Once an economic sweet spot, spas are aching for business.
Spas are discounting or tossing in freebies “to get people in the door,” says Shelby Jones, an International Spa Association (ISPA) spokeswoman. An ISPA survey found specials at slow times (Monday-Thursday) and more free use of amenities such as pools and hydrotherapy areas.
More hotels (1,646 in the USA had spas as of June, ISPA says) are giving spa credits. When ISPA president Lynne Walker McNees checked into a Lexington, Ky.-area Marriott after a power outage, it gave her a $40 spa credit.
Some soothing offers driven by the stressful economy:
•Through May, Miraval Tucson in Arizona (an Oprah Winfrey favorite) is touting “Authentic Remedy” packages from $399 a person daily to help manage angst. That covers meals and one spa service (up to $125) a day.
•At the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina, visitors who book a 60-minute massage ($145-$160) also get a free mini-facial or foot refresher.
•Usually heavily booked Rancho La Puerta across the Mexican border from San Diego is holding rates at 2008 levels and running a “bring a friend for 50% off” deal on slow weeks.
•Pennsylvania’s The Lodge at Woodloch is massaging wallets with savings of 25% for a four-night minimum stay and 20% for three nights.
Even VIP-luring Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is value-minded. It’s doing massages in a cabana at no extra cost, spa director Derek Hofmann says. “And if you’re a Bloody Mary girl, we’ll bring you one.”
Vegas spas deals:
•The Golden Nugget spa gives guests who have 50- or 80-minute services a free manicure or blow dry, based on availability.
•Some packages at The Mirage Hotel & Casino are deeply discounted ($150 for a massage and facial vs. the usual $260).
•The opulent Caesars Palace spa now gives new guests $25 off a service on request; all can get free eye treatments with a facial.
You can tell the industry is hurting says Lindsey Gockenbach of the Spa Week Media Group.
More spas with “treatments of $200-plus” are joining in, Gockenbach says. Among the 250 newcomers: pricey The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Arizona. “These are spas that never participated in Spa Week because of this discount but now are almost forced to do so.”
Spas also are touting wellness over pampering. But in general, rates for spa basics such as massages ($150-plus hourly at some chic sanctuaries) aren’t sliding.
“The idea is to protect the brands,” says Bernard Burt, co-author of 100 Best Spas of the World. “Historically, the best spas have ridden out recessions.”
Meanwhile, at a time when a good kneading is needed more than ever, he suggests asking for discounts. It can’t hurt, he says.
“The smart shopper will call direct and ask for the best price.”