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ISPA Foundation releases consumer research on COVID-19 impact

Consumers of all age groups will remain cautious about returning to public spaces following the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research conducted by the International SPA Association (ISPA) Foundation.

This specially commissioned study, the 10th volume of ISPA’s Consumer Snapshot Initiative, examines the behaviours 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 behaviour 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,” said 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 38% percent of respondents reported that they would be very nervous to take a flight, for example, while 30% would feel that way about attending a work-related conference or convention. By comparison, just 25% 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% 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,” said 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 emphasising 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% 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% say that they’re eating more healthily and 55% are doing more to look after their well-being, which may indicate a greater desire for spa services once guests are able to return.

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