organisations such as the Global Wellness Institute and its Hot Springs Initiative and the World Federation of Hydrotherapy and Climatotherapy are spearheading cross-continent cohesion in the sector. Examples of powerful and joyful events include Soakember, World Bathing Day and World Wellness Weekend.

Inroads have been made in education. Hezhou University in Guangxi, China has established a Hot Springs College and is now enrolling students and the Chisholm Institute in Australia is creating a diploma-level course for thermal bathing – it will run a trial for students in 2024 and the full course will be available in 2025.

These have been developed in partnership with the industry and are the first formal tertiary education programmes to focus on hot springs.


Building careers and happy lives for people working in our sector is the responsibility and obligation of our leaders. The culture and opportunities they create enable employees to ultimately deliver the best possible experiences.

What business models are most exciting?
Those which benefit society, the environment and the economy.
Wellness communities built around thermal bathing, for example, actively enable connections. My favourite view is seeing four generations of the same family ‘taking to the waters’, it’s a testament to the universality of the experience.

At the same time, hot springs are regional magnets. They attract guests of all cultures, who then partake in other local activities such as horse riding, sailing and wine tasting.

In China, they call this ‘hot springs plus’ and thermal waters are the universal connector.

Excitingly, some facilities are also evolving into cultural centres offering arts, music, education and performances as well as healing and wellness. Traditionally hot springs have been at the heart of cultural and musical celebration and we’re now seeing a reawakening of this across the globe.

What trends are having the greatest impact?
Increasingly we’re seeing guests follow health practitioner-assisted learning with self-guided wellness habits and the industry is leaning into this ‘healthcare to self-care’ movement.

Recreational hot spring facilities currently being built, for example, are integrating healthcare design features and programmes so that they can support guests/patients following intensive stays at more medically focused thermal facilities such as those in Europe.

They’re working in a symbiotic and proactive way with hot spring clinics/hospitals, where medical staff teach bathing and lifestyle interventions over three- to four-week stays, to develop ongoing healthy habits. This co-creation and collaboration of services is a long-term trend for the hot springs spa sector.

More from spa industry leaders...

In celebration of Spa Business’ 20th anniversary, industry leaders take a look at how far the sector has come since the magazine’s inception in 2003, share personal career highlights and reveal their plans and ideas for the future.

View next: CG Funk

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Company profile: Barr + Wray Ltd
Founded in 1959, Barr + Wray is recognised as a world-leading provider of spa design, engineering and pool & spa equipment.
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