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  • Writer's pictureDesign for Leisure

Five Spa & Wellness Trends to Watch in 2023

Design for Leisure's area of expertise - hydrothermal spa and wellness design and building - has experienced huge interest and growth in the past couple of years. In this post, DFL presents the latest 2023 trends from the Global Wellness Institute's Hydrothermal Initiative, while also playing homage to the group's 2022 trends, which remain very much in the spotlight.

Of note from the 2022 trends is “social sauna-ing” and the renaissance of communal bathhouses across the globe: activities like Sauna Aufguss, a communal sauna experience, are becoming more mainstream, while local, urban bathhouse facilities are popping up in cities everywhere. The prediction that NATURE would play a stronger role in spa design and development can be seen as spas continue to break out of the basement and into the fresh air. Cold remains “hotter” than ever as hot/cold contrast therapy and its benefits are embraced, while the prediction that fitness would become more enmeshed with wellness made a recent Bloomberg headline: “Wellness practices fuel fitness center growth,”

So, what's new for 2023?

A sauna master performs Sauna Aufguss at first Event Sauna in USA
Design for Leisure designed and built the Event Sauna at Resorts World AWANA Spa & Wellness, Las Vegas, NV

1: Sauna As Art and Entertainment

Along with the exciting social and entertaining aspect of sauna bathing – something that is best reflected in the unstoppable trend of Sauna Aufguss, which has officially come to North America with both the USA and Canada planning to field entries for the 2024 Auguss World Championships – it seems that saunas are popping up everywhere: from portable beach side units to floating luxury saunas in Oslo harbor. However, just as hot in 2023 are the amazing designers and artists that are giving traditional sauna design an edgy or sophisticated re-think, creating sauna structures unlike any seen before.

Whether it’s a “Dreamy Floating Sauna” in the Arctic waters with views of the Northern Lights or an outdoor sauna nestled within an alder tree, designers and artists who may have never designed for wellness, such as Snohetta and Matteo Thun, are using this format to create sacred and beautiful landscapes that are getting noticed and helping to elevate the humble sauna into something much more. A great example of how this can further the concept of sweat bathing is Art Spin’s Public Sweat, a Canadian initiative that took place in 2023, combining art, sauna culture and sweat bathing.

2: Wellness ROI Gets Real In the pandemic’s aftermath, we’re seeing operators, most notably Accor, and more recently Hilton and Marriott, embrace a better understanding of wellness and its value both in terms of additional revenue opportunities and finally truly appreciating the accepted wisdom that wellness consumers can be counted on to spend more.

In a recent Skift interview, Emlyn Brown, global vice president of well-being at Accor said: “Consumers today understand that they need to own their health and immunity in a different way than before the pandemic. Our ability to deliver an authentic, holistic, and highly considered wellness offering is vital.”

“Wellness travelers spend more money,” he said. “In fact, they spend 55 percent more on average than typical leisure travelers. That means more suite and spa bookings, longer length of stay, and higher-end food and beverage purchases. That’s just a fact.”

After years of highlighting the fact that minimally staffed, European-style bathing circuits are true money makers, operators are listening. This is contributing to accelerated investments being made in bathing facilities – whether in hospitality, urban bathhouses, membership clubs, gyms or event new longevity centers that are moving hydrothermal wellness from a “nice to have” amenity to a tool that is considered incredibly effective for living a full and healthy life.

A hot springs pool area in Palm Springs, CA
Hot Springs across the globe are getting makeovers. Pictured is Palm Springs, CA The Spa at Séc-he

3: Hot Springs Are Super HOT

We’re seeing a massive resurrection/renovation of hot springs facilities around the world and a new angle that comes with this trend is actually a case of “what’s old is new again”: medical doctors/practitioners are “prescribing” hot springs soaks (with different their different compounds and benefits) for preventative/illness care.

Look for a new breed of hot springs destinations in North America that mirror examples of European bathing facilities that provide medical assessments and diagnostics and act as destinations to treat specific ailments/illnesses.

Ancient hot springs tied to native cultures are popping up all of the world, including a New Zealand bathing destination, Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa, based on the Maori culture opening in 2023 and the recently opened Spa at Sec-he in Palm Springs, CA that is said to have served the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for 12,000 years.

Snow falls from the ceiling in a wellness center of the future.
Cold therapy continues to reach new heights. The SnowSky from indoor snow specialists TechnoAlpin brings the delight of falling to snow inside.

4: Cold Therapies Continue to Fascinate – AND Drive Growth There is no better advertisement for the benefits of hot/cold contrast therapy – and by extension hydrothermal bathing – than the filling of social media feeds with athletes (both amateur and professional) extolling the benefits of ice baths and cold plunges. Though it’s a social media phenomenon the world over, perhaps the biggest bottom-line impact to our industry is what this phenomenon has done to grow what had been the largely untapped (and huge) US market. With a new understanding of the benefits of both hot and cold in holistic wellness, we are seeing an explosion in growth for every manner of thermal bathing in North America.

Sauna, bathtub and shower from a KLAFS wellness at home spa suite
Look for at-home wellness to continue to be elevated. This is an at-home spa suite from KLAFS. Available from KLAFS USA in North America.

5: Wellness-at-Home Goes Pro

Not only is wellness equipment and features a big demand in new residential builds, we’re seeing more and more homeowners want to “go pro” with commercial-level, high quality, reliable equipment. Just as the high-end residential market looks to commercial-grade appliances in the kitchen, 5-star bathroom amenities and mattresses on par with the bed found in a favorite hotel, so, too, are they seeking out quality spa amenities. Tapping the likes of KLAFS for saunas, Ghareini for touchless experiences and Dornbracht for spa showers. Cutting-edge commercial grade smart automation products are also being deployed for at-home saunas, giving users the convenience of, say, heating up their sauna while en route, and helping them to monitor and improve energy consumption at home.


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