AUG 2014

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76 DAYSPA | AUGUST 2014 GLOBAL SPEAK THE BUSINESS OF SPA There are an estimated 800 spas in Thailand today, and more than 1,500 Thai massage businesses. What keeps these businesses thriving? "Years-old research indicated that Thai spas relied heavily on foreign tourists to be the core spa consumer in Thailand, and suggested that 80% of spa-goers in Thailand were foreign tourists," says Andrew Jacka, past-president of the Thai Spa As- sociation ( or "TSPA", and cur- rent chairman of the World Spa & Wellbeing Convention ( "However, with limited statis- tics and the continued culture of 'not sharing' industry information, it's diffi cult to say if this is still the case. With the industry growing steadily at rates of between 5% and 15% annually for many years now, it's only rea- sonable to conclude that the number of local spa-goers (Thai nationals) is increasing." Thais are a gracious and service-oriented people, and their naturally peaceful nature lends itself to a service culture. Thailand does not require licensing of beauty therapists, but the Ministry of Public Health does require that at least 50% of a spa's employed therapists hold a certifi cate of training for the business to operate legally. There are more than 400 registered spa and massage training centers across the kingdom that can issue these certifi cates. Most of these institutions offer limited cur- ricula (usually Thai massage only); only a handful offer a full range of training in spa services, and a handful offer international qualifi cations such as those from educa- tional organizations CIBTAC and CIDESCO. One of the biggest challenges to spa operators in Thailand has been the constant drain on the therapist supply by other countries. The Thais make excellent spa therapists and, after training, are often hired by other growing spa regions, especially in the Middle East. Thai schools have the capacity to produce 10,000 therapists per year, but it isn't enough to keep up. Trying to develop retail sales is another hurdle; Thais are not by nature sales-oriented, plus there are often language barriers between international guests and their therapists. "Tourists rarely buy retail, and many local customers liken spa products to prescription medical products, which they believe will yield faster results and are relatively inexpensive in Thailand," says Julaluk Jitsanga, co-owner of Green Leaf Spa (green in Bangkok. "Spa products are viewed as pampering items, so retail sales tend to be more sea- sonal or special-event driven." A lack of standards and regulations in the industry has led to the Thai Spa Association's involvement in im- plementing spa standards for the 10-member ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations, in 2015. Reports Jacka, "It is hoped that this initiative PHOTOS COURTESY GREEN LEAF SPA Green Leaf Spa brings American and European spa practices to Bangkok.

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