Hydrothermal Initiative Trends
TREND 1: Modern Urban Bathhouses
There’s a renaissance of the centuries’ old tradition of “communal bathing” occurring in cities across the world. Urban bathhouses in all shapes and sizes, featuring a wide diversity of rooms with varying temperatures—from saunas and banyas to steam rooms and hammams, as well as pools featuring local waters, be they minerally-enhanced, salt water, or naturally treated waters—are popping up to heal and comfort pandemic-weary cities across the globe. Some are small and personal (like AIRE Ancient Baths in New York City, London and Barcelona), while others are on a much grander scale, serving hundreds (and even thousands in the case of Therme Group’s wellness water playgrounds which are dotted throughout Europe and heading to North America). The Global Wellness Summit also called out the rise in urban bathhouses it its annual Global Wellness Trends Report.
Source: Global Wellness Annual Trends Report. Available at: The Future of Wellness 2022
TREND 2: Social Sauna-ing – More Experiential/Accessible Sweat Bathing
Many cultures attribute sauna use and contrast therapy with better sleep, stress reduction, detoxification, increased immunity, improved aerobic endurance and even happiness (the Finnish are some of the happiest people on earth). With medical studies pointing to clear benefits of sauna bathing, we’re seeing the adoption of sauna (and other sweat bathing practices) on the rise, and, in some surprising places.
For example, in London, a set of rooftop saunas offer private sessions with views of the London skyline, giving guests “a way of connecting with themselves and the outdoors all year-round.” Entry is affordable and guests get a bonus social experience: privileged entry to an adjacent, and popular, rooftop bar. Floating saunas pepper the Norwegian waterways, bringing locals and tourists together for a common wellness experience. “Floating saunas are a megatrend in north Europe with spas creating satellite wellness hubs designed to connect people with nature and as a way to offer private sauna experiences in delightfully unexpected places, often near a cold body of water for a natural cool down,” said Lasse Eriksen, President, Norwegian Sauna Association.
There’s also a rise in large, communal event saunas that seat 40+ people to enjoy ceremonies, such as Sauna Aufguss, a modern take on an old Finnish ritual where “sauna masters” waved dancing towels to circulate heat, humidity and aromas. Today, Sauna Aufguss has evolved into performative storytelling, complete with costumes, singing, chanting and even laser and smoke shows. Aufguss is so popular in Europe, that there is an annual Aufguss World Championship, which will be hosted in the Netherlands in 2022. This trend has made its way to North America: a new event sauna recently opened at Awana Spa & Wellness at Resorts World in Las Vegas, and another is expected to open in Brooklyn’s World Spa later this year.
Source: Rooftop London Sauna. Available at: Sauna London: Rooftop Sauna experience in East London — NETIL360
TREND 3: Cold Makes a Comeback, Especially Snow
Call it the “Wim Hof effect” or the popularizing of cryotherapy, but we’re seeing both residential and commercial wellness embracing the benefits of cooling down. Proper hydrothermal bathing is a cycle of “heat-cold-rest” repeated 2-3 times. Bathers first experience high heat (sauna, banya, steam room, etc.), followed by a cool down (cold shower, ice bath, snow room or plunge pool), then, importantly, a period of relaxation to stabilize body temperature.
Why snow? Advances in indoor snow technology has made it easier for spas to introduce cold therapy. There’s something so gentle, yet effective, about the cold therapy benefits of a snow room. Walking into a snow-filled room gives all the benefits of contrast therapy without the shocking, freezing wetness of a plunge pool (water conducts temperature more efficiently than air so 45°F water “feels” colder than air at 45°F). Snow rooms have the added benefit of being able to deeply inhale cold air all year round—something that is great for respiratory health.
TREND 4: Thinking “Outside the Building”
The pandemic served as a reminder to all of the benefits of nature and fresh air. This appreciation of the great outdoors and biophilic design has made nature a highly sought-after feature in both residential and commercial bathing areas. Look for more creative uses of outdoor/garden spaces and watch as developers finally bring spas out of the basement and into the natural light. Another benefit of having easy access to fresh air is that, in some parts of the world, outdoor spaces can offer a natural cool down, eliminating the need for built cold features.
In the UK, more than 2million GBP has gone into creating an outdoor spa experience.
Source: The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat. Available at: The Rabbit Hotel & Retreat,
TREND 5: Wellness-at-Home Goes BIG
For those who can afford it, bringing 5-star bathing features into the home is becoming a real thing. Whereas previously, there might have been an appetite for a small sauna and maybe a steam shower, now homes are being outfitted as full-scale spas (perhaps now that we’ve lived through a pandemic, some homeowners don’t want to risk another loss of their local spa facilities). There is a home in Los Angeles currently under construction which will feature a full-size sauna, hammam and snow room—something that would have been near impossible to imagine a couple of years ago.
