By  on December 1, 2006

LAS VEGAS — There is a spa for everyone.

At least that was the takeaway message from the International Spa Association's annual conference held here Nov. 6 to 9 at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. Among the 3,300 attendees, a prominent theme of discussion was how to retain loyal spa goers and reach out to new clientele who are pouring into the $9.7 billion domestic spa industry.

Roughly 32.2 million adults visited a U.S. spa last year, helping push spa treatments past golf as the most popular activity during corporate events, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' research. The number of spas mushroomed from 9,900 in 2003 to nearly 13,800 this year, with the mix of spas and products tailored to satisfy the demands of a vast range of consumers, from the recently initiated to the very knowledgeable.

"Spas are becoming more normative. You don't have to be a spa guru to attend," said Darryll Leiman, director of cruise operations for Canyon Ranch Spa Club, which opened on the Queen Mary II in 2004. "If you have a positive experience at a day spa, you might choose to go to a spa as part of your vacation. Day spas feed resort spas feed destination spas."

A 2006 study by the Bellevue, Wash.-based consultancy The Hartman Group and commissioned by ISPA found that more than half of U.S. residents who went to spas in the past year selected the day option, sometimes referred to as the spa gateway. Resort or hotel spas were the second most popular choice, with medical, club, destination, mineral and medical spas making up the remainder.

Across all spa categories, the average spa visitor is a married female in her early to mid-40s, who is comparably well off with a household income of $50,000 or more. Her patronage kicked off with a massage, but she developed a taste for other services such as manicures and pedicures after frequenting spas to relieve stress.

Although this dedicated spa goer has spurred double-digit revenue growth, ISPA attendees do not want to get pigeonholed. They expressed a keen desire to diversify the base of visitors to demographic segments — notably men and teens — who have traditionally shied away from spas. Inroads have been made in luring men, who currently make up 31 percent of spa goers, slightly above 2003's 29 percent.

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