HydrothermalInitiative Trends

TREND 1: What’s Old Is New Again: Self-Service, Touchless Bathing Circuits Hit Their Stride

In addition to the myriad of technology solutions you can expect for touchless, automated entry/exit and contactless check-in/out, there will be a greater emphasis on hydrothermal areas that deliver evidence-based wellness without trained therapists or with very minimal staffing. Hydrothermal bathing’s healing properties have been part of human health for thousands of years. Medical studies show regular use helps to improve the immune system; treats hypertension, cardiovascular disease and arthritis; and, crucially, improves the respiratory system (especially combined with salt inhalation therapy). We expect a greater appreciation of the ROI that this delivers in a post-COVID world, and, as the lines between wellness and medical continue to blur, we believe “prescriptions” for hydrothermal treatments will become commonplace.

Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence: https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(18)30275-1/fulltext

Recovery from sauna bathing favorably modulates cardiac autonomic nervous system


Halotherapy in Patients with Cystic Fibrosis: https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijrpm/ijrpm-2-009.pdf

Dry salt therapy: https://b46e571f-f0aa-4fd2-a6a8-3228728897db.filesusr.com/ugd/d54f32_7349cc02d67c46b3a19c4017c84aa52f.pdf?index=true


TREND 2: Cultural Interest in Sweat Bathing Grows

With a world-wide craving for immunity-boosting, community-building activities, and a Netflix documentary called “Perfect Sweat” hitting the airways in 2021, more people will rediscover their native sweat-bathing cultures—at an appropriate physical distance, of course. From Finnish saunas, Russian banyas and Islamic hammams to central Europe’s sauna aufguss, Mexico’s temescals and the Inuits’ sweat lodges, expect locals to flock to these sources of health, and once travel picks up, there’s sure to be aficionados seeking the next-best sweat experience.



TREND 3: At-Home Wellness Sanctuaries on the Rise

Residential hot/cold contrast therapies will become more common as shelter-at-home directives continue to rule our lives. Many regular spa-goers are missing their regular “fix” of thermal bathing and want unfettered home access to combat quarantine stress and up their immunity. We are seeing full spa suite installations in residential homes on the rise—driven by technological advances, making equipment smaller and easier to install. In addition, spas will educate guests on how they can indulge in contrast therapies at home without any extra investment. For example, cold foot baths combined with hot showers will be “prescribed” for at-home use, as will the benefits of mineral additives for tub bathing.


TREND 4: Cleaning, Hygiene and Guest/Staff Safety Front and Center!

In a pre-COVID world, cleaning was considered “unsightly” by operators. In our new reality, there’s no doubt that visible cleaning protocols will be the order of the day! Not just signage and in marketing materials but also staff cleaning while guests are in the spa. It goes without saying that sterilization and disinfection of every aspect of any thermal cabin or inhalation apparatus are imperative to keep private and public hydrothermal areas safe. Guests will also need to take responsibility, not just for their safety but also that of other guests and staff—more handwashing and sanitizing and no more skipping showers before using hydrothermal areas or going into a treatment room.


TREND 5: Larger, Roomier Thermal Cabins, Staggered Entries

We were already seeing larger sauna and steam rooms pre-COVID, as many spas began using these areas for treatments and events. For example, the 500-square-foot hammam at Faena Saxony Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach might be the most social distancing-friendly hammam in the USA. Until things return to normal, these larger rooms will help spas manage physical distancing. In addition, they will be enforcing staggered entries to coordinate the volume of people in these communal areas.