TREND 6: Beyond Physical Wellness: Extolling Mental Health and Sleep Benefits
“Mental wellness” and “sleep hygiene” have both become common concepts throughout the past few years as we collectively look for ways to stay positive and get enough ZZZs. Contrast therapy and hydrothermal bathing are self-care rituals that gently pamper and lull the body and mind into deep relaxation. Add a dash of nutrient-rich waters and the benefits are further magnified and can be targeted to treat various skin or health ailments. Throw in the communal act of sweating and detoxifying together brings a layer of connection and community to the act. All these attributes lead to reduced stress, increased feel-good hormones and even better sleep. Expect more studies and more focus on the less obvious benefits of hydrothermal bathing.
TREND 7: Touchless and Self-Service
Hydrothermal bathing is the original and longest standing touchless and self-service treatment around. Both were in high demand throughout the pandemic, but it’s also a great way to deliver wellness benefits to the masses at accessible prices and with a strong return on investment (no highly trained therapists required). We are also seeing treatment rooms get more high-tech and offer touchless massage and other experiences that don’t require hands-on therapists.
TREND 8: Fitness Meets Wellness
We’re predicting a greater focus on holistic wellness in new and existing gyms and fitness centers. In a post-pandemic landscape, holistic wellness is arguably the biggest trend there is, and progressive gyms are evolving into new “social wellness clubs” that go beyond weightlifting and traditional exercise classes to include recovery stations and evidence-based communal bathing. The wellness benefits of regular sauna bathing, which, combined with cold therapy, is a great tool for reducing inflammation and muscle soreness, and is something gyms across the world are in a unique position to capitalize on both for members’ overall wellness and as a positive impact on a club’s bottom line.
TREND 1: In-Room/In-Suite Wellness
There will be an increased commitment to bringing wellness and wellbeing features into the hotel guest room, in addition to the “main” hydrothermal spa area. We will see a renaissance in bringing tubs back to hotel rooms, but this time marketed for their hydrotherapy (wellness) benefits versus the fun/luxurious way in which rooms with Jacuzzi baths have been marketed in the past.
TREND 2: At-Home Wellness Sanctuaries
The self-care movement is only going to grow stronger throughout 2021 and onwards. Expect more homeowners to create “at-home” wellness sanctuaries with features that run the gamut from biophilia (bringing nature inside) to better air filtering systems to more natural lighting, finishes and furnishings, and, of course, amped up bathrooms and/or dedicated wellness rooms that include zones for mediation/yoga/exercise as well as saunas/steam/bathing. And expect more adoption of respiratory wellness, treatments like halotherapy, that may have only been available in spas previously.
TREND 3: Aging Well and In-Place
Increase in wellbeing solutions for senior living, retirement homes, senior living communities, including a huge interest in immunity-boosting activities, like hydrothermal bathing.
TREND 4: Health Through Water
Hydrotherapy being re-examined from a serious healthcare/self-care perspective. Hot tubs and Jacuzzis are no longer seen as an extension of the cocktail bar but as a serious therapy once again. Water’s unique healing properties to facilitate rehabilitation and recovery—hot and cold wet contrast therapy can be as stimulating to the immune system as hot and cold thermal rooms. We see both standard pools and hydrotherapy pools being installed less for fun and more for wellness!
TREND 5: Mental Health Properties of Hydrothermal Bathing Embraced
COVID has given rise to the mental health benefits of the importance of enjoyable DIY bathing therapies that help relaxation and sleep as an aid to mental wellness and wellbeing.
TREND 6: Wellness for All!
With the impact of COVID-19 across the world, there will be many more who struggle financially and will not ever be able to afford “Wellness at Home” or “In-Room Wellness”—something that will prompt a surge in public wellness bathing spaces being developed across the globe.
TREND 7: Outdoors Is the New Wellness Hot Spot
More outdoor areas being used for relaxation and wellness both at home and in the community. For example, outdoor, public saunas popularized in Nordic countries will become more common throughout the world. Another example: the huge resurgence in natural hot springs for wellness.
TREND 8: Minimalistic (Easy-to-Clean) Designs
We’ve long encouraged keeping it simple when it comes to hydrothermal areas, but now it’s more important than ever to build spaces that are safe, reliable and hygienically “simple.” This doesn’t mean wellness areas won’t “wow” with their designs, but simplicity will rule the day (this includes easy access for cleaners and no unreachable nooks and crannies).
Bonus 2021 Trend
In 2020, the Hydrothermal Initiative named Touchless Treatments as a top trend. This is continuing in a huge way in 2021.
TREND 9: 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 also be a greater emphasis on hydrothermal areas that deliver evidence-based wellness without trained therapists and 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. As the lines between wellness and medical continue to blur, we believe “prescriptions” for hydrothermal treatments will become commonplace.
TRENDS the Hydrothermal Initiative wants to influence/create!
TREND 10: Education on Benefits of Hydrothermal! – Alongside the list of contra-indications that are mandated outside of public hydrothermal bathing areas, we would like to promote the display of all the health and wellness benefits that they deliver versus only displaying health warning legalese.
TREND 11: Hydrothermal Inclusivity – Find ways to think outside the box, and go beyond the obvious wheelchair user’s needs, which is usually demanded by legislation anyway, but the industry will shift to focus on how to better serve those with cancer, AIDS and other immunodeficient illnesses by working with the wider medical world.
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
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.