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All Nine of Orange County, California's Major
 Resort Spas Were Built or Upgraded Since 2001
By Michele Himmelberg, The Orange County Register, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Apr. 4, 2005 - Spa customers come in all forms. Weary workers with knots in their necks are being joined by anti-aging warriors, couples on retreat, and even bridal showers and birthday parties.

"Spas have come a long way; they're now high-touch, high-emotion, high-everything," said Janice Gronvold, a former spa executive who works in the industry as a business strategist.

"We're going to spas not just for facials and massages, but for lifestyle and bonding." That desire to reconnect and revitalize has sparked a boom in the spa business in Orange County and the nation.

Spas are the fourth-largest leisure industry in the United States, which now has 12,100 of them. The hotel-resort segment led the way last year, attracting 37.2 million spa visits and ringing up $4.52 billion in sales -- more than 40 percent of total spa industry revenue.

Grabbing their share of the market, Orange County resort hotels are building and adding onto their spas. The Laguna Cliffs Marriott eliminated a few tennis courts to build a new spa last year; the Four Seasons Newport Beach opened six new treatment rooms in February; the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is remodeling its spa, and the Newport Beach Marriott is building a spa as part of a massive renovation scheduled for completion in December.

That will give Orange County nine major resort spas -- all built or upgraded since 2001. Combine that with the county's new resort hotels and upscale golf courses, and it becomes a force in the resort market, competing with Palm Springs and the spa haven of north San Diego County.

"Today, you must have a spa to compete in the luxury-resort arena," said Jeroen Gerrese, general manager at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott & Spa in Dana Point. "People expect it." Meeting planners, leisure travelers and businesses looking to reward their top producers are seeking resorts with spa services.

"It's even the local community," Gerrese said. "A lot of people are giving our spa certificates as a way of saying, 'Well done! Now, go and take care of yourself.'"

Day spas outnumber resort and hotel spas nearly five to one, but the resort-hotel segment is the most lucrative. Resort-hotel spas nationally reap 41 percent of industry revenue, employ one of four spa workers and account for 27 percent of spa visits, according to the International Spa Association.

Resort-spa visitors come not only from out of town but also from down the street.

On a typical weekday, the spa at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach might be booked with conference delegates, said Cormac O'Modhrain, general manager of the resort. On a typical Saturday morning, it might be filled with a mix of leisure travelers and locals. "I can go out front on a Saturday, and there's a father, with children in soccer gear, dropping off mom at the spa," O'Modhrain said.

At the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, local spa clients range from regulars getting their skin treatments to mothers and daughters enjoying an afternoon of bonding.

"You see people coming to the spa because they're a lot more conscious of taking care of their bodies," said Gina Pirones, director of Aquaterra Spa at the Surf & Sand. "All these years of working out have been a big step, but on top of that they now see the need for a mind-body-spirit connection." To create the kind of sanctuary where people can rejuvenate, spas typically incorporate the natural elements of their region. In Orange County, that includes citrus body polishing, sea-mud wraps, algae masques, and sand scrubs for the feet.

Water, a fundamental in any spa, often has an ocean theme at local spas, with Thalassotherapy (seawater) pools and massages overlooking the beach.

To care for all the clients, spas hire massage therapists, aestheticians and wellness experts. ISPA, the spa association, reports that the industry employs between 254,000 and 282,000 people.

High in demand are well-trained spa managers who understand both the operational and hospitality sides of the business. That need inspired UC Irvine's Extension program to develop a spa certificate program that enrolled its first students last year.

Gronvold, an adviser to that program and founder of Spectrec, a spa consulting firm, says the industry must continue to adapt to our changing lifestyles.

The trend today blends spas into tourism. The next step, already strong in Europe, incorporates the spa into medical treatments and health management.

It won't be long, Gronvold says, before they all begin to merge.

"You will see hospitals becoming more like hotels, and hotels becoming more like luxury hospitals," she said.

"You will see more of a convergence of medical and spa services. People who want to push back against aging don't want to feel like they're in a hospital. They want to be in a comfortable environment." While Orange County has added seven of these grown-up playgrounds in four years, the market doesn't appear to be saturated. The region not only has affluent baby boomers who will pay to look youthful, it also attracts more than 40 million tourists and business travelers who are potential clients.

Plus, the industry is only beginning to tap the growing popularity of spa treatments for men. In 2003, men made up 29 percent of spa-goers.

As Orange County matures as a resort spa market, the venues that thrive will understand the area's demographics and learn how to distinguish their services, experts said.

Look for more efforts in customer retention, the potential for branded spa franchises and specialized employee training, said Angela Jeantet, co-creator of the spa management program at UCI.

Keys to growth will be customization -- similar to what Spa Montage is doing with its "Surrender" package that helps individuals choose treatments that are right for them. Others focus on the particular needs of Southern California, where the sun can brutalize skin.

