16 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Leisure Management - Driving Change

Industry insights

Driving Change

Susie Ellis reports on the Global Wellness Institute initiatives which are directly impacting, and helping to develop, the spa industry worldwide

Susie Ellis, SpaFinder Inc
Lisa Starr heads up a new initiative for spa consulting – a part of the industry which is quickly expanding
While not an official GWI initiative, Global Wellness Day is a movement that it supports under its ‘passion projects we love’ banner
Aksoy is the founder of Global Wellness Day
The career initiative aims to tackle international spa workforce challenges
An updated version of the standards guide will be released in October
Hot springs initiative chair Amy McDonald (centre) with key thermal spa operators

One of the pillars of the non-profit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is to shepherd and support an ever-growing number of initiatives to further the conversation about wellness in its many forms and solve key sector issues. Among the dozen current GWI initiatives (see p85), four are aimed squarely aimed at the spa arena focusing on areas such as staff, hot spring facilities and spa consultants.

Each year, people behind the initiatives convene at the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) to report on progress in a series of forums and the next summit takes place in Austria on 17-19 October (see p352). But what’s exciting to watch is how, under the direction of a passionate chair and a taskforce of thought-leader members, these initiatives have taken on a life of their own with members meeting regularly between summits to forge their next projects. It’s also gratifying to watch them check their personal business agendas at the door and come together with colleagues (and often competitors) for the greater good of their industry.

Here I spotlight what a few of these spa-related initiatives are about – what they’ve accomplished since the last summit in November and what they plan to achieve before meeting in Austria and beyond.

Consulting Best Practices ­­­
The spa industry is growing fast, adding a wider wellness orientation to its high-touch, personal care environment. As such, the role of consultants in guiding owners/developers has also expanded and become more complex.

This initiative, chaired by Wynne Business consultant Lisa Starr, was recently formed to address the reality that while spa consulting is an industry unto itself, there are no official qualifications for it or a clear code of conduct. A key aim is to provide prospective clients with information, not just on how to find consultants, but what to expect from them. The initiative has already created resources in both of these areas and plans to expand on them in 2016.

On p133, the Spa Business Handbook, also highlights this key part of the sector.

Global Career Development
The lack of qualified spa managers and career development options worldwide was the impetus for starting Global Career Development Initiative, which was founded by Anna Bjurstam from Six Senses and Raison d’Etre. Industry recruiter Lori Hutchinson, who recently passed away, played a central role for many years and her insight will be sorely missed. As of November 2015, the new chair is Jean-Guy de Gabriac, founder of training consultancy Tip Touch International, and the initiative revolves around three dynamic programmes – with plans to grow each one of them significantly in coming years.

The Global Mentorship Program pairs spa manager mentees with experienced industry mentors for months of one-on-one education. This programme has already more than doubled from 2015, with 38 mentors now guiding and inspiring mentees in 30 countries, while also providing insight with a dedicated website: www.mentorshipevidence.com.

The Global Careership Program is a website launched in 2015 that provides a wealth of information including current job openings for anyone considering an exciting and international career in spa or wellness: http://spaandwellnesscareers.com

As part of the Global Internship Program, two reports revealing the current state of spa and wellness experiential learning programmes globally were released this February showing a disparity between highly structured and loosely structured schemes. The Global Best Practices for Spa & Wellness Internships manual was also published in February. In the coming year expect new efforts to expand the number of interns in the spa/wellness industries (which seriously lags behind other sectors).

Created with the purpose of establishing international standards for the design and construction hydrothermal areas, this initiative is chaired by Don Genders, managing director of Design for Leisure.

The second edition of its Hydrothermal Spa Development Standards guide will be released at the GWS in October, offering expanded content and with new chapters on general wellness and spa design and how to best manage the design and construction process of these areas. A strong message is that good hydrothermal and spa design does not automatically have to be expensive – it just has to be good.