TREND 1: Salt Therapy for Real Results

In 2019, we predict the use of salt in thermal cabins to soar as spas start putting the health benefits of salt before the aesthetic beauty of pink Himalayan salt blocks. The popularity of designer salt rooms in spas has soared in recent years—and sexy, pink-hued salt brick walls have become ubiquitous in thermal areas of spas across the world—however, though the backlit bricks may look pretty, the salt they are made of offers little to no health benefits. Expect thermal rooms with or without salt walls to add functional salt systems, such as halogenerators for distributing fine particles of dry salt or a nebulizer for a steam-style inhalation of salt. Both enable bathers to reap the actual benefits cleansing salt offers, including better respiratory health (studies show salt inhalation can even alleviate asthma symptoms) and benefits to the skin (including conditions such as acne, rashes and eczema). Devices, such as KLAFS SaltPro X, a portable, battery-operated halogenerator, are helping to bring the benefits of salt to any thermal room or home sauna.

TREND 2: Kneipp Therapy Gets a Reboot

Kneipp therapy (named after a 19th century Bavarian parish priest who discovered this “water cure” for healing his tuberculosis) has long been popular in Europe. Kneipp walks or wading pools are a popular introduction to the health benefits of hot and cold contrast therapy. Bathers alternate walking through hot and cold actions to stimulate blood circulation throughout the body. And, because they can be self-administered (no therapist required), they are growing in popularity in both Europe and North America. One example in the US is the hot/cold walking pools at the recently-opened CIVANA Spa’s (Carefree, AZ).

TREND 3: Getting Cold Gets Hot

The importance of cooling down after using saunas, steam rooms or hot pools has become better understood in recent years. The evidence around the benefits of hot and cold contrast therapy* is mounting and has resulted in a greater interest in treatments, such as snow rooms, snow showers and cold plunge pools. Even the humble shower is getting a significant makeover to help bring hot/cold contrast therapy into homes. Manufacturers, such as Dornbracht and Hansgrohe, have introduced specialist “deluge” showers and waterfalls that are specifically aimed at the spa and wellness market and are being used in both residential wellness suites and in professional builds.

TREND 4: Coed Thermal Bathing Gains Traction in US

After many years of resistance (mainly due to some outmoded standards that were ranking US properties without separate male and female hydrothermal areas lower than those with communal, coed facilities), we are seeing the development of exciting and creative unisex wet thermal areas in spas across the US—something most Europeans have long enjoyed. Privacy issues are handled by installing small private areas in coed locker rooms, allowing the main spa areas to be designed and built as social, communal spaces. This trend is gaining major traction in the US, where younger generations seek out social and group wellness activities and recognize that the unique wellness benefits of social spa-ing far outweigh what they get through single-sex, thermal bathing. Some shining examples include the coed facilities at the award-winning Faena Hotel, Miami Beach, and the newly built wellness area in the luxury condominium property at 111 Murray Street in New York’s TriBeCa.

TREND 5: Floatation Therapy in Resurgence

Floatation therapy looked to be big back in the 90s, but it never quite took off. Now, seemingly every new hydrothermal project is incorporating a floatation element—from fully enclosed pods to the more popular open tubs that mitigate any claustrophobic element of floatation to large scale, multisensory pools that offer flotation, light and underwater sound therapy. An extension of this trend is a resurgence of Watsu pools for therapist-led floatation therapy, which is gaining popularity and being sought-after by a new generation of spa-goers. One explanation? New research shows a deep drop in anxiety levels after a one-hour float**. H2Oasis Float Center and Tea House (Tulsa, OK) is an interesting example—it combines tea, oxygen therapy and floatation pools in one location.

TREND 6: Adding Hydrothermal Wellness Elements at Home

Once the domain of the wealthy, wellness real estate is becoming more democratized with installations of hydrothermal features in more and more private residences. And more compact designs mean it’s possible for even the smallest of homes to incorporate the benefits of wellness with a private sauna. This trend is also being seen in multifamily living environments where apartment and condominium developers are incorporating spa and wellness features into almost every new build. In the past, a fitness center and maybe a pool were considered differentiators, but now, communal wellness and relaxation areas are must-have amenities. Recent GWI research backs this up: The value of real estate developments incorporating wellness elements is projected to grow from $134B in 2017 to $197B in 2022.

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.