"You could have 20 spas in a three-block area, and if they're all reaching a particular niche and there is demand, they could all survive," Gronvold said. "One could be body treatments, one could be for skin and one a medical. You could even have a dental spa.

"The beauty of the industry is you can create something critical for your market. In Southern California, there's room for everything."

UC Irvine Extension's certificate program for spa management:

Consumer guide to spa services, from the basics to high-end luxuries:

RESORT HOTELS ARE BETTER able to compete for corporate and leisure business when they have their own spa. Here's a look at resort spas in Orange County, what they offer and how the spas help attract new and repeat clientele:

--Aquaterra Spa Surf & Sand Resort, Laguna Beach

Renovated: 2004

Treatment rooms: 8

Specialty: Treatments fit in four "rituals." The "Artistic Ritual," for example, includes a massage with instruction for couples on home massage and how to use body paint to create colorful designs.

Effect on business: Half the spa's clients are locals, boosting sales even when the resort is not full; spa attracts more groups to bolster resort's mid-week business.

Contact: (949) 376-2772

--Pacific Waters Spa Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach

Opened: 2003 with the hotel

Specialties: Prep-for-summer with exfoliation and tanning product; "Hops and Barley Double Play," a hand-and-foot treatment for men; "Ultimate Caviar Facial" Treatment rooms: 18 Effect on business: Spa is a big selling point with meeting planners who book corporate travel; also attracts locals for the day.

Contact: (714) 698-1234

--The Spa, Four Seasons Newport Beach

Opened: Renovation completed in February

Specialties: "OC Facial Drench," customized blend of antioxidants to revitalize complexion; "lip blooming" to plump up lips.

Treatment rooms: 10

Effect on business: Nearly one-third of spa clients are locals; a 300 percent increase in revenue is projected this year because of six new treatment rooms, new treatments and spa products.

Contact: 949-760-4992

--Spa Montage Montage Resort Hotel & Spa, Laguna Beach

Opened: 2003 with the hotel

Treatment rooms: 21

Specialty: Signature "Surrender" treatment runs two hours or four days, with personalized treatments designed by a therapist to fit the spa-goer's lifestyle/ailments.

Effect on business: Spa is both a marketing tool and revenue source; 60 percent of resort guests use the spa; more groups booking it for after-hours parties.

Contact: (949) 715-6000

--Spa Gaucin St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa, Dana Point

Opened: 2001 with the hotel

Treatment rooms: 25

Specialties: Hydrotherapy; "orange silk body cocoon" uses orange-scented lotion and Lotus Silk, a rejuvenation product; pre- and post-natal massage.

Effect on business: Has attracted more group business with addition of "spa-breaks" -- five-minute massages of head, neck and shoulders for meeting attendees, both on arrival and during breaks outside conference rooms.

Contact: (949) 234-3367

--The Spa at Laguna Cliffs Laguna Cliffs Marriott, Dana Point

Opened: 2004

Specialty: Two-hour "Peaceful Warrior" massage, based on therapies used in 14th century Thailand for warriors returning from battle, with heated pouch of herbs, aromatherapy, oils Treatment rooms: 10 Effect on business: Hotel can compete for coveted group market; boosts leisure weekend travel

Contact: 866-526-7772

--The Spa, Balboa Bay Club & Resort Newport Beach

Renovated: 2003 (Open only to hotel guests and club members)

Specialty: Champagne-based treatments for upcoming wine festival; sea stone massage Treatment rooms: 9

Effect on business: Resort can create guest packages with spa treatments, such as those offered for Valentine's and Mother's Day

Contact: (949) 630-4772

--The Spa, Ritz-Carlton Laguna Nigel Dana Point

Set to open: June

Specialty: Plans to be first spa in the county to offer the Botorelax facial, which eases facial expression lines without Botox injections.

Treatment rooms: 11

Effect on business: Spa expansion and re-theming are part of hotel's $40 million renovation Contact: (949) 240-2000

--Newport Beach Marriott Spa Fashion Island, Newport Beach

Set to open: December

Treatment rooms: 16

Specialty: European spa with state-of-the-art fitness center

Effect on business: Spa is part of 30-year-old hotel's $60 million renovation; expands its marketing approach

Contact: (949) 640-4000

YOUR COST WILL VARY depending on location and amenities. Typically, once you pay for a treatment, you will get free use of the spa's facilities, such as sauna, pool, showers and fitness center. Here are some general price ranges:

Basic: Typical for a day spa -- Swedish massage $75-$90; facial, $40 to $75; manicure or pedicure, $25 and up.

Mid-range: Typical at a resort hotel -- Swedish massage, $100 and up; facial, $55 for 25 minutes, $115 for 50 minutes; body wraps $50 to $130.

Upscale: At a "destination spa," expect to pay $200 to $600 per night for all-inclusive package, with meals and counseling or training; customized treatments often are extra.

By Michele Himmelberg


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Copyright (c) 2005, The Orange County Register, Calif.

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