BANGKOK, Dec. 1 What many spa clients have thought for years, a jury of industry insiders and journalists has proclaimed in the 2009 AsiaSpa Awards: Thailand is indeed Asia's spa capital.
Taking five citations including "Asian Spa Capital of the Year", Thailand was one of the big winners in the fifth AsiaSpa Awards, presented by AsiaSpa magazine, the region's most recognized spa and wellness publication, during a glittering ceremony recently in Hong Kong.
"Thailand deserves this title," says Chami Jotisalikorn, a Bangkok-based author of books on Asian spas, design, lifestyle and travel, and one of 28 judges for the competition. "Thailand has the most outstanding spa and wellness offerings in the region in terms of quality, quantity, diversity, authenticity of treatments, service and design. Thailand also tends to lead the way when it comes to new and innovative spa concepts, spa design and service."
In addition to being named Asian Spa Capital of the Year, Thailand received the top recognition for "Destination Spa of the Year" for Six Senses Destination Spa Phuket; "Medi-Spa of the Year" for S Medical Spa in Bangkok; "Spa Personality of the Year" for Karina Stewart, Co-founder, Brand & Concept Director, Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary; and "Men's Spa Treatment of the Year" for "Man Space Healing Balance Massage", i.sawan Residential Spa & Club, Grand Hyatt, Erawan Bangkok.
While a recipient of many AsiaSpa Awards in the previous four competitions, this is the first year Thailand has won the Asian Spa Capital of the Year honour. The award goes to the country perceived by the judges as providing the best in innovation, variety and quality.
Explains Rebecca Walker, Editor-in-Chief of AsiaSpa, "Among other things, judges took into consideration the growth of the spa industry in each nominated country and the quality of services represented in each. Beyond five-star hotels and spa developments, the judges also took into consideration the variety of spas and hotels that had opened in the current year as well as future openings. They also looked at health and wellness programmes available at various resorts."
Thailand won from a field of eight country contenders.
"What we have is a very special industry," says Andrew Jacka, President of the Thai Spa Association in Bangkok, enjoying the excitement the awards have stirred. "Whatever you want in terms of spa, Thailand has it," he adds. "We have the variety of size, the variety of price and the variety of menu offerings."
Although the majority of spas in Thailand are uniquely Thai, Jacka is quick to explain that the variety also covers every type possible, including urban spas, resort spas in an urban environment, luxurious destination spas, island wellness centres and holistic medical centres.
The first spa appeared in the kingdom in 1992, and two per cent of all spas in the world are in Thailand. There are now some 585 spas operating in Thailand, employing 11,240 people. In 2007, the industry generated revenue of 8.3 billion baht (US$263 million).
According to Intelligent Spas, a Singapore-based research service, Thailand now has more spas than any other country in the region and is the leading destination in Asia. Its industry also generates the largest annual revenue within the region.
"What Thailand has is such a unique culture for spas," says Jacka. The judges clearly agreed. Says Jotisalikorn, "The range of spa offerings to be found all over Thailand - from Chiang Mai to Phuket - is spectacular, from world-famous luxury destination health resorts to high-tech urban medi-spas to back-to-nature open-air island day spas."
In one of her many articles on the spa industry, Jotisalikorn previously noted that "visitors to Thailand can experience a plethora of unusual spa treatments derived from ancient traditions in Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, China, India and elsewhere. Nowhere else can such a depth and range of choices be found in a one-stop health and beauty destination."
AsiaSpa established the awards in 2005 to "honour spas, spa personalities, associations and resorts that have set the benchmarks for quality and service in the region".
"The year has been a particularly tough one for the spa and wellness industry, yet some spas, brands and resorts have come out even stronger than before. The highly respected AsiaSpa Awards are there to recognize the very best of the best and push forward the whole industry to higher standards," says Olivier Burlot, Managing Director of Blu Inc Media, which publishes AsiaSpa magazine, in a statement.
According to its website, AsiaSpa magazine prides the competition for its unbiased and accessible standards. Any spa or industry insider can nominate contenders for any of the 26 categories and at no entry fee. The jury of independent judges create a shortlist of finalists, then cast the final vote. Contenders with the most votes per category win.
The accessibility of the AsiaSpa Awards makes them the region's most objective industry accolades, according to Jacka. He says this also means the competition is more intense, open to both international brands and single neighbourhood spas, he adds.
The AsiaSpa Awards cover spas in numerous countries, cities and islands all over Asia, says Jotisalikorn. "While different destinations tend to enjoy booms in spa development at different times, (depending on the economic and tourism climate in different places), and the newest spas tend to garner the latest awards, Thai spas have consistently dominated the awards in numerous categories over the years. This is a reflection of the consistently high quality and range of Thailand's spa offerings."
Jacka believes the Asian spa capital recognition is a "huge stimulus" to propel the Thai industry forward even more. "Thailand can be a world leader," he says. "Yes, we're a relatively mature spa industry, but that's not to say there's no more opportunity. There are plenty of opportunities to continue to raise standards, to continue to grow and develop and maintain the world market position we have."
The Thai Spa Association plans to continue providing the industry with education support to improve standards. "The Thai Spa industry has been a demand-driven industry for a long time. We need to look at the 'nuts and bolts' to move forward again," says Jacka, noting that operators need to be entrepreneurial and creative.
"We have the right to be proud of what we do," says a beaming Jacka.
AsiaSpa is Asia's only magazine totally dedicated to the pursuit of complete wellbeing. From the latest spa destinations and treatments to health, cuisine, fashion and cosmetics, AsiaSpa provides over 120,000 of today's wealthiest, brand-conscious urban females with an essential guide to pampering and inner tranquility. For more information, visit: www.asiaspa.com.
AsiaSpa Awards 2009AWARDS WON BY THAILANDAward Category WinnerAsian Spa Capital of the Year Thailand Six Senses Destination Spa, Phuket,Destination Spa of the Year ThailandMedi-Spa of the Year S Medical Spa, Bangkok Karina Stewart, Co-founder, Brand & Concept Director, Kamalaya WellnessSpa Personality of the Year Sanctuary, Samui "Man Space Healing Balance Massage", i.sawan Residential Spa & Club, GrandMen's Spa Treatment of the Year Hyatt, Erawan Bangkok
SOURCE The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)