Hydromassage in Today’s 'No Touch' Normal
By the Global Wellness Institute™ (GWI)
Thursday, 1st October 2020

Automated massage can help spas overcome social distancing rules, decrease personnel costs and deliver the evidence-based wellness that today’s consumers demand.

Background: Covid-19 temporarily suspended spa visits worldwide. To enable reopening, governments have imposed strict social distancing and hygiene norms. Personnel/staffing represents a significant line item for every spa. Adequately trained staff are scarce, costly, and difficult to keep. Here, automated massage treatments and touchless wellness experiences can, therefore, support spa operators in delivering treatments.

Design/Methodology/Approach: This paper provides insights into the possibilities automated massage treatments offer spas in regard to social distancing and staffing flexibility. Expert interviews were conducted to discern the most pressing problems and possible solutions.

Findings: Automated massage treatments support spa operators in overcoming social distancing rules as well as shortages of qualified staff, in addition they decrease operating costs while offering the results wellness consumers expect.


Covid-19 shutdowns have hit the spa industry hard and both short-term and medium-term forecasts warn that “normal” domestic and international travel will not bounce back quickly.

Prior to the pandemic, spa operators around the globe were already finding it difficult to recruit and retain qualified staff, and, now, when spas are allowed to reopen, pressing issues will center around ensuring good hygiene and social distancing. There’s no doubt that the work environment for massage therapists and estheticians will change dramatically – and their time will also be consumed with new disinfection procedures before and after treatments.

Previous pandemics, such as SARS in China in 2002/2003, show that travel ultimately returns to pre-pandemic volumes, but certain behaviors change. In addition to demanding increased hygiene, people typically begin to take personal responsibility by pro-actively changing their lifestyle choices in order to live longer and healthier lives.

After the SARS epidemic in China, for example, people began exercising more, adopted healthier eating habits, and, in general, demanded more hygiene in public spaces.
In a post-COVID landscape, customers will value high hygiene standards combined with highquality, effective, evidence-based services. Treatments involving touch (i.e. massage and facials) will certainly need to change. Research shows that creating lasting, positive impressions for guests depends on a few key factors: an attractive location, friendly and qualified staff, as well as an overall positive leisure/wellness experience. Spas unable to meet those demands will be left behind.

Automated treatments requiring minimal hands-on touch are sought-after by both spa operators and their guests. In Europe, dry hydromassage systems are already popular in the medical sector for treating muscle pain – these devices comply to very strict legal requirements in order to be registered as “medical grade” and, importantly, their efficacy has to be proven via clinical studies, making this piece of equipment an ideal solution in the “new normal.”

These devices should not be confused with the air-compression massage chairs offered in airports and shopping malls. They are, instead, products that have been used in the medical environment to treat issues like sciatica, chronic low back pain, pinched nerves, etc. for more than 25 years in Europe4
Dry hydromassage systems (right) not only deliver high quality hygienic treatments that are touchless and require minimal staff time, but they can also be customized for personalized wellness experiences.

For example, guests can choose which body zones need more attention and can alter the pressure, speed and duration of the treatment. And these values can be combined and saved to form a specific individualized treatment that can be recalled from the library of programs.

This way, spas can create their own massage journeys and/or personalized programs can be saved for frequent guests.

Access the full report here (pdf)

The GWI Hydrothermal Initiative was formed in 2010 to increase education and transparency around the design and implementation of thermal and wet areas. To this end, the Initiative has developed and published a key resource, the Guide to Hydrothermal Spa & Wellness Development Standards, available for free download. In addition, the Initiative aims to educate therapists, specialists and users on the most beneficial ways to use these features to attain health and wellness.

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