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Thailand?s Rise To Spa Capital Of Asia

An alluring tropical destination that offers tremendous natural and cultural diversity, Thailand continues to be one of the world's most popular long-haul holiday destinations. This is a distinct plus that adds to the country's core strengths as a high appeal spa destination.

The initial wave of Thai spas was fuelled in part by the arrival of international operators and spa consultants who brought with them experience and expertise to establish and manage high-quality spa operations. This led to the emergence of several major players such as the Mandara and the Spa of Siam, and the six chain hotels with their own distinctive spa brands namely the Banyan Tree, Angsana, Six Senses, Centara by the Central Hotels & Resorts, and Devarana by the Dusit Group.

Hotel/resort spas have been leading the growth of the spa sector. The trend is expected to continue with an increasing number of hotel properties in Thailand launching their own spa products. Many more deluxe hotels will be adding spa facilities and offering their in-house line of spa products and services.

As for product development, Naphalai firmly believes that holistic healing is the best model for Thailand. As more and more new operators crowd the market, survival of the fittest will be decided by the ability to differentiate oneself. Those who make the effort to go beyond beauty salon-style pampering will most certainly find the venture into the spa business more economically rewarding and sustainable.

Holistic Healing and Wellness

The rapid success of the Thai spa industry and intense competition has prompted many spas to evolve into fully integrated health and wellness centers offering holistic healing, complete with medical-oriented services, alternative treatments and lifestyle elements.

The launch of Thailand's first full-fledged ayurvedic centre attached to the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai in 2006 underscores this holistic trend. According to the hotel's Director of Holistic Center and Spa Dr Suchada Marwah, the centre will focus on authentic, in-depth ayurvedic treatments and cuisine plus complementary therapies. As one of the organizers of the World Congress of Holistic Medicine in Chiang Mai in 2003, Dr Suchada believes the city has the potential to be a regional centre for holistic treatments, and plans to organize another World Congress to highlight this fact.

Major hospitals are also beginning to complement their medical services with new wellness centres and spas. Krung Siam St Carlos Medical Centre operates the award-winning St Carlos Medical Spa, which offers over 100 medical wellness treatments. Bumgrungrad International has opened the VitalLife Wellness Center providing anti-aging, weight-loss and wellness programmes. Bangkok General Hospital is adding the finishing touches to a Rehabilitation Centre that will include a fitness centre and spa.

Operators Move Overseas
Thailand's largest spa operator, MSpa International Ltd., formerly Mandara Spa (Thailand) Ltd., believes that the international marketplace offers plenty of scope for expansion of its Mandara and Anantara spa brands. Currently, it operates a total of ten spas in Thailand under the Mandara umbrella, a lifestyle brand, and three spas under the more holistic Anantara brand, all in hotels and resorts.

MSpa is also making the move overseas. The company already has two Mandara Spas in China with a third opening soon. The company is also pursuing promising opportunities in Africa and the Middle East ? spa operations are planned for Tanzania and the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Three other spas will be in the Maldives, making a total of six Anantara Spas in the pipeline.

Horwath Spa Consulting not only advises on spa design and operations for investors in other countries, but operates them as well, says Director Naphalai Areesorn. The company currently runs two very exclusive and very Thai spas on luxury cruise ships. A new operation is scheduled to open in Rome.

Thailand hosted the SpaAsia Wellness Summit in the royal seaside resort of Hua Hin in September 2005 and will be hosting ISPA 2006 Thailand, the International Spa Association?s Asia-Pacific Conference and Exhibition, from May 3-5, 2006. ISPA 2006 Thailand, with ?The Best of the East? as its theme, is seen as the perfect opportunity to reinforce the country?s positioning as the Spa Capital of Asia and launch Thailand as a leading world class spa destination and supplier.