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Short spa treatments redefine relaxation for business travelers

By Kayleigh Kulp, Special to CNN
updated 9:35 AM EST, Tue November 8, 2011
The Aspira Spa at the Osthoff Resort in Wisconsin has developed shorter versions of many treatments.
The Aspira Spa at the Osthoff Resort in Wisconsin has developed shorter versions of many treatments.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spas have developed shorter treatment options for time-starved travelers
  • Half-hour massages are easier to fit in between meetings and other engagements
  • Speed spa treatments often don't require advance booking

(CNN) -- Forget a spa-day -- business travelers are lucky to get a spa-minute.

Fortunately it's easier than ever to get a small dose of spa TLC, particularly at spas in business city centers and hotels, capture this segment of stressed and time-pressed customers with speedy treatments.

Spas have re-engineered their menus to offer 30-minute-or-less treatment options to attract business travelers, according to the the International SPA Association. About 75% of the spas surveyed by ISPA last year said they offer express treatments at 30 minutes or less. That's compared to about 40% a decade ago, according to SpaFinder, an online spa directory that named express treatments as one of 10 top trends for 2011.

"The trend really started to skyrocket in the last recession," says Susie Ellis, SpaFinder's president, noting that business travelers and spa-goers alike are watching their budgets. Shorter treatments are cheaper.

Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater, Florida, offers treatments tailored to business travelers.
Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater, Florida, offers treatments tailored to business travelers.

"The No. 1 reason people go to the spa is to relax and reduce stress. Catching flights and conducting meetings from cell phones can trigger added stress for many business travelers," says ISPA President Lynne McNees. "An express treatment is the perfect alternative to help them balance before getting back to work."

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Express treatments go against the spa tradition of being pampered for several hours to achieve refreshment and renewal. But spa experts say it doesn't mean the culture is changing for good. Instead, they are exposing more people to the benefits of holistic healing and wellness.

"We believe that 90-minute treatments are more therapeutic and really get the de-stress job done," says Shanon Hoffman, publisher of online spa guide Healing Lifestyles & Spas. "But we do see the absolute necessity for people to push pause if only for a half an hour or less. I don't think it's going to change the way spas work. They are just adding more of these for those who suffer from time poverty."

In a 2008 study published by the Journal of Marketing Research, participants who were massaged with a 20 second break in the middle were more content than those who had a continuous massage. People enjoyed the massage with the break more because it kept them from becoming too acclimated to the massage.

"Studies have shown that even an affordable 15- minute massage can reduce tension headaches, stress and anxiety," Ellis says. That's not to mention that getting a 10-minute manicure at an airport spa can make the difference between a polished business presentation, or one that's a little rough around the edges, she says.

Spas everywhere -- from small, independent resorts to large, upscale hotels around the world -- have caught on, accommodating a group of new repeat customers looking for quick fixes.

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Express services can also be more profitable to a spa because more people can be accommodated at peak times, Ellis says. "The price-point for a 30-minute treatment is slightly more than half of what you pay for 60 minutes."

"Business travelers who are meeting or staying here will ask for something quick that they can receive immediately, possibly between sessions or after meetings, but before dinner," says Lola Roeh, general manager of the Aspira Spa at the Osthoff Resort in Wisconsin. "They do not want to wait and they do not reserve their services ahead of time. As a result, we have developed 25-minute options for many services."

Sandpearl Resort & Spa in Clearwater, Florida, started an express treatment program to accommodate corporate travelers' tighter budgets. It now offers a popular jet-lag massage and other tailored treatments it says has attracted more repeat customers.

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The trend follows express spas popping up in airline terminals and lounges in recent years, says Marie Lotode Chandra, founder of female business travel site ViaHerWorld.com. There's the Xpress Spa In JFK Airport, which accommodates walk-ins; the Virgin Cowshed at Heathrow Airport offers free, 15-minute treatments to customers to travelers with upper-class tickets. The D_parture Spa at Newark Liberty International Airport offers mini- and altitude- protection facials and waxing.

"When I travel for business I don't always have time to spend over one hour at the spa, although I wish I could," Chandra says, adding they can also get expensive. "Most of the time spas require you to book an appointment in advance, but speed spa treatments rarely require advance booking so we can make plans at the last minute if our dinner plans are canceled or if a meeting finished earlier than expected."

Ellis agrees spas are getting it right.

"Business travelers demand [express treatments] and the driving force is that time is increasingly their most rare and precious commodity. There are more people in need of massage, relaxation and relief given the sheer hours they work and the stress they have taken on," she says. "So the spa trend now is ... all about letting business people have it their way."

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