Hot Springs Initiative

Members of the Global Wellness Institute Hot Springs Initiative were asked to submit their thoughts on the trends for the industry in their respective countries for 2022. Responses were compiled into categories and counted to determine the top five key global trends.

Responses were received from countries including Australia, China, Europe (France, Switzerland, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, UK, Poland), Japan, New Zealand, and the US.

TREND 1: Convergence of Health and Wellbeing Offerings: Hot springs are Increasingly Recognized as both Health and Lifestyle Wellness Destinations

Increasingly hot springs are being recognized and appreciated for their health and healing potential. As destinations where relaxation, escape and rejuvenation are supported by the core bathing offering, convalescence and wellbeing are a natural outcome. Thermal mineral springs are increasingly being used as a natural remedy to enhance health and improve recovery. Governments in Australia, China, France and across Europe are actively supporting the expansion of knowledge and skills in the sector. This is designed to enable health focused facilities to provide greater wellbeing offerings and for recreational wellbeing focused facilities to think more about their health and healing potential.

TREND 2: Institutional Capital, Wealthy Family Groups and International Investors are Increasingly Interested in the Hot Springs Segment of the Hotel Real Estate Market

Hot springs from across the globe will increasingly be approached by investors who are identifying the scalable proposition of this market segment that offers both a day visit attraction and significant overnight appeal. This trend was reported in US, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. It has also been prevalent in China and Japan for several years.

TREND 3: Hot Springs Plus: Connecting Visitors to Local Culture and Nature Helps Deliver Higher Yields and Longer Stays

Hot springs increasingly look to package with and promote the appeal of other activities

offered within their regions such as golf, skiing, hiking, horseback riding and biking, visiting local produce growers and wineries and much more. Hot springs lead wellness destinations focus on working with local communities and the natural environment to provide the best possible diverse guest experience. This results in extended stays, higher yields and repeat visitation for the businesses and the entire region in which they are located.

At hot springs venues this idea of adding more to and enhancing the offering has seen a surge in hot and cold bathing experiences and particularly the combination of saunas and ice-cold plunge pools.

TREND 4: Demand for Specialist Training in Hot Springs Health and Wellness Modalities Drives a Surge in Industry’s Education Sector

As the clear distinction between the learning needs of hospitality and thermal bathing wellbeing sectors becomes more apparent, educational institutions are stepping into the space to provide the specific training needed for the emerging sector. In addition to longer term courses this will also include upskilling, diversifying and enhancing employee competencies at short courses and workshops.

The massive shift in people’s work choices and willingness to change careers means sector specific training, upskilling and cross skilling of employees and potential employees have become essential. The sector’s focus on people and career development expressed through the creation of diverse education and training opportunities will enable it to attract the passionate, values driven and purpose focused people the industry wants and needs.

This surge in the industry education and the need for knowledge and learning has seen a growth in evidence-based university research looking at the health and wellness efficacy of hot springs. This growing research trend is happening in China, Europe and Australia, has been on-going in Japan and is emerging in the United States.

TREND 5: Local Populations Discovering Hot Springs as Accessible Lifestyle Wellness Destinations

Having been trapped within the COVID bubble for more than two years communities around hot springs facilities are increasingly understanding the benefits they offer at a relatively low price. People want to travel less distances and are making travel decisions at the last minute. In Japan this is known as “Micro-tourism”’ with visitors not travelling much more than one hour from their homes.

Members of the Global Wellness Institute Hot Springs Initiative were asked to submit their thoughts on the trends for the industry in their respective countries for 2021. All responses were compiled into categories and counted to determine the top five key global trends.

Responses were received from countries that included Australia, China, Europe (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland), Japan, New Zealand and the US.

TREND 1:  More Space, More Nature

Instead of focusing on volume, emphasis will be placed on creating opportunities for guests to connect with nature and to have fewer people in facilities. This will manifest into more private bathing experiences; private spaces like reserved lounge chairs and cabanas; and maximum guest numbers being displayed in all bathing pools, saunas, and other places where guests congregate. Where possible, more outdoor areas will be made available to help keep guest numbers up.

TREND 2: Wellness Programs with an Emphasis on Immune-Strengthening Activities and Mental and Physical Health

A significant shift in focus toward personal wellness has hot springs increasingly viewed as wellness destinations. Wellness programs and facilities to support them will enhance the natural well-being gift of thermal waters. Some health-focused facilities, particularly in Europe, will develop post-COVID health recovery programs.

TREND 3: Local Local Local

With significant restrictions on outbound and inbound travel, the international visitor market has all but dried up, leaving the focus on local and domestic markets. This will result in clear winners and losers depending on the net travel into or out of countries pre-COVID. All parts of the hot springs organization, from staffing to marketing to guest acquisition, will be looking to the local market.

TREND 4: Workcations   

The shift to working from home has resulted in a greater need for people to get away from their home office. Hot springs that provide space for day offices and stay offices enable visitors to combine work with leisure, pleasure and wellness.

