People across the world are looking for ways to improve their mental and physical health and boost their morale and immunity. Suzanne Corcoran, founder of US-based Niche Wellness says the new Scandinative thermal spa concept will offer guests a place to start this healing process.
Corcoran brings her real estate, hospitality and marketing background to her role, leading a team that includes Julia Sutton, COO and founder of Exhale, and Enrique Martinez-Lopez the former general manager of Aire Ancient Baths in Barcelona. Together they’re working towards the launch of the first Scandinative which will open in Alexandria, Washington DC in 2023, with other urban and resort US locations in wellness-conscious cities, such as Boston and Denver, also in the pipeline.
The adult-only, Nordic spa-themed wellness facilities will feature a range of bathing experiences, including salt pools, hot pools, steam and salt saunas, cold plunge and relaxation areas. Entry prices will start at US$110 (€97, £81) for a standard thermal experience, and US$155 (€137, £114) for a two- to three-hour experience, with a choice of massages.
The Scandinative concept
“The team’s mission is to offer guests an affordable, transformative thermal wellness experience to help them pause and centre themselves,” says Corcoran. “Wellness was becoming a priority before the pandemic, but now, more than ever, people are interested in prevention and taking measures to improve their health.
“The Scandinative spa experience, based on the Nordic spa model, offers an invigorating circuit that combines hot, cold and relaxation healing techniques to aid recreation and recovery for mind and body,” she says.
According to the team’s research, thermal spas are few and far between in North America, when compared to Europe. Their popularity is increasing, particularly in Canada, where Corcoran says more than 52 Nordic-type spas have been operating successfully for some years. She became a fan of the model after her first experience in Quebec City, in 2017, and has been a regular visitor ever since. “There’s nothing like the Scandinative Nordic spa model in the US, in terms of the size and scope we’re planning,” she explains. “The only similar model is the ‘Roman, Greek and Ottoman’ bathing experience offered by Spanish operator, Aire Ancient Bath, at its US locations.”
Aire currently operates eight spas in the US, including New York and Chicago, as well as having spas in London, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Seville, Almeria and Vallromanes – with a new premises expected to open in Toronto this year.
The Scandinative team’s plan is to extend the thermal spa concept into other US cities. “Scandinative offers a simple, clean and elegant way to relax alone or with friends, making it a winning concept that could be replicated throughout the US,” says Corcoran.
The location for the first property, in Old Town Alexandria, was chosen by the team because research findings, highlighted in the ACSM Fitness Index and Mindbody Wellness Index, indicate that Washington DC is one of the healthiest cities in the US.
With a population of 6.3 million, it’s an affluent city and has an educated population, meaning a raised awareness of the importance of prevention and more spending capacity for wellness experiences.
The project is being financed privately with an estimated budget of US$7.9m (€7m, £5.8m). The architect is Bryan Dunkelberger from S3 Design - with previous recreation and wellbeing projects that include spa facilities in Massachusettes, Rhode Island and Florida.
The Scandinative feasibility study was carried out by management consultant Lynn Curry, and Corcoran says the team’s detailed knowledge of the thermal spa business has been a real asset throughout. “Based on the success of our competitors, our economic calculations show an expected profit after six months and strong returns thereafter,” she says. “We expect daily guest projections to reach approximately 97 guests in year one, rising to 135 by year five.
“We also expect to attract adults of all ages and demographics, including Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, because the thermal spa experience offers an invigorating ‘wellbeing’ feeling and can be repeated on a regular basis for long-lasting preventive health benefits. It will also be attractive to existing spa enthusiasts who recognise that thermal spas offer a regular, affordable wellness health kick.”
So has the pandemic made it hard to keep the first Scandinative on track? Corcoran says it has actually helped the planning process. “Firstly, the lockdowns helped us negotiate a better financial deal for the building [a former church school] and secondly, every detail of the experience was reconsidered with COVID in mind. For example, we’ve added a stone handwashing basin at the entrance to the spa which introduces the beginning of a touchless experience throughout most areas, while all surfaces, floors, walls and seating have anti-bacterial surfaces.
Corcoran says the pool environments are being planned with the highest ventilation rate of any interior space, and that airborne moisture will be constantly extracted through HVAC systems with filters that remove viral particles.
With such measures in place, Corcoran is confident about the future: “Scandinative is ideally positioned to provide services that 70 per cent of the US integrative health market are ready to try – especially now wellness is such a preoccupation for so many people.”