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Spa Business
2013 issue 4

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Leisure Management - Upping the ante

Summit review

Upping the ante

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and senior government officials joined leaders of the worldwide spa industry at the most high-profile Global Spa & Wellness Summit to date. Katie Barnes reports on the highlights from New Delhi, India

Katie Barnes, Spa Business
Having a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body said the Dalai Lama on the subject What is Wellness?
Q&A with the Dalai Lama
Meeting His Holiness; co-chairs and Susie Ellis
Paralympian Bonnie St John was this year’s host
Media partner Spa Business
Meeting His Holiness; co-chairs
Global strategist Malleret with ministers of tourism
Ministers of tourism from the Philippines, Lithuania and India took part in a government panel session
Ministers of tourism from the Philippines, Lithuania and India took part in a government panel session
Ministers of tourism from the Philippines, Lithuania and India took part in a government panel session
Pete Ellis revealed that the GSWS will form a non-profit body to attract funding from outside the industry to help it grow
The Dalai Lama with the GSWS board and organisers – his presence created a real buzz of excitement at the event
In celebration of the host country of India, delegates took part in a Diwali gala dinner and Bollywood dancing
In celebration of the host country of India, delegates took part in a Diwali gala dinner and Bollywood dancing
In celebration of the host country of India, delegates took part in a Diwali gala dinner and Bollywood dancing
In celebration of the host country of India, delegates took part in a Diwali gala dinner and Bollywood dancing
Jacobs and Bjurstam will be co-chairs for the 2014 summit in Marrakech
A representative from the Moroccan Tourist Board (right)

“Everyone wants to live a happy life, but we tend to look for happiness and satisfaction in material things,” said the Dalai Lama in his address to delegates at the seventh Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) on 5-7 October. “However, several scientists I’ve spoken to now acknowledge that having a happy mind is crucial to physical health. This is why I propose that in addition to physical hygiene we also need to cultivate a sense of emotional hygiene.”

The Dalai Lama’s presence, was, quite frankly, extraordinary. It created a real buzz of excitement in the industry and sums up how this year’s event, held at The Oberoi, Gurgaon in New Delhi, stepped up a level. It also attracted government ministers of tourism, high-profile travel and tourism officials and political figures plus, of course, 375 spa and wellness leaders from 42 countries who came together with a common goal – to help shape the future of our industry.

The spiritual leader spoke on the topic What is Wellness? and you can read our full account of his talk at www.spaopportunities.com/GSWS. The topic was a fitting one given that the summit kicked off with the inaugural Global Wellness Congress: a day dedicated to defining wellness tourism and reasoning why strategically aligning with it would be a crucial move for the worldwide spa industry.

Alignment with wellness tourism
In her opening speech, GSWS president Susie Ellis said that while medical tourism is a fairly well understood concept, wellness tourism – focused on preventative health offered in a nurturing environment and often including indigenous healing traditions – is relatively low-profile. She predicted that “wellness tourism will become a game changer for people who serve this industry,” but that there’s a need to distinguish it from medical tourism. The GSWS is in talks with the World Tourism Organization and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) with the aim of declaring it as a travel sector in its own right. “Wellness tourism can spark a revolution far bigger than anything we’ve seen… We need to establish and own wellness tourism and, for our industry, that opportunity is now,” she said.

Global economist and strategist Thierry Malleret confirmed that, having just attended the 2013 Global Economic Symposium in Kiel, Germany, strategic thinking about wellness is particularly timely. He said: “This year there was a lot of emphasis placed on the fact that material wealth is not enough [to define a nation’s success]… and how wellbeing is going be at the core of economic thinking over the next few years.” These thoughts were echoed by former WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten (see p80): “Why am I at this summit? Because all of my life I’ve been interested in trends, and over the last few years I’ve heard more and more about wellbeing in terms of tourism.”

New research, commissioned by the GSWS and published at the conference, puts the economic impact of global wellness tourism at US$1.3 trillion (€962bn, £809bn) a year, with a market value of US$493bn (€318.8bn, £272.8bn). The Global Wellness Tourism Economy study by SRI International calculated that wellness tourism accounts for 14 per cent of global tourism spend – roughly equivalent to eco-tourism – and that it will grow 50 per cent faster than tourism overall by 2017. Ophelia Yeung, who presented the findings, pinpoints more highlights on page 80.

Findings from another 2013 study by global advertising agency McCann emphasise the potential consumer demand for wellness. Seventy-four per cent of people think wellness is going to be more important in the future, according to The Truth About Wellness which is based on interviews with 7,000 people around the world. David McCaughan, EVP of McCann Japan, who spoke about the data added that 57 per cent of people wish they had more say in leading a healthy life – and that number shoots up to 88 per cent in China and is higher for 18-34-year-olds (61 per cent) than those aged 55 and over (44 per cent).

Wellness tourism: what’s next?
To facilitate future growth for the industry, including alignment with wellness tourism and other initiatives, the GSWS board is planning to form a non-profit umbrella organisation. In an unexpected announcement Pete Ellis, GSWS chair emeritus, said the Global Wellness Institute would be an independent body to help attract investment from outside the industry to support growth opportunities for the sector, such as funding research, regional events and direct outreach to consumers.

