Creative Brand Purpose Health & Wellness

The spa revolution shaping the health and wellness marketing sector


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

December 19, 2023 | 7 min read is the leading spa and recommendation platform in Europe. Here, its founder, Abi Selby, talks about how attitudes toward wellness are shifting and why.


Do Spas have an image problem? / Unsplash

In 2007, six weeks after her first child was born, Abi Selby launched her business, It was a massive leap of faith as she had never worked in that industry before. With a background in journalism and marketing, she saw an opportunity while working at a chain of hotels to be the middleman, helping people find and book their perfect spa experience.

From a team of two placement students nearly two decades ago, she now employs around 70 people at the company’s Brighton HQ, with an annual turnover exceeding £30m. Each week, it facilitates about 16,000 people who head off for a relaxing spa trip or day through a monthly website that attracts 1.4m users.

Image problem

“We push barriers and challenge what is considered the normality of spas,” says Selby. “The founding message for me, and mission for my businesses, is that I wanted to make spa more accessible, whether that’s through vocation, geographical spread, budget and then down to these personalized wellness stages of life, as I see them, pregnancy, cancer, menopause, depression.”

The founder says the brand is known for being “innovators of the industry,” and it’s something she feels passionate about. The health and wellness sector is changing, for the better, as she puts it. Spas have an image problem. Gone are the days when people want or need to see “nobody bigger than a size 8 or 10” luxuriating in marketing promotions.

Spa, wellness and the NHS

There’s been a considerable shift in how the health and wellness industry is perceived post-Covid. Selby admits that it was a sector that “used to be very predictable” regarding numbers and trends, but the pandemic put a “kibosh” on that.

For the year ahead, some clear trends are coming through. Men are being encouraged to use spa facilities more often and, alongside women, view it as something that could be a positive factor in mental health journeys.

There’s also the cost of living crisis to contend with; people just can’t afford to go away on lavish weekends right now. Selby is seeing a shift away from overnight stays, “Spa is still seen as a luxury,” she admits.

In the UK, cities like London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham are actual focus areas for “urban spa” popularity. “The corporate worker understands the importance of weaving spa and wellbeing into their working week,” Selby adds. “Which is a really exciting thing to see.”

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Selby feels passionately that spas can significantly help reduce some of the strain on the NHS. It’s a topic she could talk about for ages. “I have always believed that spa and wellbeing, if seen as part of an ongoing, balanced lifestyle, can massively assist the NHS,” she explains. “As a precursor to keeping mental health in check, making sure that you’re reconnecting and checking in with yourself every couple of weeks, every couple of months, depending on what you can afford or want.”

She continues that there are very few places in the world where you lock your phone away and switch off completely. “The power of touch has been completely forgotten,” she adds. “In a world where there are touch screens and connectivity from technology, from an emotional or physical wellbeing point of view, it’s lacking.”

Just as doctors may encourage getting a gym membership, Selby is adamant that, in some cases, a spa treatment can also be a positive thing.

January gym mentality

As many people look to get back into their fitness regime in January, is it the same for wellness? “It really is,” says Selby. “Christmas is all about gifting, and then January is about getting away, booking those special occasions for the year.”

Last year, launched its first-ever TVC ad campaign over the festive period, and this Christmas it has spent over a quarter of a million pounds to reach even more people. It’s a “big financial commitment” and an ad spend that is relatively new to the brand but necessary, especially for competitors like Groupon or

The ad was filmed in September over two late summer days. The team was sitting with their Christmas jumpers on, surrounded by trees, in a warm spa, which Selby remembers was quite funny. Everything is done internally, and the people you see in the spot are core members of the team.

Next year, the founder is adamant that the brand will become the market leader and continue to promote the benefits of taking a moment to indulge in a spa treatment.

“It’s hard to describe how you feel when you walk out of a spa because you do feel completely like a new person,” she concludes. “And even if you’re only in there for a couple of hours, it doesn’t matter; it’s enough to make you feel alive again.”

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