In 2008, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) unveiled the first-ever Global Spa Economy study. In 2017, GWI estimated that the number of spas had grown to over 149,000 worldwide, earning $93.6 billion in revenues and employing nearly 2.6 million workers. This represented 9.9% annual revenue growth from 2015–2017, which was much higher than the pace observed in the previous two-year period. The main drivers of the spa industry are rising incomes, the rapid growth of wellness tourism, and an increasing consumer propensity to spend on all things related to wellness.

The broader spa economy encompasses not only spa facility revenues but also sectors that support and enable spa businesses, including capital investment; consulting; training of spa therapists and education of managers; and associations, media and events businesses that promote spas. In 2017, these related sectors added $25.2 billion to the spa facility revenues of $93.6 billion to create a $118.8 billion global spa economy.

Spas Defined:

GWI defines spas as establishments that promote wellness through the provision of therapeutic and other professional services aimed at renewing the body, mind and spirit. Most consumers and industry experts would agree that at its core—no matter its size, form or business model—a spa is an establishment that focuses on wellness. The concepts of wellness, the healing traditions drawn upon, and the therapeutic techniques applied differ dramatically across both nations and types of spas. Spa facilities typically offer a wide variety of services (e.g., massages, facials, body treatments, salon services, water-based treatments, health assessments and more) as well as sales of related products.

GWI’s estimates include the following spa sub-categories:

  • Day/club/salon spas: Offer a variety of spa services (e.g., massages, facials, body treatments, etc.) by trained professionals on a day-use basis. Club spas are similar to day spas but operate out of facilities whose primary purpose is often fitness. Salon spas operate out of facilities that provide beauty services (e.g., hair, cosmetics, nails, etc.).
  • Destination spas and health resorts: Offer a full-immersion spa experience in which all guests participate. In addition to spa and body treatments, all-inclusive programs typically include a myriad of other offerings such as fitness, mind-body, special diets and cleanses, energy work, personal coaching, nutritional counseling, weight loss, sports medicine, preventive or curative medical services, etc. This category also includes the traditional sanatoria and health resorts in Europe that offer spa-like services (e.g., massage, hydrotherapy, thermal water bathing, etc.) for wellness and therapeutic purposes.
  • Hotel/resort spas: Located within a resort or hotel property, providing spa services on an à la carte basis to hotel guests and outside/local guests. Spa treatments and services generally complement a hotel stay or a wide range of other activities at a resort.
  • Thermal/mineral springs spas: Include the revenues generated by spa- and wellness-related treatments (e.g., massage, facials, hydrotherapy, etc.) at the following types of establishments: day-use spa facilities and destination/health resorts that incorporate an on-site source of natural mineral, thermal or seawater into their spa treatments, as well as other bathing/recreational springs establishments that offer complementary spa services.
  • Medical spas: Operate under the full-time, on-site supervision of a licensed healthcare professional, providing comprehensive medical and/or wellness care in an environment that integrates spa services with traditional, alternative or cosmetic medical therapies and treatments.
  • Other spas: Includes all other facilities that are not captured by the categories described above, such as cruise ship spas, airport spas, mobile spas, as well as historically-/culturally-based facilities (e.g., Turkish hammams, Indian Ayurveda centers, etc.) that have incorporated spa-like services into their offerings.

For more information:
GWI’s spa economy figures are updated and released every few years in the Global Wellness Economy Monitor. For the most recent data and research, see GWI Wellness Industry Reports & Publications.