TREND: URBAN BATHHOUSES HEATING UP
Affordable, social, and accessible wellness is coming to a city near you
For centuries, the cleansing and healing power of water and heat has been harnessed to bring city dwellers together in the common pursuit of cleanliness. Early public bathhouses were fueled by mineral-rich waters warmed from the earth’s core, which bubbled up and not only cleansed, but also worked wonders on skin conditions and seemed to relieve pain and encourage rest and relaxation. Bathing in natural waters was referred to as “taking the cure,” and different waters were sought, depending on the type of “cure” needed.
As far back as the 7th century B.C., in Chinese history books, there are mentions of a “spring which contains sulfur to treat disease.” In Europe, buildings were often constructed around or on top of natural hot springs, like the famous, historical Bath Spa in England, UK, which was visited by Queen Anne in 1702 in an attempt to cure her persistent gout. Though the “cure” may have failed, her visit served to make Bath a celebrated destination for years.
“Taking the Cure” Resurgence
Today, historic bathing culture is being celebrated–and updated–catering to locals and tourists alike. In fact, the Global Wellness Institute reported that, prior to the pandemic, two wellness sectors tangential to urban bathhouses–Wellness Tourism and Thermal/Mineral Springs–experienced significant growth from 2017 to 2019 (8% and 6.8%, respectively). Though this slowed significantly during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, GWI researchers predict both sectors will be future wellness economy winners as pent-up demand fuels annual growth rates of 21% for Wellness Tourism and 18% for Thermal/Mineral Springs through 2025.
“A revival and appreciation of historical communal bathing and swimming sites in locations around the world is taking place as people turn to authentic, traditional, and proven wellness practices,” said Don Genders, chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Hydrothermal Initiative.
New and renovated bathhouses have begun peppering our urban landscapes, providing a new kind of “social wellness club” that not only brings urbanites together to relax, but also provides a gentle reboot of the mind, body and soul through the discovery and sensory delight of traditional bathing rituals.
Though numerous projects were in development pre-COVID, and many suffered delayed openings due to the pandemic, it was the nearly two years of restrictive, isolated city living that stoked the very real need for purpose-built, easy-to-access wellness sanctuaries, like a second location in Manhattan for Brooklyn’s popular Bathhouse. At the same time, we have seen a drumbeat of community support to save historical bathhouses like the UK’s Carlisle Turkish Baths from falling into disuse or disrepair.
The need to congregate, gather and socialize around a communal pursuit is seen as a key tool in combating isolation and loneliness and urban bathhouses are vying to be part of the solution.
This Trendium is based on “Urban Bathhouses & Wellness Playground” trend from the 2022 Global Wellness Trends Report. Learn more here.
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