Thailand has something for everyone. Just over a decade ago most visitors from overseas would have undoubtedly believed that this kingdom of pristine beaches, parks, dazzling palaces and glittering temples lacked nothing – until of course, the arrival of the Thai spa.
Today the Thai spa industry has grown immensely with the appearance of all kinds of spas catering to a wide range of markets local and international and from low end to the high end. Developing rapidly in the local spa industry is the Medical spas with more than a handful have opening around the country.
Catering to sybarite’s as well as burnt-out businessmen, the spa concept is nothing new. Many of today’s commonly used healing therapies which date back centuries, millennia and have been used in communities for a long time. What is new however the way these treatments and therapies were packaged and the environment in which they took place.
Thai massage no longer meant lying on a mat under a coconut tree or between paper-thin walls in a 1970s walk-in building. Thai spas transformed the concept of holistic healing into luxuries and experiential entity at the same time demystifying these innate healing traditions for non Thais, to whom the idea of being stretched, pulled, plastered with exotic herbs, fruits and flowers may well have initially seemed somewhat alien.
Within the last 15 years the Thai spa has become the facility of choice in Thailand. Not just as a stand-alone day unit or as a commercial adjunct to five-star resort properties in the country, but it has also spread across the world where Thai masseuses or non-Thais trained in Thailand have taken the benefits of this ancient therapeutic ritual all over the world. Today many spas in Thailand offer Thai therapies alongside healing techniques from other cultures. In terms of spa standards Thailand spas are at the top of their league. Thai spas keep striving to stay ahead of the game by providing their clientele with unique havens of relaxation and well-being of unmatched grace and charm and services.
In only 10 short years Thailand has become the spa centre of Asia, overtaking Bali as the home of wellness and exotic Oriental treatments and attracting a growing number of international visitors who regard a Thai spa treatment as an essential part of their visit.
There are a number of reasons for this popularity, foremost of which is the level of service offered. Thais are friendly, eager to please and gentle, and have an aptitude for hospitality and service. There is also a long tradition of healing philosophy based on herbal and holistic medicine, which is now experiencing a revival within spas. Add to this the strong role played by Buddhism, with its emphasis on meditation and inner tranquility, and it is easy to see the attraction for foreigners seeking alternative ways of living.
As a clincher, however, Thai spas offer excellent value for money. Visitors can enjoy the pampering experience of a lifetime at the hands of smiling, friendly Thai therapists at prices far more attractive than in their own countries.
Hotel & Resort Spa: Vast majority of Thai spas falls into this category and are primarily located at properties in Phuket and Bangkok where the spa scene first took a grip. However, deluxe hotel properties in leading travel destinations like Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Samui and Hua Hin have awoken to the spa phenomenon and more are likely to jump on the bandwagon given the strong demand from Thailand’s increasing number of tourists.
Day Spa: Over the past year there has been a mushrooming of day spas in Bangkok, Phuket, Samui and now Chiang Mai, many competing with hotels for the tourists, while slowly developing an untapped domestic market.
Destination Spa: In Thailand these are Spas of such high quality that Britain’s Conde Nast Taveller has again rated it the best in its category. Its sustained success has now generated interest among a handful of major operators who seem likely to invest in new destination spas.
Medical Spa: Medical Spas also offers some medical treatments apart from the normal spa treatments, primarily alternative medicine offering holistic and preventative treatment.
The growth of the regional spa industry led to the formation of the International Spa Association (ISPA) Asia Pacific chapter based in Singapore, followed by the establishment of national associations. The Thai Spa Association was launched in the last quarter of 2001, and expects to be formally registered with government authorities by the end of 2002. Already it has attracted more than 50 members representing the major players in the industry: spas, spa operators, product suppliers, training schools and government agencies.