Resort Spas Open Doors to Youth Market

Spas, long a haven for harried parents, are increasingly infiltrated by the teens and children they once served as an oasis from. Facilities have responded by developing treatments targeting their younger patrons, and as spas create party packages for youths, they have more to offer by way of organized activities for children and teens, in addition to individual treatments.

The big hit with teens is the massage, though even younger children are quickly learning to appreciate massages as well. For the six- to 12-year-old set, Cecilia Hercik, director of Spa Grande, at Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort, has found that a 25-minute chocolate-coconut massage is the most popular treatment.

For teenagers, Spa Grande offers a different set of treatments. "Teenagers don’t like to have the same items as the younger children; they feel like they are a little more grown up," explains Hercik. Teens tend to prefer a 50-minute wave massage, which incorporates lava stones, crystals, and a little bit of education about what each does.

Diane Friedman, director of the Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels in Orlando, has also found the 50-minute treatments considerably more popular than the 25-minute sessions. "I thought we’d be booking more of the 25-minute massages, but most of them, especially the young ladies, are much more spa savvy, and they are looking for the 50-minute massage," says Friedman. "They want adult treatments. These young ladies have had numerous massages—many go weekly or biweekly—and their expectations are high," she says.

The boys tend to be cautiously curious. "At first they seem a little reluctant, but afterward they are basically hooked. They are very active in sports, and they have normal aches and pains, and they’re amazed by how they feel after," says Friedman. Hercik agrees: "They are interested in fitness, looking good, and learning how to do it themselves," she says of her young male patrons.

It is important to note that all of the spas we spoke with are concerned with making the spa experience comfortable for both the child and the adults also using the spa. Since there is often nudity in locker rooms and lounges, the Grand Wailea is careful to lead children to a private dressing area, then directly to specific areas of the spa, to avoid baths and shower areas where adult patrons are likely to be nude. The Spa at the Del also specifies that teens and children are given same-sex therapists and that minors should wear a bathing suit or will be given a cover-up.

During the summer, the Grand Wailea averages 900 children a day, so Spa Grande developed Co-ed Teen Spa Night for guests ages 13 to 17. "It’s a little bit of a learning experience," explains Hercik. "They don’t have a treatment, they learn about spa etiquette" while hanging out in the spa’s Terme baths. In April, Spa Grande also launched three Teen Spa Camps, each running four hours and offering a different learning experience and activity for teens.

One of the best options for groups at Spa Grande is a variation on the Wailea and Maui packages—each three hours in length, one targeting boys and one targeting girls. The packages consist of massages, manicures, pedicures, a henna tattoo, and other treatments.

"Last year we did over 6,000 treatments in the kids’ and teen spas alone," says Hercik of the popularity of the program in its inaugural year. Prior to 2005, Spa Grande offered one facial and one massage for teens and no services for children. Based on the popularity of the youth spa program, Spa Grande began incorporating amenities appealing to its young clients, such as complimentary mini iPods with disposable headphones for use during their treatment.

With so much emphasis on body treatments, don’t forget about makeup. Kathleen Cochran, general manager at Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego, has found its salon’s makeup consultants to be extremely popular with girls who are learning to apply makeup and would rather not take advice from their mothers.

And to round out a day at the spa, why not get a tan before sitting in the sun? According to Friedman, teen clients "come in looking for fake tans before they even hit the pool or the beach."