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Water is making a splash at spas nationwide. According to a 2006 Spa Traveler Study, 12% of U.S. spa clients tried hydrotherapy treatments over the past year. Natural mineral spas are making a comeback in California and New York. Water is even proving to be a draw in Las Vegas, where Treasure Island resort named its new spa simply, "Wet," and a Roman bath now awaits guests at Caesars Palace.

No wonder recently listed "Water, Water Everywhere (Again)" as one of this year's top spa trends. Think hydrotherapy tubs, vapor caves, deluge showers, and even spa water parks.

Water is big-and growing, as spa customers seek treatments to add to their standard massage or facial. What do today's savvy clients want? An ideal treatment room would likely include some or all of these features:

  • Adjustable lighting
  • Music with adjustable volume
  • A hidden work space for the technician
  • Robe hooks
  • Multiple treatment options to optimize space and prevent the need for the client to move from room to room
  • Water features, such as a waterfall, to create ambiance and drama
  • Easy access around equipment

How should spa professionals go about incorporating water into the spa? Spa experts suggest the following advice and design tips for creating an inviting space that clients will visit, again and again.

Privacy. Bathers wishing to relax generally don't long to be the center of attention, so place public whirlpools in secluded areas-or, better yet, put them in individual treatment rooms for the ultimate privacy. Some customers may not feel comfortable receiving treatments or disrobing in front of others. Giving these clients the option of bathing either nude or while wearing a swimsuit will likely increase their comfort level. For more sensitive clients and spa newcomers especially, hydrotherapy provides "an inviting and exciting gateway to the spa experience," says International Spa Association President Lynne Walker McNees.

Noise. Decibel levels can be amplified in a wet tile room. A well designed spa will 'bundle' treatment rooms and tuck them away from designated quiet areas.

Flow. Choose a floor plan that guides customers through the spa. Consider adding cozy nooks where guests can relax and read. In treatment rooms, provide easy access around equipment. Place treatment tables or whirlpools at least 18" to 24" away from adjacent walls so that technicians can maneuver around clients, from head to toe. Consider adding a water feature to public areas or treatment rooms for a visual and auditory treat.

Warm décor. Add ambiance to lounges and treatment rooms by tiling entire walls with decorative and artistic tiles, says Christi Cano of Creative Spa Concepts, Inc., based in Bountiful, UT. Vary the size and type of tile to create interesting patterns. The ceiling also gets wet from spray and steam, so consider tiling it as well. Beautiful, functional and adjustable lighting helps create an ideal atmosphere. For doors and cabinets, select water-resistant materials and avoid using untreated wood.

Temperature. Finding just the right room temperature for guests can be tricky, Cano says. Avoid installing air-conditioning vents directly above guests. To heat treatment rooms, install infrared heating panels and lamps in the ceiling, or use portable heating lamps. Also consider heating lounge areas for added comfort.

Drainage. Use large floor drains and pipes for hydrotherapy tubs. "The larger the pipe, the faster it will fill and drain," Cano says. "This will impact how many treatments can be done in a day, which directly impacts revenue." Follow specified formulas for sloping floors toward the drain. To reduce slippage, use non-slip floor tiles and avoid slippery materials such as marble and travertine.
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