Spa News Dubai

UAE spas are in good health

Spas are in every hotel, every mall and many a villa have been converted in to one.

The spa industry is booming and it seems even the global recession is not enough to tear women – and men – away from their weekly or monthly treat.

According to data from the recent Wellness and Spas exhibition in Dubai, walk-in spa appointments increased seven per cent between January and March this year, proving that the industry is one of the few still growing despite the lean times.

It's good news for the many hotel and independent spas that have opened since late last year when the worldwide downturn began to hit our shores. Atlantis, The Palm is perhaps the most famous hotel spa to have launched during the downturn. It has introduced a number of summer offers, including massages for just Dh200, on top of vastly reduced room rates, starting at Dh800. The recession arrived as the hotel was gearing up for its official launch. Its spa was initially only open to guests before being rolled out to Palm Jumeirah residents and then all of Dubai.

"We have since seen steady growth in our business as day visitors get acquainted with our treatments and book in on a repeat basis," says Amadeo Zarzosa, General Manager of Atlantis, The Palm.

"Atlantis was not going to be immune to the recession. However, it was lucky to open to such worldwide attention. I don't know if the opening would have changed since not only were we opening a $1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) resort, but also launching the Palm Jumeirah."

The Address hotel also opened during the crisis, but an Emaar Hospitality Group spokesman says growing health awareness allows its spa to remain bouyant.

"The hotel opened in the peak of the crisis and yet it gained strong response locally and internationally. Bookings and client numbers continue to be in line with our projection," they say.

"The key driver of the spa industry is its focus on wellness, and there is a growing awareness on holistic well-being among the public, which translates to the continued preference for spas."

Messe Frankfurt, which runs the Wellness and Spas exhibition, reports that retail sales of cosmetics and personal care products was in excess of $408m in 2006. It also says purchases are rising 19 per cent annually. The Gulf as a whole has the world's highest per capita consumption of fragrances and cosmetics with $334 per head.

What is perhaps even more surprising is that beauty treatments are a luxury product but as Elaine O'Connell, Senior Show Manager, says it is a direct result of the downturn as people look for respite from their problems.

"The spa industry is growing and defying the recession as our recent statistics show," she says.

The recession impacted the show this year as companies cut their budgets. Previous shows have seen a 10-15 per cent year-on-year rise, but this year firms bought less space.

O'Connell also believes that although people are still investing in themselves, they are more careful about how much they spend.

"I don't compromise on my health or appearance and I think that's the same for a lot of women. They still buy face cream and have a massage when they're stressed. They might not spend Dh800 on a face cream but they will still buy one," explains O'Connell.

But it is not just in-house spas that are enjoying good times, outlets across the board are benefitting from the UAE's love of pampering.

The Thai Privilege Spa opened in Umm Suqeim in May. Operated by BDC Holdings, it is part of a worldwide chain that also has branches in Shanghai and New York. They planned to open by October last year but was delayed due to laws governing spas in Dubai preventing them from opening a mixed salon as desired. It now operates solely for women but they have plans for a male outlet in the pipeline.

KS Ramakrishnan, the CEO of BDC, has seen a huge shift in residents' attitudes towards spas during his 18 years in Dubai to the point where treatments have become a necessity for many.

"There were only two 10 years ago but now people are used to them," he says. "It's the only mode of relaxation for some; they used to go to malls to relax but now they have more options."

"Spas are also getting more popular because of rising stress levels. People get used to luxury and now going to a spa is not considered that."

The one thing that has changed, however, is the price point. It is still a great way to unwind but as disposable incomes have reduced, spas must also reconsider what they charge.

"The spa industry is on the way up. It's booming, which is proved by the number of spas here but customers are looking for something that's price sensitive," adds Ramakrishnan. This venue has doubled its customer base since launch.

Beauty lounges are also doing well with a number of opening across the city this year. The Dubai Mall is home to Nivea's first outlet in the Middle East, while Sisters Beauty Lounge has also expanded with a salon in the centre. Although they are slightly different concepts, offering more aesthetic services such as hair and nails and had to open as space was booked long ago, they are no less popular.

High-end store Boutique 1 joined the trend when it opened Tilia and Finn in association with The Grooming Company in April. Located at Jumeirah Beach Residence, shoppers can indulge in a little pampering to re-charge their batteries mid spending spree.

Haneen Said, Marketing and Communications Director, Boutique 1 Group, pictured left, admits they were a little concerned about the timing of its launch, she says it has beaten expectations.

"It's fared surprisingly well in the first few weeks. We were a little concerned about the timing of the launch but our customers have been very responsive," adds Said.

"People in Dubai are very conscious of their wellbeing and the way they look and feel. Men take pride in grooming and women are super glamorous and well kept. They understand the importance of health and beauty and don't compromise in this area."

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