More men are seeing the value of spas

By Xu Junqian ( China Daily ) Updated: 2011-10-07 11:07:28

More men are seeing the value of spas

Bottles of massage oil at the Banyan Tree Spa, in Shanghai. The spa offers Ginseng and lemongrass scrub and other Thai-style treatments which take care of skin and relief stress. [Photo / China Daily]

One of the major reasons the industry has long been dominated by women is, unsurprisingly, the question of masculinity, say industry insiders.

"Men tend to get anxious walking into places such as spas," said Barry White, global director of Langham Hotels and Resorts' spa brand Chuan Spas.

Unlike the "saturated" female spa market, White said, the male spa market in China is still "an emerging one" and lacks sophistication. This, however, creates a window of opportunity for entrepreneurs. "Essentially, it's a business about looking good. And like the culture of going to the gym and swimming pool in Shanghai, which is already as thriving as that in Hong Kong and London, it will be a lucrative one," said White.

The Chuan Spa owned by the Langham Group, for example, was due to open its biggest spa treatment center in Shanghai's fashion hub, Xintiandi, this month. To ease any anxiety among male customers, White said they will create a unisex environment by using products that "don't feel so cosmetic" and offering a more professional service.

While the approach has yet to prove itself, the male market for spas, as in many other industries, appears to be more lucrative than that for women.

"They are very generous in tipping," said Jin, the veteran spa therapist. "While female customers usually think it's our duty to serve them well, men are easily enchanted and willing to squander big cash as a reward for our services."

Such generosity has also been witnessed at Banyan Tree. The size of its male membership has already surpassed that of its female members, a sales manager from Angsana Spa at Banyan Tree in Shanghai told China Daily.

"Once they have grown to trust the service, they are more committed to it and willing to pay big money," said the manager, who insisted on anonymity because of company rules.

One unique feature of the spa market for men in China, according to Banyan Tree, is that a fairly large number of customers are businessmen who treat the spa rooms as a perfect venue for meetings, because the rooms usually boast a private and relaxing environment.

"Like golf courses and wine cellars, for many nouveau riche in China, it's more an experience of pleasure-seeking and enjoyment," said Zhang, the male magazine editor, who said he was rather surprised to find that there are quite a few 50-something men, who are generally ignored by the skincare market in China, interested in the sector.

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