Voting for spa awards has become a spectator sport.
Everyone seems to be fascinated by who is the best. But who decides?
Winners of the 2012 SpaFinder Wellness Readers' Choice Awards have just been announced. They cover spa-goer favorites on six continents, in 44 countries and across 27 categories (see the full slate of winners at http://www.spafinder.com/rca) based on a visit or staycation.
More votes than ever were tallied, according to sponsor SpaFinder Wellness, the newly branded marketing agency that originated the awards 10 years ago.
Asian travelers voted in the annual survey sponsored by asiaSpa magazine, published in Hong Kong. Crystal Awards are given to the most-voted facility on each of six continents. The 2012 crème de la crème:
Africa: The Spa at the Oyster Box Hotel, Durban, South Africa
Asia: Chiva-Som, Thailand
Australia: Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat
Europe: The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
North America: Life in Balance Spa with Clarins at Miraval, Arizona
South America: The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, Argentina
“Working your way to the top of a global industry crowded with thousands of hotel, resort, and destination spas is nothing short of an extraordinary feat,” noted Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder Wellness.
What criteria are used?
Unlike the Michelin, Zagatt, and Gault et Milau guides writen by professionals, Spa ratings are far from “unbiased,” says Raul Andrews-Sudre in Spa Management Journal. A consultant with 48 years of experience in the hospitality and spa industries, Mr. Sudre knows whereof he speaks. “Spa ratings or awards are given in exchange for advertising or used by trade shows to attract customers.” This in itself is not necessarily nefarious, he adds, “but most of those who vote could not tell the difference between a good treatment and a lousy one as they for the most part have a onetime experience at a spa for their birthday or anniversary.”
As it happens, Susie Ellis and the DC Spa Examiner were among 47 judges for the AsiaSpa Awards. There were more than 240 nominations in 24 categories. The ballot covered 210 pages -- from Asian Spa Capital, Cuisine, and Ant-Aging to Men’s Spa, Design, and Product Line.
The daunting part of our assignment was more than sheer numbers; some spas appear in several categories. Comparing an urban hotel spa in a big city to a boutique hotel spa in the middle of Malaysia is like mixing apples and oranges.
What distinguishes the AsiaSpa Awards is the scope of creativity seen across the region. Thus the spread of Hilton International’s trademarked new spa brand – eforea – developed in Virginia and New Jersey, sets standards in Thailand and other parts of Asia. Another trusted brand, ESPA International, based in the UK, debuted in Singapore, while Evian’s first spa in Japan opened in Tokyo. And the opening of the Clarins spa at Miraval in Arizona attracted Asian travelers. (See full list at www.asiaspaawards.com)
TripAdvisor®, the world’s largest travel site, conducted its 2012 wellness travel survey of more than 1,100 U.S. travelers. Thirty percent of travelers surveyed plan to take a trip dedicated to rejuvenating their body, mind or spirit at the beginning of 2013. Of those traveling, 49 percent will stay in a hotel, 17 percent will stay in a vacation rental, and 16 percent plan to stay in the home of family or friends.
“Our survey shows that for nearly a third of travelers, the beginning of a new year is a chance to recharge their batteries with a rejuvenation trip,” said Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications at TripAdvisor. The list is based on the most highly rated hotel spas according to the quality and quantity of TripAdvisor traveler reviews. To qualify a hotel had to have a minimum four star classification. Luxury brands like Four Seasons dominate the top 10.
But a quick look at comment on the top ten hotel spas shows that relaxation – not wellness – is the main reason they were selected.
Rewarding those spas that aspire to be the best is an admirable idea. Use the awards as a guide, and judge for yourself.