Why Your Favorite Hotels and Resorts Are Building Spas the Size of Airplane Hangars

In an age when health is wealth, hotel spas have, ironically, become old hat. Next time you fancy a massage on your business trip, odds are that you’ll be escorted to a shiny, sprawling “wellness center” instead.

Inside, you’ll find all the trappings of a classic spa: treatment rooms, saunas, pools, and steam rooms. But unlike a mere spa, wellness centers are vast, kitchen-sink affairs spanning entire building floors, sometimes multiple stories, with amenities like aromatherapy pools, meditation gardens, and quiet rooms.

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The global wellness tourism industry raked in a whopping $476.1 billion in 2022, and is predicted to be worth around $1.02 trillion by 2030, according to Statista. For hotels and resorts, that means that spas—sorry, wellness centers—are money-making epicenters, well worth investing in.

 Spa Palmera at The Boca Raton
The Spa Palmera at the Boca Raton is 50,000 square feet.

In Portofino, the Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort responded to the demand for treatments of every flavor by knocking out what was once a conference center to create a 22,000-square-foot health hub with new treatment rooms, a large indoor pool, and split levels for the wet area, relaxation area, plunge pools, and more. Reopened in March, the resort now operates the largest spa in the Liguria region.

“Not only do we have our hotel guests in mind, but we wanted to build a special destination for the local community as well, so it needed to be big,” said Silvia Ballerini, sales director for R Collection Hotels.

Ballerini noted that the average guest spends five hours at the spa.

The spa at NIZUC Resort
The MedSpa at the NIZUC Resort specializes in non-surgical aesthetic treatments.

Also in Italy, Lefay SPA Dolomiti, unveiled a shiny, new, 53,000-square-foot wellness playground this spring. The treatment menu is rooted in Chinese medicine and features a salt grotto, as well as mud therapy. Some 115 miles southwest, Grand Hotel Fasano, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, opened its 38,000-square-foot AQVA spa wellness center at the end of March. The hotel’s mission: to become a national and international point of reference for those seeking wellness on Lake Garda.

Across the Atlantic in Cancun, NIZUC Resort & Spa opened a new MedSpa in January, specializing in the latest medical technology for non-surgical aesthetic treatments, including increased muscle tone, reduced fat, and skin tightening.

The Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort in Portofino.
The Grand Hotel Bristol Spa Resort in Portofino is 22,000 square feet.

“We believe that clients are always looking to experience more on their vacations and they want to achieve a healthy lifestyle–mentally and physically,” said Darrick Eman, the resort’s global director of sales & marketing. “This enhancement allows us to bring the spa experience to the next level … Our clients can now not only be pampered in their spa experience during their stay, but they can also obtain their aesthetic goals.”

U.S. properties have also invested in hangar-sized wellness worlds, like the 50,000-square-foot Spa Palmera at the Boca Raton, which was unveiled in early 2022 with 44 treatment rooms, a tranquility pool, and halotherapy Himalayan salt room. Mii amo, a Relais & Châteaux property in Sedona, Arizona, completed a $40 million renovation and expansion in February. The project created a 42,145-square-foot area for both traditional treatments like massages and facials and unconventional alternatives like Aura photography and astrology readings.

In Westlake, California, the Four Seasons features 80,000 square feet of wellness, with 10,000 of it dedicated to meditation gardens and 40,000 to the spa—the largest in the brand’s portfolio. It’s so large, in part, because of an emphasis on public spaces and buffer zones in between treatment rooms.

“We place great emphasis on the power blank spaces play in fostering relaxation, creativity, and ultimately greater wellbeing,” said Akram Alkawasmeh, executive director of the Center for Health & Wellbeing at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village.

It turns out bigger really is better.

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