TREND 5: Cleanliness and Hygiene

While cleanliness is at the very heart of the hot springs bathing industry, the pandemic era has lifted the bar higher. Strict operating procedures see that every guest touchpoint has been considered and undergoes regular sanitation and cleaning.

TREND 1: Multigenerational Features – and Accessibility – Make Hot Springs a Destination For All

Hot springs are being designed with infants and seniors in mind to provide environments, activities and accessibility for people at all stages of life. Experiences range from baby baths and walk-in pools to massaging hydro jets and water slides. Whether it is high energy fun or low impact and easy entry pools, hot springs facility design is taking heed of the visitor’s age and ability (mobility). Within the facilities and in different resorts in hot springs regions, facilities are providing separate spaces for high and low energy activities, enabling tranquility and activity to be offered without compromising the experience of either.

The 130-year-old Glenwood Hot Springs in Colorado has been undergoing extensive renovations, expanding the reach and attraction.

In recent years, some hot spring enterprises in China have cooperated with real estate developers and commercial insurance companies to develop retirement villages centered around hot springs.

All five of the Blue Zones (regions in the world) identified in the Dan Buettner lead research study into the longest-lived populations on earth have hot springs in their region.


TREND 2: Hot Springs Take Lead in Connecting Community

As places where the community comes together for health, wellbeing and connection, hot springs are engaging with the broader community in which they are located. This can take the form of providing health and fitness programs with special mid-week entry prices targeting local visitors, but it also involves direct engagement with community organizations through philanthropy and social service. In particular, issues of community mental and physical health are areas where hot springs can contribute to the fabric of the community in which they are located.

Esalen Institute, in California, offers a wide range of wellbeing courses.

Wilbur Hot Springs, also in California, donated 10 percent of its revenue to on World Bathing Day, June 22, 2018.


TREND 3: More Wellness Programming Increases Appeal and Revenues

Massage, yoga, Pilates, hot-cold experiences, forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku), aqua therapy and many more activities are being woven into the hot springs offering, stretching the reach beyond the traditional relaxation and escape market to the proactive, self-help, life-engaging and motivated consumer. This has manifested itself into a one-day holiday where visitors are provided a “business or first-class” hot springs experience with more space and time to enjoy time away from their busy lives.

Austria’s Vitality World group, at facilities such as the Aqua Dome, has achieved double-digit growth with its one-day holidays.

Glen Ivy Hot Springs in the mountain outskirts of Los Angeles is utilizing a hot springs concierge during busy times to enhance the guest experience and help share knowledge about the water and correct aftercare post bathing.

The Chinese Government issued a Healthy China 2030 Guideline, which has encouraged a consumer-led demand on hot springs facilities to provide more than a relaxation and escape destination.


TREND 4: Hot Springs Maximize Connection to Nature and Environment

Increasingly evidence-based research is being conducted, showing the connection between nature and mental and spiritual health. Hot springs stemming from the earth with life- and health-enhancing minerals and natural warmth provide an all-weather and all-seasons connection to the environment. Hot springs designs are focusing on providing an aesthetic and physical connection to the environment and, with that, comes a sublime and almost subliminal health outcome—a sense of being connected to and at one with the natural environment.

The Japanese town of Nosawa, and many other towns throughout Japan, have produced multilingual guides to the Japanese cultural way of bathing to help make the experience more enjoyable.

Two hours out of Tokyo, the ancient hot springs town of Kusatsu offers a trail of hot springs (onsen in Japanese) where guests walk through the beautiful town in their traditional yukata robes and geta (wooden clogs) from hot spring to hot spring. In any season, guests feel connected to the surrounding space and find blissful relaxation.

In 2017, the Chinese National Tourism Administration, under which the hot springs industry is recognized as one of the 10 pillars, was amalgamated into the Ministry of Culture, creating the new “Ministry of Culture and Tourism,” tightening the natural link between the two.


TREND 5: Extreme Bathing = Extreme Wellness

Hot springs in mountains and natural wilderness settings are playing host to extreme wellness retreats and adventures. The extreme comfort of natural hot pools provides a stark contrast to bathing in snow-covered mountain streams. Hot saunas and cold plunge pools. Walking in wilderness areas and laying in portable, heated, hydro hammocks or makeshift steam room tents. Pushing our bodies to extremes helps stimulate the immune system and the body’s self-healing mechanisms and is getting the attention of the global media and the global health-conscious consumer.

New Zealand’s Maruia Hot Springs has been offering extreme wellness programs that combine Wim Hof-style hot and cold bathing experiences with talks on nutrition, walks, yoga massage and mindfulness.

Peninsula Hot Springs in Australia has launched a Nordic zone with saunas, ice caves, cold plunge pools and an ice plunge pool supported by trained guides who take guests on fire and ice experiences.

The Global Wellness Institute serves as an umbrella organization for numerous Initiatives, that are independently chaired and run. The resources, editorial, research and opinions presented by the Initiatives do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Global Wellness Institute.