A tourist gets a facial massage at the Wei Er Li beauty parlour in Phnom Penh.
Over the past two last years, spas have mushroomed in Cambodia, especially in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh where several spas have opened in the Wat Langka area.
According to Cassandra McMillan, owner of the Spa Bliss in Phnom Penh, a spa is “a total well-being experience. It is many things: ambience, the way you are pampered, aromas, and the client’s treatment itself, which must be good.”
She notes that it is not at all surprising that more and more tourists want to experience stress relief by embracing the spa’s cocoon-like softness which is dedicated to the renewal and balance of body and soul.
Most major hotels in Cambodia now have their own spas and the race is on to achieve the highest quality possible, a move endorsed by the Minister of Tourism Thong Khon who said, “The proper level of quality must be achieved.”
Many spas do meet their customers’ high expectations because often the owners are first and foremost spa lovers.
In-Style, Phnom Penh’s first independent day spa, opened eight years ago because the Filipino manager wanted to share her love of spas.
Phan Thanh Nhon opened his O’Spa in Phnom Penh two years ago and said, “I enjoyed the spa experience many times myself. I like beauty. I needed a job, I learned in Thailand and read books to be prepared. Now I’ve got a nice place.”
A big attraction of the spa market to the tourism sector is that the spas are profitable.
At the Raffles Amrita, the high season objective for the manager is $35,000 per month with 90 percent of the customers being guests of the hotel.
While the spa system at Raffles Amrita is professionally analysed, computerized and organised, the managing structure at Dermal Spa in Phnom Penh is more organic.
The manager, Rathna Ly, said she has a more intuitive way to manage the business structure, and the spa now covers its costs.
“We opened in August 2007. Now we make enough money to pay for the staff, the products, and the advertising,” she said.
The Bodia Spa in Siem Reap, which opened in May 2007 and employs 20 therapists, is also profitable, according to manager Guillaume Barathon.
Many spas make and use their own products and sometimes also sell them.
Some just import creams and treatments from Thailand, France, Australia, America, figuring the use of fine products attracts high paying customers.
Roughly, most customers spend on average between $20 and $30 per visit to a spa.
Although Thailand is known internationally for its high quality, industry insiders say some Cambodian spas are on a par with their Thai counterparts.