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Study: ISPA’s latest research shows signs of hope for US spa industry's recovery

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There are definitely grounds for optimism for the later quarters of this year and particularly for 2022

The International Spa Association (ISPA) has revealed its annual five key spa industry financial indicators from its 2021 US Spa Industry Study – known as the Big Five – during its Stronger Together Summit.

Conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), this initial report outlines overall revenue, number of spa visits, number of spa locations, revenue per visit and total employees for the US spa industry during 2020.

“These statistics provide the clearest picture yet of the pandemic’s impact in the spa sector,” said Lynne McNees, ISPA president.

“We trust these figures, along with the full report coming later this year, will provide the industry at large with meaningful insights they can use to aid their recovery.”

The findings

Results showed that by the end of 2020, the industry had experienced a US$7bn drop in total revenue, decreasing from US$19.1bn at year’s end in 2019 to US$12.1bn (a 36.4 per cent decrease).

Findings indicated resort and hotel spas have been harder hit by this, with an average revenue fall of 46 per cent compared to day spas who had an average drop of 31 per cent.

Spa visits dropped from 192 million in 2019 to 124 million in 2020, while average revenue per visit shifted from US$99.5 to US$97.5.

In addition, as of December 2020, 21,560 spa businesses were recorded*, compared to 22,430 in December 2019.

Encouragingly, the study showed that, as of January 2021, roughly 305,000 spa employees had returned to US spas, compared to the previous 384,000 in January 2020. This represents only a 20.6 per cent drop.

Again, data showed that day spas fared better in these metrics, as one in two resort/hotel spas (51 per cent) reported a greater than 25 per cent decrease in staff, compared to one in five day spas (23 per cent).

McNees remarked: “The timeline for a full recovery is uncertain, but we’re confident that there is considerable demand for spa experiences and that as pandemic-related restrictions continue to lift, spas will make strong gains."

A bright futureRussel Donaldson, manager at Pwc Research, presented the Big Five today to ISPA attendees, alongside his colleague Colin McIlheney, PwC global research leader.

The two researchers told summit attendees that although this research reflects the impact of the pandemic, things look hopeful for the industry.

“It’s clear there’s pent-up demand to get out to spas. There are definitely grounds for optimism for the later quarters of this year and particularly for 2022,” McIlheney said.

Attendees were curious to know how long this increased demand would last and posed the question to the researchers during the Q&A session.

McIlheney responded saying it’s important not to just reflect on customers that used to come, but also focus on the great potential during rebuilding to bring in new customers who've never been to spas before but have been inspired to do so in light of the pandemic.

“Personally, I could see demand rolling on, not just driven by old existing customers but being driven by a new even more diverse base of guests.”


For Donaldson, the most intriguing finding was “the fragmentation between different parts of the industry and the outcomes for day spas versus resorts/hotel spas”.

He also said he was struck that research reconfirmed that the spa industry has continued its historic role as a reliable bellwether for the broader economy.

McIlheney felt the location metrics were the most remarkable.

“With regards to locations, there were many people who thought numbers would fall off a cliff,” he said, “but the fact that there are still so many spas – over 20,000 – to choose from is very encouraging.

“In contrast, the drops in revenue and visits were expected and I anticipated they’d be in and around the mark they were.”

ISPA will release the full study in July 2021 packed full with even more insights and data.

The study has been an annual ISPA instalment since 1999 and this year it surveyed over 2,050 establishments including day spas, destination spas and medical spas.

*The count of spas includes spas that were temporarily closed at the end of the calendar year 2020.

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The International Spa Association (ISPA) has revealed its annual five key spa industry financial indicators from its 2021 US Spa Industry Study – known as the Big Five – during its Stronger Together Summit.

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