Thai spas kept busy by Chinese, Indians and Russians

A jump in the number of tourists from China, Russia and India is likely to benefit Thai spa businesses, especially those in the dry-spa segment, says the Thai Federation of Thai Spa (TFTS).

It costs 30-50 million baht to set up a dry spa with 100 beds but the business can break even within three years.

Thanks to a variety of unique treatments, spa and Thai traditional massage are popular among foreign tourists, prompting tour operators to add the services to their tour packages.

Dry spa offers non-medical treatment service such as body and facial massage that is not associated with water therapy.

TFTS adviser Apichai Jearadisak said the increase of tourist arrivals from China and Russia in the first quarter of this year has given a boost to business operators in Bangkok and resort destinations such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya.

Major players in the segment include Health Land, Sukho Cultural Spa & Wellness, and The Royal Spa Phuket where each offers between 60 to 100 beds.

Mr Apichai, also former TFTS president, encourages new operators to join the business as it still has room to grow on the back of the strong tourism industry.

It costs 30-50 million baht to set up a dry spa with 100 beds but the business can break even within three years, based on the industry's average performance, he said.

He added that a good point about Thai spa and traditional massage is the industry has been developed steadily for several years and many operators have focused on quality service, a variety of treatments, as well as competitive prices.

"Bright prospects of Thailand tourism is a key factor to boost the business because spa became one of the lifestyles of tourists. Besides, the domestic market is growing thanks to affordable prices of low-end spa," he noted.

Kasikorn Research Center estimates 6.8 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in the first quarter of this year, up about 19% year-on-year.

According to Mr Apichai, the number of new spa service in Thailand is also increasing in accordance with the growth of new hotel supply which still continues to rise.

"Spa is a necessary facility, same as restaurants and fitness centres at hotels so existing hotels have to upgrade their spas to be competitive," he said.

TFTS anticipates that the total market value of the spa business in Thailand would increase to 20 billion baht this year, up from 17 billion baht last year.

Premium spas in Thailand total 1,500, and low-end spas 4,000 to 5,000.

But he believes many of these operators run business with low standards especially those that did not get permits from the Public Health Ministry. However, the government is in the process of passing a new law to empower the ministry to regulate tourism-related services.

"This will ensure service standards and reduce illegal spa parlours such as 'Pretty Spa'. The law is expected to effectively improve the standard of spa services and protect consumers," Mr Apichai added.

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Writer: Chadamas Chinmaneevong
Position: Reporter