This article first appeared in The Spa Business 2020/21 Handbook.

Claire Way
Managing director, Spa Strategy
We’re at the beginning of a new juncture of disease and design, where confidence controls what kind of space we want to be in. Physical spacing and sanitisation will drive the design of wellness spaces moving forward. Where development budgets once allocated more to the aesthetics of the space and less to how the mechanics of it could improve health, in a post-COVID-19 world, these less visually appealing items will demand a larger slice of the budget.
HVAC systems with individual controls that ensure air is separate from other rooms will become the norm, limiting cross contamination. Innovation in material finishes will be sought from the medical field, where developments in antimicrobial surfaces such as copper-laced flooring and the use of silver compounds will continue to inspire new innovations that also offer antiviral properties. One such potential development from Manchester University in the UK uses sugar to create a broad-spectrum virucidal antiviral. This is currently being considered as an ingestible or topical application, but who knows what direction this innovation could take; sugar, long seen as the enemy in wellness, could provide a non-toxic antiviral solution.
Material finishes will be sought from the medical field – think antimicrobial copper-laced flooring and silver compounds with antiviral properties

Adoption of technologies such as RFID-activated doors and lockers, sensor-activated taps and hand dryers, and voice-activated lighting will become standard. Carpets and window coverings will be eliminated in favour of hard surfaces that are easy to clean. And gender-specific hydrothermal spaces in the changing rooms will give way to larger, co-ed areas that move guests into a space that allows for easier management of physical spacing.

Finally, there’s been much talk about biophilic design and moving towards an integrated wellness offering throughout the hotel, spa and exterior spaces. Now is the time to embrace this movement. Spa design of the future needs to be more adaptive and resilient to ensure the business model can accommodate the unknowns before us.

• Claire Way leads Spa Strategy’s extensive work in the strategic planning, programming and design of spas worldwide.