Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Relaxation a booming business

PAMPERING Rejuvenation of the body and mind has become the mantra for a variety of companies seeking to cash in on the growing demand for spa treatments

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A top client of ABN-AMRO bank in Kaohsiung enjoys aromatherapy and massage in a bank's spa room. As part of the bank's new customer strategy, the service aims to help clients seek a pressure-free moment in the hustle and bustle of city life.

PHOTO: GE YU-HAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Alicia Chao (趙之綺) treats herself to spa sessions twice a month, or more if she's not too busy. She applied for membership with a spa chain two years ago so that she can get discounts on spa, sauna or other services.

"I don't mind spending some money to be nice to myself," said the 28-year-old city dweller, adding that since she is too lazy to work out at gyms, she prefers massage and aromatherapy.

"They make me feel healthier," she said.

For an office worker like her, the beauty sessions -- which cost between NT$3,000 and NT$5,000 each time -- are pricey but worth the investment.

"I feel like a queen," Chao said.

This is generally how customers like Chao react when they are treated in a delicately designed environment, where relaxing music fills the air and women's magazines and fruit tea are on hand to allow them to enjoy some pressure-free moments in their busy lives.

Beauty salons and individual workshops have mushroomed in the past few years offering a wide variety of services and prices.

"The market saw conspicuous growth last year," said Meko Su (蘇秀連), chief of the Tunhua North Road outlet of Orient Retreat (登琪爾), which has nine outlets around the nation.

She noted that women -- and men -- aged between 30 and 45 account for the bulk of her customer base.

The number of male customers had doubled from last year, she added, noting that the trend of seeking spa treatments to relieve pressure and improve circulation has really caught on in the last few years.

As one of the first chains to introduce the spa concept to this country in 1996, Orient Retreat now offers spa services for men at its two Taipei outlets. Su said this allows female clients to share tranquil moments with their husbands or boyfriends.

And cash registers are ringing. Su declined to disclose the revenue figures for her outlet but said generally outlets of between 200 ping (660m2) and 300 ping can achieve sales around NT$4.5 million per month. Smaller spas of between 80 to 120 ping could produce around NT$2 million a month.

The boom in spas has lured cosmetic companies and hotels, both in Taipei and around the country, to seek a share of the market. Banks, stores and other companies have also begun offering spa packages among their incentive awards for top customers.

Louise Chai (蔡采芩), spa manager at The Sherwood Taipei, said the hotel set up its top-floor spa area in early 2002 to meet market demand and cater to their guests.

"We found out that the availability of spa treatments can increase our occupancy rate," said Chai, a former aromatherapist.

Positioned as a business hotel that mainly attracts foreign businessmen, the Sherwood found that a rising number of men were interested in the spa as a way of rewarding themselves and keeping young.

Two-thirds of her spa's customers are male, Chai said.

"More and more five-star hotels are placing spa services on their lists to attract consumers," she said. "In the near future, a spa might become a must-have, like gyms or swimming pools."

This might explain why the Grand Hyatt Taipei and Grand Formosa Regent Taipei recently launched new room packages that combine accommodation and spa treatments.

At the Grand Hyatt, the offerings include "Pulsed Oxygen Injection" treatment at a preferential one-night room rate, nearly 50 percent off the original price.

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