In a later panel, moderated by industry consultant Anni Hood, delegates heard how ministers of tourism from India, the Philippines and Lithuania are prioritising wellness as an economic driver. Governments love wellness tourists because, according to the SRI research, they spend 130 per cent more than average tourists.

In another session, Josef Woodman, founder and CEO of medical travel company Patients Beyond Borders, said the next step for the spa industry is to “identify those countries that can really lead the way in wellness tourism.” Meanwhile, chief brand officer for SpaFinder Wellness Mia Kyricos spoke about the need for spas to make wellness approachable, educating about what it does, as well as how great it makes people feel, to tap into the largest part of the market – 85 per cent of wellness tourists are ‘secondary wellness tourists’ who like to maintain their wellbeing while travelling (see p80).

With such fast growth predicted, there’s a need to be mindful of being eco-friendly said Six Senses’ sustainability ambassador Costas Christ. Firstly, it makes business sense – there’s a strong overlap in eco-tourism and wellness tourism values: “We’re both selling natural/cultural heritage... and what business doesn’t protect its product?” But secondly, he asks: “Can we really heal ourselves inside if we’re not thinking about safeguarding the planet around us?” He added that 76 per cent of the world’s species live on 3.9 per cent of its land surface, which is precisely where tourism in developing.

India insights
Day two had a strong focus on the host country, India. Raymond Bickson, CEO and MD of Indian-based Taj Hotels quoted a report by Daedal Research – Indian Beauty Salon and Spa Industry: Trends & Opportunities (2012-2017) – which shows that there are over 2,300 spas in the country which combined generate around US$400m (€300m, £250m) of revenues annually. What’s more, over 700 new spas are predicted to open in the next two to five years. “Taj has 50 spas [worldwide] and we’re only just scratching the surface,” he says. “Spas are part of our DNA in India and for luxury hoteliers a spa is like a bathrobe – if you don’t have one you’re at a disadvantage.”

Kapil Chopra president of India’s Oberoi Group – which owns the summit venue – agreed, saying that in the future his company will open a hotel every six months and the majority of those will have spas.

Mandarin Oriental’s Andrew Gibson, who was the co-chair for this year’s summit, along with hospitality consultant Emmanuel Berger, said the participation of such renowned hoteliers is a barometer of the spa industry’s progression. “Spas have always had to justify their room occupancies and revPARs to get hoteliers to understand what it is they do,” he said. “But I think we’re at a point of moving beyond the P&L. I listen to these gentlemen and I’ve heard it loud and clear that ‘spas in our hotel transcend the massage rooms – this is how we deliver wellness, which extends to the food you eat, the yoga masters we provide and the bedrooms you sleep in’.”

Bickson and Chopra’s views also reinforced what Amitabh Kant, the CEO and MD of Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development, said the previous day – that India is one country that’s modelled wellness tourism more closely than any where in the world. He said that Kerala in south India was transformed from a seasonally-dependent location to a year-round destination by establishing itself as an ayurvedic hub. While Veer Singh, founder and CEO of Vana Retreats in India, spoke about how – if done right – individual spas can be pivotal in positioning regions or entire countries as wellness destinations, citing Ananda in the Himalayas and Sha Wellness Clinic in Spain as examples. He has similar ambitions for Vana’s Malsi Estate in north India, which was this year’s pre-summit experience.

It wouldn’t be a spa event in India without learning about ayurveda. Delegates got to hear more about the country’s ancient wellness discipline and other Asian systems such as Tibetan medicine and traditional Chinese medicine in an afternoon panel. The following morning began on a similar note, with a spotlight on the modernising of traditional Japanese hot spring inns known as ryokans, which represent some 46,000-plus premises.

His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswati, president and spiritual head of Parmarth Niketan –one of the largest ashrams in India – as well as the Dalai Lama suggested two other particularly interesting branches of science that have potential synergies with spas and wellness: psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) and neuroplasticity. PNI looks at how emotions and health are linked; and neuroplasticity is based on the brain’s potential to react, change and heal itself – spas that tap into these fields will be at the cutting edge.

An eventful day was capped off with a Diwali gala dinner at the Taj Palace, New Delhi. Colourful saris and traditional outfits were worn by delegates who, on a promise made by Gibson, danced the night away with Bollywood moves and music.

Forums for change
The last day of the summit was dedicated to looking at the global spa industry and included an enlightening panel on spa financials, moderated by ESPA International founder & CEO Susan Harmsworth, which we cover in more depth on page 40.

It also featured forums for six key industry sub-sectors enabling players to strategise on how best to solve the greatest challenges they were facing, as well as joint opportunities. The forums, which will be an annual fixture on the GSWS agenda from now on, concluded with the presentation of defining moments and future points of action.

