Bali BISA students relaxing in the cozy bale

The Evolving Profile of Spa School Students

webmaster Spa Careers 2 Comments

bali-spa-slider-2With the explosive growth in the sheer volume of spas and wellness centres of all variations in virtually every corner of the globe, the traditional characteristics and motivations of spa school students has also changed dramatically.   This scenario is particularly true at the Bali International Spa Academy, also known as Bali BISA, which has predominantly attracted international students with diverse backgrounds and career objectives.   Since it opened its doors in 2006 until today, continuous changes in our student mix have reflected how rapidly the industry is diversifying.  This has been genuinely quite exciting as it has meant that our course offerings, teaching methods, and tutor flexibility and knowledge must keep pace with the demands of students committed to meeting the needs of the industry’s ever evolving requirements.

When I first opened the school, the course selections were restricted to core massage and aesthetic skills for entry level therapists.  Students tended to be younger and just beginning their journey into the spa world.  They often viewed it as a way to satisfy their need to connect with people in purposeful ways, not necessarily as a viable career option.

Over the past 10 years, some of the most significant changes to the diversity of our students are summarized below;



CIBTAC Student of the Year 2014 – Kana Ogura

The core source markets were originally Western Europe and Australia. Then through aggressive marketing efforts, we got on the Japanese radar and since then many of our Japanese students have gone on to very successful careers.  One of the most hard-working students from Japan that we had ever encountered was the CIBTAC Student of the Year 2014 and this prestigious award greatly enhanced our reputation there.  Having so many students from Japan whose English was generally quite basic really taught our trainers the virtue of patience and sign language!  Fortunately the Balinese are naturally quite gracious and tolerant, so they are always willing to make the extra effort to ensure students fully grasp the theories and techniques being taught.

When Eastern Europe’s economies started to blossom, we witnessed an influx of students from this area as well.  As the standard of spas and spa service in these countries continues to rise, we expect even more students to choose a solid education versus learning on the job.  Sometimes citizens from these countries are also not proficient in English, so the lessons learned with our Japanese students has facilitated excellent marks for them all.

Recently, more and more students from developing countries in Africa and South America are enrolling in everything from basic 5-day courses to comprehensive programs.  A Kenyan student was with us for 6 months and now is teaching other Kenyans how to apply spa techniques professionally!  Part of the appeal for such students is the opportunity to explore a totally different culture and meet other students from around the world.


Demand for Indonesian therapists, particularly the Balinese, has been strong for many years as they are naturally gifted with a warm touch, innately service-oriented and dedicated hard-workers.   You will find them working on cruise ships and in countries as diverse as Russia, India, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.

Many are now enrolling in Bali BISA courses on their home leave to improve their career prospects.  Some want to learn new techniques to claim a wider skill portfolio while others want to earn a CIBTAC  or VTCT certificate which gives them more power in terms of where and whom to work for.  With the serious shortage of spa managers, many too are now setting their ambitions much higher and willing to invest in a management course to give them the best prospects.

cibtac-awards-2015 ceremony with Penny, Wati and Dewi as winners or finalists

Penny, Wati and Dewi accepting their awards at the CIBTAC 2015 Awards ceremony in England

All of the team was particularly proud when one of our Balinese students was the CITAC Student of the Year in 2015 and our Senior CITBTAC Trainer, Wati, was one of the three finalists for  CIBTAC Tutor of the Year, in the same year.  Wati accompanied me to England for the awards ceremony and even though she was not the winner she was thrilled that Bali BISA was the CIBTAC Centre of the Year.  Win or lose, just being a finalists is an acknowledgement of the BISA’s team dedication to providing superior education.

