With the UAE being one of the most popular hospitality locations in the Middle East, it’s no surprise that spa design has taken on a larger scope in the tourism industry. And with that, come new designs and new innovations.
The idea of going to a spa for the treatment of physical and mental ailments is an idea as old as time. Dating back to the second millennium BC, the notion of relaxing in a hot natural spring or tidal pool was initially formed by the Greeks.
Having created bathing norms that serve as the foundation of modern spa procedures, the Greeks used small bathtubs, wash basins and foot baths for personal use and established communal baths and showers in gymnasiums. The Greeks believed that the tidal pools and springs were blessed by the Gods, and therefore could cure disease.
More sophisticated versions of the Greek bath came by way of the Turks, Arabs and Romans, who utilised technological advancements such as cement and aqueducts to create baths on larger scales. And it wasn’t until the Muslims in Spain during the Middle Ages that water was credited for its therapeutic uses.
Today, after centuries of spa design and water technology development, companies like BagnoDesign, Inviion by Schletterer and Barr + Wray, continue to pave the path for innovative water technology and upscale spa design.
With notions such as the holistic spa, sustainable design and even spa TVs, companies have been working towards creating 5-star experiences that cater to a spa-goer’s five senses.
“For successful spa creation, clients should consider three important components to the spa design process, which are: spa operational design, spa interior design and spa engineering or technical design.
To have one without the other leaves a gap in the process which more often than not results in issues during design and most importantly throughout construction,” explains Corrine Sunter, sales director, Middle East, India and North Africa, Barr + Wray.
She continues: “Many clients do not appreciate that the three elements are essential to creating a facility that not only offers the client a 5-star experience, which is now expected by today’s discerning spa-goer, but one that is also aesthetically, operationally and technically successful and profitable.”
In addition to the three components Barr & Wray focuses on, Inviion, one of three subsidiaries of the Schletterer International Group, nourishes five factors to deliver successful spa solutions.
According to Mohammad Ibrahim, regional director for MENA, Schletterer, these five factors include: providing an escape from the ordinary, holistic spa environment, purist design, global ‘healthness’ design, and sustainability.
“There is a general tendency toward well-being and cosiness, as well as generous concepts of space. This allows guests to get away from the ordinary. Architecture and design are supported by specific accessories to convey special themes. Special lighting designs and concepts are of ever- growing importance. Smart lighting effects are used to foster a relaxing atmosphere and support multisensory experiences,” explains Ibrahim.
In addition, Ibrahim noted the popularity of using natural materials, which have calming and soothing effects on spa-users. The perfect combination of elements such as water, wood, stone, clay and even glass and steel, can keep a guest happy and have them coming back again and again.
He added: “Another trend is the need for spas to become more sustainable. In the past, spas were designed and built without any thought to the costs of running them. This has changed and cutting energy costs has become vital.
Inviion in particular has been working very hard in this area and thanks to new technologies we have developed, we can now save up to 50% on the running costs of a sauna or steam room. All of Inviion’s spa equipment solutions boast maximum energy and cost saving potential and efficiency.
“Alongside this, there have been developments in lighting with the introduction of LEDs and advances made in water technology. If spas don’t tackle energy costs, they won’t survive in the long term.”
In leading the way in sustainable, purist and holistic design, Inviion has unveiled a new product entitled the Worlds of Spa. The product’s concept incorporates different themes and combines a selection of top-quality, health-enhancing and multi-sensory spa experiences.
The Worlds of Spa are credited for taking guests on unique spa experiences that “go far beyond what is currently available on the market, meeting all noticeable future trends of spa and wellness,” says Ibrahim. “From the health aspect, to the multi-sensory approach, from the guest’s desire to experience the extraordinary to sustainability and the integration of holistic room concepts offering the latest in multimedia, sound and lighting technology, aroma and heliotherapy,” he adds.
And while Inviion continues to pioneer the market with spa solutions inspired by traditional Chinese medicine such as as Holistic Cocooning, the Four Senses Lounger, or the Mineral Room, Barr + Wray and BagnoDesign have their sights set on other innovative designs such as reviving the Turkish hammam and introducing the Spa TV.
Sunter tells: “The hamam trend that was talked about a few years ago seems to be exploding now, as about 75% of luxury new hotels being developed in the Middle East are considering larger and more distinctive hammams, as a must have facility within their spa.”
She adds: “What we are noticing in the Middle East market is the demand for more authentic offerings based around concepts from Turkish, Russian and Roman baths. We are excited that hotel operators are providing larger footprints within [their] hotel for the
development of the spa thermal areas and grasping the allurement that carefully designed and unique facilities have [for] their guests.”
Barr + Wray, which already has an established foothold in the Middle East, recently secured two lucrative contracts with international hotelier Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which will see the production of new spa designs in Dubai and Bahrain.
The luxurious spa in Bahrain will provide visitors with a rasul mud bathing experience and traditional hammams, salt rooms, experience showers and steam rooms.
While Barr + Wray and Inviion continue forward with spa solutions that allude to the past such as with traditional Chinese medicine, or the classic Turkish Hammam, BagnoDesign looks to the future with its new partnership with British consultancy, design and installation company, Vapore Spa Solutions.
Beyond at-home spa designs, BagnoDesign has also imagined a completely contemporary spa solution that incorporates comfort and the modern therapist: a television.
“BagnoDesign’s state-of-the-art spa TVs are equipped with HDMI, Bluetooth, a waterproof remote, FM/AM radio, and passive speakers. The LCD TVs are available in 21 or 26 [inches]. The luxury of having a bathroom television embedded in the wall means you can enjoy your favourite programme while relaxing in the bath,” explains Daniel Parker, the manager of Vapore Spa Solutions.
In addition to spa TVs, Vapore Spa Solutions and BagnoDesign have formed new ways to customise at home spas. “Shower-to-steam conversion is just one of the trends Vapore Spa Solutions handles,” notes Parker.
He continues: “Where better to enjoy a steam room experience than in your own bathroom, escaping from the stresses of the outside world? These conversions give you the option to personalise your steam room by adding tiles, shower fittings and mixers to uniquely complement the space.
“Vapore Spa Solutions’ wide range of whirlpools and BagnoDesign’s luxury spa TVs can easily fit in any wet room environment and are proving popular in today’s market with more and more clients seeking a unique bathing experience. The self-cleaning whirlpools, with underwater lighting and optional air jets, will transform any bathroom to an area of relaxation, perfect for unwinding and recharging your batteries.”
Whether by finding inspiration in the past and adding modern twists like Barr + Wray’s new hammams, or by providing bespoke holistic spa treatments like Inviion, or even by incorporating technology in wet rooms such as BagnoDesign and Vapore Spa Solutions, personal and public spa units will always serve one ultimate purpose: to enhance your personal well-being. And together, spa companies will continue to forge new paths.