In an exciting announcement, Sharon Kolkka from Gwinganna, who represented the Global Destination Forum, declared the formation of the International Health & Wellness Alliance (IHWA). IHWA is a non-profit body of destination spa operators – often viewed as the keepers of wellness wisdom – who have come together to educate consumers about wellness approaches in spas and their many benefits.

Global Hotel Spa Forum facilitator Anne McCall Wilson, from Fairmont Raffles, said their sub-sector prioritised the need for guest-centric research to find out what customers really want. At the same time, hotel spa operators recommitted to gathering consistent data for benchmarking.

Six Senses’ Anna Bjurtsam, who led the Global Spa Education Forum, said that in the future they’ll be focusing on selling the benefits of spa careers to entice more people into our industry, as well as on spa management mentoring and internship programmes. Whether there’s a need for an international spa management certification will be further explored.

Speaking on behalf of the Hydro-Thermal Forum, Don Genders of Design for Leisure outlined the need for an independent set of quality standards for hydrothermal spa design to help educate the architectural, interior design and hotel engineering communities on technical specifications.

The design of spa retail areas is not working, said Mandara’s Jeff Matthews from the Global Spa Retail Forum. In addition, operators should engage more with product houses on retail training and staff incentive programmes; and reduce the number of stock keeping units staff are trained in – it’s unrealistic to expect them to remember the details of 20-plus products.

Finally, Peninsula Hot Spring’s Charles Davidson for the Global Hot Springs Forum, suggested that the sub-sector could create a hot spring logo that could be used “beyond language and culture” to identify and create awareness of real hot spring facilities worldwide. He also called for operators to come together to help establish hot springs in developing nations.

Next stop: Marrakech
Before the closing toast, the GSWS board disclosed that Marrakech in Morocco has been chosen as the location for the 2014 summit with Bjurstam and Neil Jacobs from Six Senses (see SB13/2 p30) being handed the co-chair batons. A date and venue weren’t given, but it’s likely to be held in the third quarter of the year again.

Spa philanthropy

Goodwill initiatives by spa businesses were given a spotlight on the second day of the GSWS

Sonu Shivdasani, CEO of Soneva Resorts, Residences & Spas gave an update on the Whole World Water campaign he’s heavily involved with. The aim is to raise US$1bn to give 1 billion people access to clean water by getting hospitality companies to filter, bottle and sell their own water and donate 10 per cent of the sales to the fund. By 2014 56 properties will be signed up with those already onboard including Virgin, Auberge and Ritz-Carlton.

Ella Stimpson, chair of the International Spa Association said the organisation had planted 1,000 trees in India as part of its commitment to giving back.
The most heartfelt message, however, was delivered by Geraldine Howard, co-founder of Aromatherapy Associates. Howard, who’s been in the industry for 40 years, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of eye cancer two years ago. She opted out of radiotherapy, favouring a new form of cancer vaccine treatment that’s free from drugs, harmful chemicals and less severe side-effects.

Pioneered by the Defence Against Cancer Foundation in Holland, the treatment is focused on dendritic cells in the immune system. White blood cells are extracted to enable scientists to find dendritic cells and manufacture more. The blood is then pumped back into the body to strengthen the immune system’s fight against cancer cells. “It’s still being trialled on many forms of cancer, but the fact that I’m still here proves that it is working,” said Howard. “Without it, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

As the treatment doesn’t involve drugs, however, it isn’t backed by big pharmaceutical companies and funding is a struggle.

Howard wanted to give back and found the way by chance. Suffering from cancer, she created an essential oil blend to help focus her mind and stay positive. “I know how powerful essential oils are and I let my instincts take over to make a very peculiar blend that my intellectual brain never would have,” she said. Although it was only ever intended for personal use, friends and colleagues loved it and urged Howard to sell it commercially. The blend, Inner Strength, turned out to be Aromatherapy Associates fastest selling oil and it generates thousands for Defence Against Cancer as 10 per cent of proceeds are donated to the foundation. It’s also created great press awareness.

“The ripple effect has been phenomenal,” said Howard. “Being able to do something and give back has helped me to accept having cancer. From a financial interest it’s shown me that you can raise money and give back without damaging the bottom line of your business. You can make a big difference from doing a very small thing… I hope some of you can find ways to use your companies to give back too.”

Defence Against Cancer Foundation: www.afweertegenkanker.nl
Whole World Water: www.wholeworldwater.co


Howard spoke passionately about Defence Against Cancer, a foundation that’s helped to save her life
Competition winners

Pupils from India’s Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad (pictured) were awarded first place in the fifth Student Challenge Competition, which was based on designing an Indian spa concept worthy of a global rollout.

Meanwhile, Lori Hutchinson of Hutchinson Consulting beat 130 entries to win the inaugural infographic competition. She was presented with a cheque of US$2,500 for her Five Reasons for a Spa Career infographic, which promoted the spa industry as a career choice.


Competition winners

To read our full report on the Dalai Lama plus more highlights of this year’s summit see our special edition of Spa Opportunities – www.spaopportunities.com/GSWS

Originally published in Spa Business 2013 issue 4

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