Designers have become the new curators of a trillion-dollar industry of high-end spa resorts promising the luxury of mindful escape.

By Eva Kirstine Brünnich

A new creed of curated spa hotels is emerging, one that embraces age-old traditions reimagined for a modern audience seeking escape from workaholic lives and constant online presence. Worldwide, this booming industry is worth US$ 3.7 trillion annually, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

One of the world’s leading spa design companies, Stockholm-based Raison d’Etre has for the past 20 years pioneered this global spa revival.

“A hotel spa is no longer a separate unit as it was 20 years ago, but integrated into a larger holistic totality, and spas and their wellness facilities are today often destinations in themselves (…) Wellness has become an all-embracing concept that not only includes fitness but also F&B offerings. Restaurants serving healthy meals add a new dimension to the wellness area, or perhaps there’s a juice bar serving vitamin smoothies,” says Managing Director of Raison d’Etre, Anna-Cari Gund.

Grand Hôtel Nordic Spa & Fitness in Stockholm offers a Nordic spa concept reflecting affinity to nature and a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. The spa is constructed using stone masonry from Grythyttan and Rauk on Gotland, Sweden. Photo: PR


Raison d’Etre develops its spa concepts for the global market based on traditions from Europe, the Americas and Asia with the aim of offering personalised treatments and locally-rooted therapies.

Among their brands are Kempinski The Spa with treatments reflecting the changing seasons rooted in Chinese medicine, and Resense Spa which seeks to revive age-old European spa traditions where water especially is the soothing element.

Their Auriga Spa concept is inspired by the full moon rituals of Mexico, whereas their Jiva concept, tailor-made for the Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces, delves into the heritage of age-old Indian healing techniques. And finally, there is LivNordic – a concept offering a world of Nordic spa experiences with connectedness to nature. The LivNordic brand can be found in Doha, Qatar, and onboard cruise ships.

“When designing a concept, we assess the geographical location, culture and environment. We talk with the owners and investors to get the whole picture. We always suggest products that support both the spa concept and treatment list. We prefer and recommend organic products, and some of the selection must also have a local and authentic connection,” Gund says and adds:

“We are currently working on a project in Rome, where we aim to integrate Rome’s history and involve residents and local traditions. That’s absolutely crucial today if you’re to appeal to the local community. When planning our spa in Qatar, we included a hammam even though the spa is inspired by Nordic traditions.”

There is also a strong business case to be made on developing spas to offer locally-rooted experiences. With a far greater focus on the bottom line, hotel wellness offerings are now being designed so treatment rooms and fitness studios attract other segments than merely travelling businesspeople and pleasure-seekers.

“When it’s off-season for hotels, we offer local residents the chance to enjoy day-spa access and to become members of our fitness spa. It’s about making the product attractive to the local community and about commercial viability,” Gund says.


Raison d’Etre also develops their spa concepts to embrace a wider range of treatments and therapies than has traditionally been the case at spa resorts.

“We will see a growing variety of treatments. The classic Swedish massage still accounts for 80 percent of all spa treatments, and that will not change, but we will listen more to the clients and will customise the classic treatments to individual requirements. Lavender oil may be used as an anti-stress ointment, for instance. Massage treatments will continue to be the basic product, and then you will add something extra to tailor the spa treatment to the customer,” she says.

A further emerging trend in the wellness market is a revival of the classic tradition of the European health spa. As the products and service range continuously expands at spa resorts worldwide, who would have thought luxury hotels would one day offer not only a stylish bed to sleep in, but also life-changing sleep therapy.

“Mindfulness is a growing trend. Guests require meditation rooms, yoga and quiet areas. This mindful dimension is something we’ll see far more of in the future. It’s a part of a stress management approach to allow yourself the time to get bored and stop staring down at your phone.

“The spa is a kind of escape. Some spas will also bring in psychotherapists and doctors who can handle medical aspects. Medical spas will become more common, and the same goes for those offering sleep therapy,” Anna-Cari Gund concludes.

Managing Director of Raison d’Etre, Anna-Cari Gund. PR photo