Hydrothermal Initiative

2024 Trends

Hydrothermal bathing is experiencing a major renaissance driven by a society eager to embrace health-enriching practices amidst the echoes of our global health crisis. Our 2024 Hydrothermal Initiative Trends spotlight the resurgence of age-old sweat rituals within the contemporary wellness sphere and the rise of cold water therapies from niche to norm. This year charts a dual path toward personal health sanctuaries and a revived dedication to communal wellness encounters, including the transformation of disused urban spaces into bastions of wellbeing. It also spotlights the expanding allure of international wellness customs, particularly the serene and ritualistic Japanese bathing practices burgeoning globally. Together, these trends signify a bold entrance into a year where wellness is not just personal but expansively communal, rooted in tradition and boldly innovative. 

Photo credit: Cedar Spa at Four Winds Casino 

Sweat Bathing: A Time-Honored Tradition Reclaims the Wellness Spotlight

With its deep historical roots, sweet bathing is experiencing a radiant resurgence in the wellness market. Aficionados are eager to explore a breadth of authentic practices—from the intense Finnish saunas and the tranquil Roman baths to the spiritual North American sweat lodges and the invigorating Russian Banyas. Nations are embracing their ancestral sweat traditions and refining them for contemporary wellness seekers. 

The resurgence appears to be driven by three primary factors: 

  • First, a growing body of conclusive research extols the virtues of frequent passive heat therapy—short, intense exposures to high temperatures have noted health benefits. 
  • Secondly, the embrace of hot/cold thermotherapy, which necessitates enduring high-heat environments followed by bracing cold, is becoming more mainstream. 
  • Lastly, there’s a burgeoning consumer preference for proven wellness modalities over novel fads, and traditional sweat bathing practices have existed for millennia.

We are also witnessing a slight countertrend to this with a new scrutinization of infrared ‘saunas’—prevalent in the UK and USA— which directly heat the body without significantly warming the surroundings. This approach often results in less sweating and, arguably, a less authentic sweat bathing experience, lacking the rich ambiance of classical saunas with their harmonious infusions, gentle steam and aromatic elements. 


Embracing the Chill: DIY Cold Water Therapy Goes Pro

The homemade ice baths that have flooded social media—think repurposed barrels and makeshift tubs—are more than a fleeting fad. This grassroots cold water therapy craze is not only persisting but also evolving, with wellness spas everywhere starting to offer it as a sophisticated treatment. These professional setups eschew the labor-intensive practice of manually adding ice, instead featuring state-of-the-art tubs equipped with filtration systems and powerful chillers to maintain a consistent icy plunge. Anticipate seeing this wellness trend expand beyond local bathhouses to the amenities of five-star retreats, signaling its firm establishment in the luxury wellness market. 


Concurrent Rise of Personal and Community-Centric Wellness

As sauna bathing becomes a hot trend in personal wellness, enthusiasts toggle between the intimacy of private saunas and the dynamic atmosphere of social sauna clubs. For instance, the seamless transition from woodsy retreats to urban living in Norway exemplifies this balance. Many Norwegians, accustomed to their cabin’s private saunas, turn to city-based communal clubs to satisfy their sauna cravings, often through economical memberships. 

Moreover, urban spas are capitalizing on this cultural shift by offering private wellness suites. These spaces cater to small groups seeking bespoke hydrothermal experiences, allowing a personalized approach to regular wellness rituals. 

In the fabric of social wellness, an educational component is also blossoming. Operators are curating experiences in hydrothermal spaces — from saunas to banyas and hammams — to guide guests through group and bespoke wellness journeys. These wellness pathways cater to varying objectives, be they recovery, relaxation or fitness, enhanced by the social and enjoyable aspects of shared therapeutic experiences. The future of wellness is not just a personal journey but a collective adventure, blending health benefits with the joy of connection. 


Empty, Vacant Office Buildings Get Wellness Transformation

Empty urban office buildings suffering from post-COVID work-from-home vacancies are finding new purpose as mixed-use urban destinations featuring retail spaces, residential units and communal wellness centers. The conversion aligns perfectly with the urban demand for wellness-centered living and the availability of expansive areas poised for rejuvenation. No matter the target audience for the redevelopment – high-end and expensive or affordable and accessible – we predict self-service wellness amenities, including European-style social bathing circuits, will be a significant selling point in the competitive real estate market.  


Japanese Bathing Culture: A Wellness Tradition Gaining Global Recognition

Japan’s esteemed wellness practices—from the tranquility of forest bathing and a Zen-inspired lifestyle to a clean diet—have long been associated with the nation’s impressive longevity. Now, the time-honored tradition of Onsen bathing is capturing worldwide attention. Originating from Japan’s volcanic bounty, these thermal springs are more than just a ritual; they offer a therapeutic retreat, rich in minerals reputed to alleviate ailments like muscle soreness, joint pain and skin conditions.  

Onsens present a diversity of indulgences, from serene outdoor pools that harmonize with nature to the quiet repose of indoor baths in ryokans, Japan’s traditional inns. Each hot spring presents a singular journey, shaped by its locale, mineral profile and amenities. 

Mirroring the localized popularity of Korean jimjilbangs, Turkish hammams, and Russian banyas, Japanese Onsen facilities are poised to make a significant splash in the wellness world. As enthusiasts seek authentic, immersive, and communal experiences, Onsens stand ready to meet the growing demand for genuine self-care traditions.  


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