My trip to Japan earlier this year, along with two other client projects, a couple of random meetings and then an invitation to Peninsula Hot Springs for the launch of Synthesis skincare, have all drawn me into the world of thermal bathing and hot springs. Therefore in following this new path of discovery I decided to join the Global Thermal Think Tank, which was a tour of 4 hot springs resorts in the USA right before the Global Wellness Summit.
Meeting with 20 other hot spring resort owners, developers, suppliers and enthusiasts we began our tour, with a two night stay at Glen Ivy Hot Springs in California. This resort offers a variety of bathing pools, a grotto, mud bath, cold plunge pool, magnesium pool, sauna, steam room and day spa with a menu of assorted treatments and therapies. A well stocked retail store, cafe, restaurant, yoga deck and labyrinth also add to the properties experiences.
The itinerary for this tour included free time to soak in the pools and explore the various facilities and activities. Glen Ivy management organised delicious health fulfilling meals and I had the opportunity to meet my co-travellers and learn of their interest and connection to this industry. In addition we had group forums, presentations and lectures in the schedule.
Our next two day stay was at Two Bunch Palms, an oasis in the middle of the Californian desert which is quite literally named after the two bunches of palms that sit in the middle of this landscape and mark the hot springs. We were welcomed with an intention setting and smoking ceremony lead by the resident shaman, and then had time to soak and relax before meeting for dinner. The following day various presenters talked of the history, trends and progressions in the hot springs industry.
Our final destination was two flights and a road trip away to Ojo Caliente located near Sante Fe, Mexico. Nestled in a valley on 1,100 acres, Ojo is deemed sacred by the Native Americans of Northern New Mexico. The legendary waters here have been soothing body, mind and spirit for centuries and are the only hot springs in the world with 4 unique, sulfer-free mineral waters.
Throughout history, people have used thermal and mineral springs for bathing, healing, socializing, and spiritual reasons. Those traditions are the roots of today’s spa industry, and are finding a resurgence of interest as consumers increasingly seek authentic, natural, and place-based experiences.
There are over 26,000 establishments in 103 countries that have wellness, recreational, and therapeutic facilities and services built around thermal/mineral springs. Collectively, these establishments earned more than $50 billion in revenues in 2013. Only 6,500 of these establishments offer spa-related services such as massages and facials and because they earn much higher average revenues, thermal and mineral springs establishments that offer spa treatments account for nearly two-thirds of industry revenues.
Asia leads the world in thermal/mineral springs revenues at $26.7 billion, with the two main markets—Japan and China—accounting for 51% of global revenues. The Asian market is dominated by the thousands of onsen in Japan and the ongoing massive investments in hot springs resorts in China. The second largest region is Europe, estimated at $21.7 billion, with a mature industry of sanatoria, health resorts, and thermal stations that use thermal and mineral waters primarily for therapeutic, curative, and rehabilitative purposes.
As the renewed interest in the special properties of thermal and mineral waters continues to pick up momentum, we expect to see a growing number of businesses built around springs in countries where the industry is less developed. In the well-established markets in Europe, many countries are refurbishing their facilities and modernizing their offerings to appeal to modern wellness consumers and travellers.
I certainly now know that my preference from this point of discovery will to be have a combined hot springs and spa resort experience. Its just so fulfilling to have a connection to a life giving source of wellness whilst being outdoors in the sunshine or under the stars. And with the addition of a day spa ritual, there really isn't too much more one could want.