The hydrothermal sector has experienced huge growth as the world has re-opened post-pandemic. An interesting, and not so surprising, trend given the complex levels of societal loneliness and alienation that Covid laid bare – is the adoption of more European-style, communal spa models that encourage social gathering, resulting in a renaissance of both historical and modern communal bathhouses and hot springs sites. One unique activity that is rapidly gaining in popularity is sauna aufguss. Its original incarnation was utilitarian: sauna attendants (or masters) were positioned inside saunas, waving a towel to help circulate heat, humidity and infusions. Today’s aufguss experience can be anything from an elaborate show featuring mesmerizing towel work with audiences clapping and singing along with the performance to a much quieter, almost out-of-body, meditative journey or sound bath.
What makes aufguss so exciting is that it sits between encouraging rest and rejuvenation and acting as a social gathering point for building community and bonding around a shared purpose. Demand for event saunas, large-scale saunas that can accommodate at least 10 people (the largest in the world hosts up to 300!) is surging across North America. Event saunas also need to provide enough space for the attending sauna master to perform.
There are many design considerations that make event saunas fit for purpose:
• crucially, the focal point (center) of an event sauna is always the sauna heater, which should be creatively clad, but also configured to rapidly reheat the sauna rocks after each dramatic infusion of water or ice balls by the sauna master
• specialized theater-like seating,
• internal sound and lighting that can really ‘take the heat’
• an adjacent control room that includes the equipment required to run the audio/visual displays for each performance
Once in place, event saunas provide a new way to connect with, and delight, current and future guests. Another, more tangible benefit is an entirely new revenue stream: simply charging an additional $20 usd per performance, will reap a 100-person capacity spa running at 50% occupancy, approximately $2,000 usd/day with just two daily performances. When not being used for a performance, these saunas can also be operated as a traditional Finnish sauna.
By Don Genders
CEO, Design for Leisure