Junior Wellness

Writer Ed Peters | July 9, 2019

Run an eye down the spa menu at Anantara Bazaruto Island––a boutique resort just off the coast of Mozambique––and the word ‘kids’ practically jumps off the page. In many spas around the world any mention of children is followed by a firm indication that they had best indulge themselves elsewhere; here, there’s a raft of treatments specifically aimed at customers who presumably won’t be paying the bill themselves.

And what minor could resist being massaged with chocolate oil for 45 minutes, especially when it’s billed as “the perfect way to relax and stimulate healthy muscle tissue for a growing girl or boy”. Then there’s a head and foot massage designed to help youngsters sleep well, or the self-explanatory Popstar Mini Mani and Pedi. Pick and Mix allows kids 60 minutes’ worth of whatever variety of treatments they fancy. Finally, Mum and Me and Dads and Dudes is predictably tagged as “quality time”.

“The kids’ programmes have been running for a little over a year,” says Marlene Padayachee, Bazaruto’s South Africa-born spa manager. “During the Easter holidays in 2018, most of our guests were families with children. We wanted to accommodate these junior guests as well as their parents, many of whom said that they would like to experience the spa, but they didn’t want to leave their children by themselves. We saw this as a chance to launch treatments that parents could enjoy with their children, as well as treatments tailored solely for children which could give parents some much-needed downtime while knowing that their children are in the same vicinity.”

Bazaruto’s ‘Bonsai Spa’ has been greeted with unbridled enthusiasm, with children as young as five happily ditching the heady excitement of beach and pool for the hushed confines of the treatment rooms. From the management’s point of view, the new trend is eminently sensible. Apart from creating a new revenue stream, kids’ spa treatments help to build brand loyalty and––in the case of hotels––encourage repeat stays. And in both resort and standalone spas, kids’ treatments are a healthy USP.

All around the world, resorts have been realising that kids and spas are by no means mutually exclusive. Six Senses was one of the first chains to realise the value––both to guests and to its finances––of providing wellness options for under-18s. In the Maldives, the group’s Laamu resort was swift to adapt its kids’ club offerings, ditching finger painting and hide-and-seek for such adult indulgencies as meditation during a music class, creating sounds with singing bowls, and basic tai chi instruction. Even the children’s menu skipped the likes of Chicken Mcnuggets for healthier options like veggie burgers and gluten-free pasta.

More recently, Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman has added an extra holistic dimension to the expanding horizons of kids’ wellness: its own farm and organic garden. “Children staying with us can learn about the environment through interacting with animals and plants,” says Nikhil Mohan, the resort’s marketing communications manager. “We’ve got baby goats, camels, chickens and cows, and children can collect their own breakfast food when visiting the farm.”

What’s more, an interactive session at the resort’s Earth Lab teaches kids about recycling and upcycling, and explores how to make soap with different herbs and botanicals, noting the beneficial properties of each ingredient. Kids can also create fun products that are both organic and sustainable such as scrubs and masks.

All around the globe, parents are also fast recognising the value of spas and wellness, according to a report by Spafinder Wellness 365, which acknowledged that parents were treating their children to the same therapies and techniques that they themselves have used for years, be it taking them to an acupuncturist to enrolling them in a meditation class.

“Parents are learning that to raise healthy children in the 21st century means more than just teaching them to eat their vegetables or look both ways before crossing the street,” the report stated. “Poor diet, technological obsession and the stress of adult life offer no immunity to the young. Serious treatments and programmes—from healthy cooking classes to yoga and meditation––designed with children in mind will be the biggest growth factor in the spa and wellness industry for years to come.”

It’s not simply island resorts that are taking a serious punt at junior wellness –– it’s a thing in the city too, making the trend year-round rather than simply during holidays. Shine Spa at the Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel on the Cotai strip has a kids’ hair salon with chairs shaped like toy cars and cartoons to watch: parents get a complimentary glass of bubbly. And in Hong Kong, Sense of Touch’s menu features ‘Princess’ facials and ‘Little Ladies’ manicures and pedicures, as well as a ‘School Savvy’ aromatherapy massage, while Cordis’ Chuan Spa welcomes anyone over the age of three, and tailors its menu to over- and under-11s.

The borders between business and leisure have been blurred for some time; now it looks as if the same thing is happening for adults and their progeny.

Kids and spas are by no means mutually exclusive.