The word "spa" is often used, but seldom defined, as the concept has been in existence for so long. Definitions have become a little blurred as more inventive concepts have arrived to satisfy the demand for "spa".
Origins of the word "spa"
The Oxford Dictionary says that a spa is "a place where there is a curative mineral spring". It has been argued that the Belgian town of Spa gave rise to what has become a widely-used noun and adjective. There is also an argument that the word spa is actually an acronym based on the Latin phrase "sanitas per aquas". True or not, the original phrase remains an excellent definition for the word spa meaning - "health through water".
By the 18th century, when towns such as Bath, Buxton and Tunbridge Wells became "resorts of frivolity and fashion", the designation "spa town", came to signify much more than just a place with a spring. Today spas across Europe offer a range of facilities from clinics to casinos, leisure pools to horse riding and luxury hotels to beauty salons. In France it is still necessary to see a Doctor prior to any treatment, in Spain legal action is threatened against those using only tap water in facilities called "balneario" or spa, and in Germany measures are being sought to strengthen the definition and use of natural mineral and health waters.
Over the last 10 years, the word "spa" has broadened out in new directions once again, to encompass virtually any place, facility, product, treatment or solution that is connected, however loosely, with physical, mental or spiritual health. Whilst this extended use dilutes the integrity of the word and irritates the purists, it is also a tribute to the sheer positive nature of the "spa" concept and all of its associations that it is employed so regularly and so widely.
It is the objective of the Spa Business Association to be inclusive, whilst bringing common standards of education, research, training, accreditation and qualifications to the spa industry in its broadest sense. In this way the Spa Business Association can fulfil its role of lead industry body to the whole spa sector.
Many of our members have their own interpretation of the word spa - we do not feel it is the Spa Business Association's role to pronounce on what is right, though we may occasionally have a view as to what is the wrong use of the word.
These are just a few of the existing "official" definitions of the word spa:
From the British Spas Federation, pre 2004
ISPA - the International Spas Association, based in USA, has categorised spas into seven types:
For more detail, go to: www.experienceispa.com