Spas 101: Understanding different types of spas

Spa TreatmentTechnically, there are no carved-in-stone rules that one must abide by to call a facility a ‘spa.’ Consequently, the term has become almost generic. Businesses can use the word ‘spa’ to refer to a room at the back of a hair salon offering manicures and pedicures. A ‘spa’ can be half a dozen rooms located next to a hotel pool, or an expansive and comprehensive resort with dozens of treatment rooms and a focus on body treatments, wellness therapies and healthy lifestyle programs such as fitness, stress management and nutrition.

One is not necessarily better than the other.

Satisfaction and value depend on two basic essentials: your personal needs and preferences, and trained and knowledgeable therapists who’ll make you feel comfortable and nurtured. Here’s a snap shot of what you’ll find out there in the great land of spas.

Most spas will fit under the two broad categories of Day Spas and Stay Spas.  The major difference is that one offers at-hand accommodation (the stay) and the other (the day) generally does not.

Day spas are usually found in urban centres or communities, and have no accommodations within the facility. They serve mostly a local market, but they may partner with a nearby hotel to package weekend getaways. Some will offer just basic body treatments and esthetic services; others may have a full menu of international treatments and alternative therapies.

Spa TreatmentStay spas are often located within inns, hotels and/or resorts and are able to offer accommodation along with services and treatments. They run the gamut from basic to ultra luxurious. Stay Spas can also offer their facilities to the local community so keep that in mind when booking especially during peak seasons when the resort is full.

Also under the Stay Spa category are Destination Spas. At Travel to Wellness, we’re not crazy about the term but it seems to be an industry standard so we’re stuck with it.  We define Destinations Spas as facilities where the prime draw is the spa and the focus is on wellness and activities that help develop skills for a healthy lifestyle. Guests who visit this type of facility may golf, horseback ride or play tennis, but the MAIN reason for the visit is the spa.

At a Destination Spa guests will feel comfortable wearing a robe while they walk around and even dine, because everyone else will be doing the same. Of course, there may be one dining room or restaurant where street clothes are required, but in general ‘spa robes’ are the fashion statement at Destination Spas.

Medical or Medi-Spa is a facility that combines a balance of conventional medicine with alternative health treatments and medical consultations. Depending on the facility, trained medical personnel can offer any variety and number of treatments to address a wide range of acute or chronic conditions ranging from depression, sleeping disorders and weight management to total mind-body-spirit healthcare. A Medi-Spa is also a term used by a Day or Stay Spa to refer to more medical-related procedures such laser hair removal, Intense Pulse Light and injectables such as Botox.

The Blue Lagoon a Mineral Spa located in IcelandEducational or Edu-spas are relatively new terms, describing spas that incorporate educational programs in addition to the treatments they offer. Edu-spas are usually Destination Spas that offer regularly scheduled classes, counseling, workshops and presentations in areas such as nutrition, fitness and managing medical conditions. The goal of most Edu-spas is to inform spa-goers on how to continue to better their health outside the treatment room.

A Mineral Spa is a facility offering natural mineral springs. Bathing in these springs can help any number of ailments depending on the minerals found at each specific location. 

As we’re seeing today an increasing number of us become more pro-active in our own health care, facilities are beginning to refer to themselves as Health and Wellness Centres,  Centres for Well-being and other such labels. Keep in mind that, just like the term ‘spa,’ there are no rules or regulations as to what kind of business can call itself a ‘Wellness Centre.’ So look beyond the signage and find out the credentials of the therapists and what the facility is really offering.

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