It is quite refreshing for all of us at Bali BISA to see how well so many Indonesians have adapted to new environments, employers and colleagues.  It is easy to understand how life abroad has matured them and spurred their devotion to continual learning.  Yet thankfully they still hold tightly to their cultural identity, rituals and beliefs.


cibtac-course-baliWith the spa and wellness market constantly maturing and evolving, consumers are demanding a higher level of expertise from spa therapists and wellness practitioners.  It is no longer just relaxing time-outs that they are seeking, but increasingly genuinely therapeutic benefits, whether from bodywork, skin treatments, nail care,  hair styling or wellness-centric techniques.  They expect results and if a therapist does not deliver, they will go elsewhere.    Spa Managers count on accreditation from awarding bodies such as CIBTAC, BABTAC, CIDESCO, ITEC and VTCT to ensure quality performance from hands-on staff as they appreciate that the testing processes of these organizations are rigorous and absolutely no student passes if they are not up to their high standards.

cibtac-studentSome countries are now stipulating that therapists must have CIBTAC, BABTAC, VTCT or similar credentials to legally work.  Fortunately for students, the certification options are much wider today.  For example, CIBTAC introduced CIBTAC Endorsed as a means to provide meaningful certification by accredited providers without the bureaucratic steps involved with their normal testing procedures.  There are currently eight CIBTAC Endorsed programs at Bali BISA to give students plenty of viable choices.

Also, Bali BISA recently underwent the rigorous training required to become a qualified VTCT assessor for a selection of their best award, certificate and diploma courses.  These additions to our already extensive menu are fantastic as they offer viable options for people with a desire for an internationally recognized certificate, but only have a short time frame with little scheduling flexibility to complete mandatory practical and theoretical tests.


It is no secret that total wellness – physical, emotional and spiritual – is now the serious goal of so many people worldwide.  This is reflected in the emergence of many new modalities and the resurrection of many ancient ones.

spa-career-worldWe are more and more finding that wellness instructors wish to add complementary spa services to their menu.  For example yoga teachers are learning Ayurvedic techniques such as Abhyanga Body Massage, Indian Head Massage and Shirodara as the core principles are closely aligned.  Fitness instructors want to master sports massage to both prevent and treat sports related injuries.  Nutrition and lifestyle coaches are learning slimming massage to complement their knowledge of healthy eating.  The worlds of spa and wellness are truly uniting in many different and beneficial manners.

Similarly, some traditional spa practitioners are today keenly interested in learning what was once considered very alternative styles, but are now considered mainstream.  Hence enrollment in courses in myofascial release, ear candling, shiatsu and A-shiatsu, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapies, sound healing and lymphatic drainage massage are on the rise.  Consumers are increasingly willing to trial such alternative treatments which have led to more participation by mainstream practitioners in training courses and workshops on holistic therapies.


Mature woman joining spa and wellness industry

With so many employment opportunities for general or specialist practitioners, we are seeing more and more mature students enrolling.  Many are fulfilling a life-long dream made possible by financial security or freedom from family responsibilities.

Some wish to establish their own business, others to work on a free lance basis and a few who wish to pursue opportunities to work outside of their own geographic comfort zone.  Whatever the motivation, we are always thrilled to teach these men and women as they bring their own wisdom and experience which is highly valued by fellow students and our own educators.  For many of the same reasons, employers gratefully embrace well-trained mature therapists into their own teams.





In the fast-paced, ever evolving spa and wellness sector, it is rewarding to make the ambitions of so many people become a reality through relevant training geared to today’s savvier clientele.  It is our genuine desire that all industry affiliated educational institutions continue to keep pace with the needs of students from all parts of the world, all demographics, and all goals, so that the industry itself can sustain the current momentum with professionalism and pride.

This blog was written by Penny Ellis, Founder of the Bali International Spa Academy (Bali BISA) located in Sanur, Bali.  She has been a leader in spa, massage, aesthetics and wellness education for over 40 years.  Should you have any questions about the industry in general or what Bali BISA can offer you please feel free to contact her on

Comments 2

    1. Thanks for the comment and indeed there are great opportunities out there for anyone interested in entering the spa and wellness industry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *