ISPA Foundation Releases Consumer Research Focused on COVID-19’s Impact

The International SPA Association (ISPA) Foundation has released the tenth volume of its Consumer Snapshot Initiative. This specially commissioned study examines the behaviors and expectations of both spa-goers and non-spa-goers as they navigate the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with a particular focus on the ways in which the pandemic has altered their behavior in the present and is affecting their expectations for returning to “normal” life as travel and social restrictions are lifted.

“We know that COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty in many industries, including the spa industry,” says ISPA President Lynne McNees. “This new research offers clarity at a time when we know it’s in short supply, providing key insights into real-life consumer attitudes as our members make plans for reopening their spas in an unprecedented climate.”

Findings from the ISPA Consumer Snapshot Initiative suggest that consumers of all age groups will remain cautious about returning to public spaces following the pandemic. Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported that they would be very nervous to take a flight, for example, while 30 percent would feel that way about attending a work-related conference or convention. By comparison, just 25 percent say they would feel very nervous about visiting a spa after the crisis ends.

When spa-goers return, however, they are likely to do so with a new set of expectations for the spa experience. Concerns about the need for social distancing and a heightened awareness of sanitation in public spaces are likely to drive consumer decision making, with 60 percent of spa-goers noting that they will likely ask about hygiene and sanitation practices when they next visit a spa.

“Following an event like the COVID-19 crisis, consumers are going to have concerns, and it seems clear that ‘business as usual’ won’t fly,” says Colin McIlheney, global research director at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “But having these insights into specific consumer concerns and expectations gives spas the opportunity to be proactive in addressing them and making guests feel more comfortable from the moment they arrive.”

The pandemic has also led to an increased consumer focus on at-home wellness, which spas may need to address by emphasizing the value and quality of the professional treatments and services they provide. If they can communicate that value, the data suggests that consumers will respond, as more than 80 percent of respondents say they plan to spend as much or more on spa visits once the pandemic ends, indicating that demand for spa services may be high upon reopening.

Respondents’ increased attention to wellness in general is also a positive sign for the industry. Forty percent agree that they are getting more physical exercise during the pandemic, 41 percent say that they’re eating more healthily, and 55 percent are doing more to look after their well-being, which may indicate a greater desire for investing in their health and accessing spa services once guests are able to return.

To view or download the executive summary click here.

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