These days, most people don’t want to be separated from their mobile devices for even a moment. A rare exception is when they’re relaxing at the spa. Spa and hotel guests hunger for a break from the new normal of a non-stop work regime. They crave a chance to relax and find balance and tranquility amidst the chaos — and they want it now. A key trend for spa, fitness and wellness facilities is the idea of instant escape. “People are looking for a quick break; even between meetings, we can offer a chair massage,” says Caroline Mandréa, Marketing director at Amerispa, which operates 15 spas across Quebec, including Moment Spas in four Fairmont Hotels, the newest of which is located in Montreal’s Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth.

“For urban hotels such as The Queen Elizabeth, we offer 25-minute treatments — the well-being breaks [such as] the Jet-Lag Massage. People are [booking] last-minute,” she says, adding it’s common for guests to check in and then head straight for a treatment.

But some guests are looking for a more indulgent experience. “They’re looking for good treatments, but they’re also looking for a place to relax; to be able to meditate,” says Sylvie Legault, Spa director at Le Spa Fairmont Château Montebello in Quebec, adding she’s seen an increase in full-day bookings. “Guests are looking to be taken care of,” she says. “They need to refocus…a place to stop.”

“Our guests have become more focused on personalized services,” says Bill Lewis, general manager at the Magnolia Hotel & Spa — a 64-room luxury boutique hotel in Victoria, B.C. Using new technology such as personal messaging, “we have a strong guest interface,” he says. “Guests will reach out to us pre-stay, during the stay or between stays” to ask for particular foods or other preferred touches.

“It’s not just the idea of coming in for a massage or a facial; it’s more of a whole experience now — going to the restaurant and then to the gym and then coming in for a treatment — so they’re here for the whole healing and wellness package,” says Jessica Li, Spa manager at The Spa at the Hazelton Hotel in Toronto. “It’s more of a maintenance program, a retreat in the city to release from everyday chaos.”

Local colour is also key. “More than ever before, travellers are looking to experience the most authentic elements of a locale, whether through its food, art or spa offerings,” says Sarah Tucker, Spa manager at Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia. “When it comes to the spa experience, travellers are looking for treatments with hyper-local and seasonal ingredients, and they don’t necessarily want their experience to be confined to the spa itself. Fitness has become an essential ritual for many travellers, so access to bike and running paths and local guides who can provide insight into the best routes, is important.”

“Our guests are much more interested in local experience,” affirms Lewis. “We offer a complimentary fleet of loaner bikes. We put a lot of care and attention into curated theme maps for our guests; we’ve handpicked up to 10 local businesses they might want to visit along the way.” Lewis is also enthusiastic about a special run of strawberry-rhubarb bubble bath commissioned from the local Salt Spring Island Soapworks.

“We do offer local product, not only in the food, but in the treatment,” says Legault. “We work with maple; we work with the [locally sourced] mud in a wrap.”

Conny Nordin is the Resort manager for Madrona del Mar Spa at Galiano Oceanfront Inn & Spa on Little Galiano Island, situated halfway between Victoria and Vancouver. She says couples’ experiences are in high demand. “We have a romance package in our hotel; we can also do couples’ massage in our waterfall cottage; they get to massage their partner under the guidance of our therapist. All of our hotel suites have built-in massage tables, so they can carry on practicing.”

Madrona del Mar also offers flotation therapy, where “couples can float with candlelight and soft music”, as well as a healing-earth couples’ massage using “mud mixed with essential oils they choose for themselves.”

Legault points out that shared treatments are not only popular with romantic couples, but also with “two friends, or a mother and daughter.” Le Spa Fairmont Château Montebello is currently adding four suites for those who want to share their experience, “with a fireplace and a Japanese bath. We provide product and they do their treatment themselves for the first hour. People love to do that; in the second hour, they get a treatment.” She points out that men represent a key area of growth for the spa market and can be very faithful users of recommended products.

Every type of foodservice outlet has seen a surge of interest in more nourishing, sustainably produced and locally sourced meals, and guests are demanding individual attention to their dietary needs, restrictions and allergies.

With spa products and food alike, “nowadays, everyone is looking for non-toxic products. They want to better the environment and better their health, be aware of what’s actually [entering] their bodies,” says Li. In response to this trend, The Spa at the Hazelton Hotel recently introduced products from Switzerland-based Valmont Cosmetics’ Essence of Bees line, which features honey, propolis (bee glue) and royal jelly. Le Spa Fairmont Château Montebello offers a bento-box meal in the spa with vegetarian options; it can be adapted if a guest has specific allergies or sensitivities. There’s also a detoxifying mud-based beverage called Black Oxygen. “It’s full of minerals and electrolytes,” explains Legault. “It tastes very good and has no calories.” The same mud, mixed with natural oils such as pine and cedar, is used in the spa’s signature treatments. Magnolia Hotel & Spa focuses on local, seasonal food and offers a full gluten-free menu. Also, notes Lewis, “Superfood salads are trendier than they have been for a couple of years.” The spa uses the Intelligent Nutrients line of skincare products. “It’s 100-per-cent USDA food-grade organic, so there are no chemicals,” he says, adding there are even treatments designed to meet the needs of people going through chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Madrona del Mar Spa uses products with natural ingredients, such as a blueberry-smoothie wrap and blueberry sugar polish, a hemp-seed sugar scrub mixed with glacial clay, and Spring Island blackberry port, used in massage.

The Rosewood Hotel Georgia recently debuted a new range of exclusive spa treatments developed by EviDenS de Beauté. One immersive spa visit includes a seaside walk and a choice of treatments using sea-salt scrubs and algae-clay body wraps, ending with a Canadian-maple pedicure.

Ultimately, “there are two types of clients: those who want something quick and efficient and those who want to take time for themselves,” Mandréa sums up. “We know people are in a rush, but we do want to offer something special for people who can take the time.”

Written by Sarah B. Hood 

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