Additionally, the initiative now provides support to educational organisations and in 2017 the first ever module on Wellness and Spa Design will be incorporated into an architectural degree course at the Bauhaus University, Germany.

Global Hot Springs
This initiative’s mission is to bring awareness to a niche, but crucial, segment of the spa industry, which is experiencing a renaissance worldwide – even in nations where they’ve been around for centuries. The taskforce, chaired by Amy McDonald, owner of Under a Tree Health & Wellness Consulting, aims to educate consumers about the benefits of hot springs, unite the fragmented global hot springs community and champion sustainable development.

In 2015 it revealed the Hot Springs and Geothermal Mineral Waters: A User’s Guide, which covers best practice bathing suggestions and the differences between the many varied water types. At the 2015 GWS, a panel presented on how hot springs generate more bottom-line profit than traditional spas – upwards of 20 per cent in some cases – and offer greater accessibility because they’re less expensive for people to experience.

Key plans for 2016 include a second edition of the users guide; growing the database of hot springs facilities with a deeper focus on Europe; generating white papers/articles from member nations and benchmarking data on hot springs profitability; and proposing a keynote for the summit in Austria.

Get involved
Many of the initiatives described in this article started out as forums at the annual summit and blossomed into year-long taskforces when the GWI launched in 2014. All of them represent the heartbeats of the summit embodying its mission of ‘joining together, shaping the future’ and also demonstrating the institute’s goal of ‘empowering wellness worldwide’. Each of the initiatives are driven by industry leaders who volunteer their time and insight – and they’re thriving! I hope you will explore them and get involved at: www.globalwellnessinstitute.org/initiatives/

Passion projects we love

Global Wellnes Day

The Global Wellness Institute also recognises other initiatives which are driving change in the sector, including Global Wellness Day (GWD).

GWD, the brainchild of Turkish spa destination owner Belgin Aksoy, is celebrated worldwide on the second Saturday of June (11 June 2016)

with a series of public events to encourage people to ‘live well’. It’s supported by numerous tourism and government agencies globally and has more than 65 ambassadors worldwide, the majority of whom are spa industry professionals.

In 2016 GWD was celebrated in 100 countries across 1,000 locations (with access for 250 million people) driving an international advertising equivalent of US$3.5m.

Passion projects we love

Wellness for Cancer

Another independent industry movement the GWI wants to draw attention to is Wellness for Cancer. While spas are all about compassion and stress reduction, very few empower their staff to be the best for those clients who need it most: those that have, or are recovering from, cancer.

The Wellness for Cancer organisation, under the guidance of executive director Julie Bach, aims to fill that void by helping spas to embrace cancer via its cancer-focused educational platform for staff, while also providing the first standardised set of training/business criteria.

The focus in 2016 is to help more spas to become cancer aware, sensitive and ready. Training now includes meditation for self-care and there are trainers in the US, Canada and Mexico, the UK and Europe, the Middle East and Asia.


Julie Bach leads a training movement to help spas embrace those affected by cancer

Expanding initiatives
The Global Wellness Institute currently supports 12 industry initiatives. Aside from the four, squarely-spa-focused ones profiled in this article, they include Clinical Wellness Best Practices, Future of Well Work, Minister of Wellness, Wellness Communities, Wellness Tourism and Digital Innovation for Healing Initiatives – which are also of critical relevance to the spa industry.

In the months leading up to the next summit, other important new initiatives will launch, such as From the Baltic to the Black Sea which will focus on bringing more visibility to the countries located in this region and their rich wellness heritage. This will be chaired by Alla Sokolova, co-founder of the Balans International Wellness Centre in Latvia.

About the author


Susie Ellis

Susie Ellis is the chair and CEO of the Global Wellness Institute and heads up the organisation’s annual Global Wellness Summit. She’s also president of Spafinder Wellness 365, where she directs the company’s yearly Spa and Wellness Trends Forecast.

Email: susie.ellis@globalwellnessinstitute.com

Twitter: @susieellis

Tel: +1 212 716 1212

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2016 edition

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