The art of bathing – the revival of a lost tradition?

I recently held a presentation and panel at the Global Wellness Summit about bathing history, primarily in Europe, while touching upon other traditions as well, and it really dawned on me that we are entering a new bathing era in hospitality.

In Europe, we take our bathing very seriously, we love it and we are often naked. Now, the last part does not work everywhere in the world – however, from a hygienic and experience standpoint it is advisable. In fact, the work “gymnós” actually means “naked,” and 300 B.C. they were places where athletes competed in the nude as a way to appreciate the male form. Just imagine how that would have been today….

Anyway, the first public baths were formed around 3,000 B.C., and we now have everything from Roman bathing to hammams and mud baths. If it is done in a natural spring, it is a jackpot.

We did not used to be so clean. In Europe we had 500 years(!) of uncleanliness, with for example France’s King Louis XIV proudly proclaiming that he only bathed three times in his life. Queen Isobel I of Spain only bathed twice – when she was born and when she got married. It was seen as dangerous to bathe and that it would make us sick. We actually did not start to bathe properly until the 19th century, and it was in the early 20th century we started to bathe more regularly.

Since then both science and anecdotal evidence has shown the benefit of bathing. The health and wellness benefits are too many to list here, but improved sleep, relaxation, circulation, detoxification and anti-aging are some claimed benefits.

It is just a matter of time until the hospitality industry catches on to bathing and incorporating it in a much greater degree to its offering. It is an outstanding way to combat sleep problems, jet lag and stress. So far we have not done a great job of capitalizing on this way of achieving wellness without having the staff to perform the services.

An exception is Sweden, where generally every hotel spa has three or more bathing journeys where guests purchase a product pack with a journey, often accompanied by an Aufguss session in the sauna.

The Raison d’Etre-created brand LivNordic Spas has developed a hotel brand where every guestroom has a mini-sauna and a cold bucket shower incorporated in the shower. My prediction is that we will see much more of these kind of bathing options in in both communal and private bathing.