Hot Springs Initiative

2023 Trends

Investments are surging in hot springs facilities in countries like the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and on a smaller scale, China. These investments include creating sustainable options like solar panels, hydronic space heating and recycling programs. Many people have recognized the benefits of hot-cold contrast bathing and are looking at this experience as a way to boost their immune system, reduce inflammation and find relief from pain. This is happening both in hot springs locations around the world and at home, as more and more plunge pools are created for in-home use. At the same time, hot springs facilities are being planned with health care in mind, allowing guests to pursue their wellness goals in recreational settings. And the first steps are being taken in education as well, with the creation of diploma level courses on hot springs and thermal bathing wellness, both in China and Australia.

TREND 1: New hot springs investments and renovations large and small including in environmentally sustainable facilities.

Nearly every country involved in the survey has reported significant investments in this field, particularly the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. China has seen a reduction in large investments as a direct result of the pandemic and its late emergence. Small scale investments in hot springs in China, including in places that could be called Hot Springs B&B’s have been very solid. The US saw a massive expansion, with over 50 projects underway and the emergence of internationally recognized brands like Six Senses. Smaller and emerging markets like New Zealand and Australia have seen significant investments too, with many more in the pipeline. Several countries reported investments in sustainable facilities like solar panels, hydronic space heating and recycling programs, making this ecological focus a major trend on its own.

TREND 2: Hot-cold contrast bathing becomes mainstream.

The benefits of hot-cold contrast bathing have been widely recognized and is now almost universal in hot springs across the globe. Guests are seeking active ways to boost their immune system, reduce inflammation and find relief from pain: The combination of heat (in the form of bathing and saunas) and cold (in the form of cold plunges, ice showers and ice caves) provides an evidence-based way to achieve it. This trend has also seen the emergence of in-home cold plunge pools placed alongside a sauna or hot bath to enable contrast bathing to be enjoyed on a more regular basis.

TREND 3: A diversity of wellness experiences expanding rapidly both on-site and in the region of the hot springs.

An expanded number of offerings beyond just the core (and most popular) hot springs bathing pool has emerged as a way for hot springs to support the broad wellness needs of guests. These are many and limited only by creativity and the physical location. Examples include: guided mobility programs for strengthening and conditioning; bike riding and hiking in the regions of hot springs (combining the bathing with activities external to the facility); sensory experiences to induce calm and relaxation, including mood lighting, music and peaceful settings; healthy cocktails and tonics, providing fun ways to enjoy drinks that are good for you; clays and muds for both therapy and fun; hot springs yoga and tai-chi, as well as local rituals, and many more.

TREND 4: Tertiary education courses in hot springs and hydrothermal wellness herald the emergence of professional careers in the sector.

Australia and China have been leading the world with the creation of the first formal tertiary education programs specializing in the hot springs and thermal bathing wellness sector. Chisholm Institute in Australia has been working with the industry to create a diploma level course by the end of 2023. An initial trial round of students will start in 2024 and the full course will be available for enrollment in 2025. Hezhou University in Guandxi, China, established a Hot Springs College in April 2023 and is planning to recruit students starting in September 2023.

TREND 5: Health care facilities and practices are being woven into hot springs.

As the wellness facilities and services at hot springs grow, there is a natural tendency to also provide experiences where visitors can exercise independently to enhance and maintain their health. Facilities are increasingly adding health care design into their new recreational and wellness hot springs spaces.  These facilities are enabling guests who have learned health care practices at hot springs health clinics to turn their learning into a regular wellness activity at recreational hot springs. This trend is seeing the natural transition from healthcare to self-care: A movement from health practitioner assisted learning to self-guided wellness habits.