25 May 2018 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Forums For Change

Industry insights

Forums For Change


Six forums focused on different sub-sectors within the global spa industry – from hot springs to retail – have been formed to help make advancements in the sector. Susie Ellis reports

Susie Ellis, SpaFinder Inc
GSWS 2014 will be held in Marrakech PHOTO © shutterstock/posztos
From left to right: forum representatives for hot springs, destination spas, retail, hydrothermal facilities, education and hotel spas
View dials show where hot springs are
The GSWS forums enable sub-sector colleagues and competitors to openly discuss issues and opportunities for collaboration
The GSWS forums enable sub-sector colleagues and competitors to openly discuss issues and opportunities for collaboration
The GSWS forums enable sub-sector colleagues and competitors to openly discuss issues and opportunities for collaboration
The forums were attended by 375 GSWS delegates who represent the world’s leading spa and wellness professionals

Several years ago, the annual Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) introduced a series of forums to its agenda. The forums, which have developed over time, are based around stakeholders with specific interests in six areas of the industry – namely destination spas, hot springs, education, hydrothermal facilities, retail and hotel spas. They’ve enabled colleagues and competitors of these sub-sectors to openly debate issues and exchange ideas and strategies. The overall goal is to discover what they can accomplish together versus working individually – and to ultimately drive change that will help the industry grow.

From some of these forums, taskforces have evolved that allow for collaboration and progress to be made between the annual event. As we approach the eighth summit – due to take place in Marrakech, Morocco on 10-12 September – we take a look at what’s been discussed in these forums so far. We also outline what steps are being taken to address concerns/issues in each of the fields.

Global Destination Spa Forum
The 2013 Global Destination Forum focused on the role destination spas can serve in the wellness movement that’s emerging in response to the growing, global health crisis.

Destination spas are often viewed as the gatekeepers of wellness wisdom. They offer a huge array of alternative and medical-based therapies, alongside fitness and healthy food – typically packaged up in holistic wellness programmes.

It was noted that stakeholders have a duty to highlight the existing evidence that demonstrates the health-giving benefits of various treatments, therapies and modalities they offer. In the future, there’s a need to work with health professionals to help them understand the impact of destination spas. Another action step is to educate more of the world population about what a destination spa is and to highlight the benefits of their holistic approach to wellness.

It was announced during the forum that an independent organisation called the International Health and Wellness Alliance (IHWA) has been formed by leading destination spa operators – including Gwinganna in Australia, Rancho La Puerta in Mexico and Chiva-Som in Thailand. The IHWA’s goal is to create an online platform to help educate consumers about wellness and the role of destination spas. In addition, the GSWS may add a taskforce for destination spas/wellness retreats.

Delivering longer-term wellness programmes (after customers leave) – via follow-up wellness coaching, partnerships with urban spas and even social media – was identified as a key future opportunity. There was also a call to create new entry points to destination spas including offering more affordable options – three- to four-star versus five-star.

Global Hot Springs Forum
Based on statistics from Japan, China and Europe, it’s estimated that global hot springs facilities have a turnover of around US$50.4bn (€36.8bn, £30.2bn) a year. They’re located around the world with three main cultural approaches to use. In many parts of Asia, hot springs are used for relaxation and to connect with nature; in India and other indigenous cultures they have spiritual and religious associations; while in Europe, hot springs used for medical and health-based treatments.

The 2013 forum provided both an introduction to this industry segment and also outlined potential avenues for growth. Discussions focused on raising awareness of hot springs and their unique, therapeutic benefits. Initiatives include adopting a universal hot spring logo (left) that could be used beyond language and culture to identify and create awareness of hot spring facilities across the world. It was also discussed that online and physical ‘view dial’ diagrams (see below) should be used as a standard way of showing where, in each respective country, people can find hot spring experiences. Participants agreed that the overall goal is to come up with universal terminology for treatments and services at hot springs and to share (and translate where necessary) evidence-based research in order to educate consumers about what the sector has to offer and to encourage use.

A taskforce was formed after the summit to further these initiatives. It’s being headed up by Amy McDonald, owner and principal of Under a Tree Consulting.

Global Spa Education Forum
This forum was introduced at the 2012 GSWS (Aspen, USA), where a study by SRI International – Spa Management Workforce & Education: Addressing Market Gaps – highlighted the urgent need for trained spa managers worldwide, along with a need for more spa-specific college-level courses and for employers to invest in the development of their staff.

The Spa Management Education Committee taskforce, headed up by Anna Bjurstam, the vice-president of spa and wellness for Six Senses, was also formed that year and its first step was gain a greater insight into the issues by canvassing the opinion of 548 spa managers. The results of the Spa Management Career Trends Survey were revealed at the 2013 summit and are covered in more depth on p84. It found that 86 per cent of spa managers are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their jobs and that there are numerous other benefits to working in the industry.

The next step is to create a PR/marketing campaign around the findings to encourage more people to take up a career in the spa sector. The taskforce has set up a specific sub-committee to handle this.

Another part of the taskforce is focused on exploring the feasibility of a global spa certification programme (see Spa Business Handbook 2013, p146). It’s already agreed what core competencies are required for a senior-level spa director role. The next step is to determine the best way to get such a certification programme off the ground and to draft internship and mentoring programmes that can be rolled out across hotel and spa groups.

Global Hydrothermal Forum
Wet and thermal (or hydrothermal) facilities, from whirlpools to steam and sauna experiences, are the most technical and complex components in spas. There’s a significant lack of knowledge in the industry, especially in the architectural and design community, on the design principles for such areas. This means that unnecessary compromises often have to be made during implementation.

It was agreed in the forum, which has its roots in the 2009 GSWS (Interlaken, Switzerland), that the spa industry as a whole would benefit from global standards. These would need to cover basic requirements such as allowing greater space when designing areas where guests are naked or semi-naked, to more complex details such as understanding drainage, ventilation and mechanical equipment location and space needs.

The GSWS has taken up this challenge and is creating a handbook of general guidelines. The Global Hydrothermal Spa Standards will be presented at the 2014 summit. The GSWS is serving as an independent body to develop the book with input from the industry’s manufacturers, suppliers and designers, including forum facilitator Don Genders, owner of Design for Leisure.

Global Spa Retail Forum
The Retail Forum, chaired by Jeff Matthews of Steiner Spa Consulting and Mandara Spa, was formed to look at the challenges our industry faces when it comes to the ever-profitable, but often difficult, retail sales channel. Stakeholders discussed ways in which a spa operators can increase retail sales and encourage therapists (as well as other spa employees) to sell more products.

They agreed that it’s important to set realistic sales targets for therapists and that the key to reaching those goals lies in retail sales training and also having a belief in the product being sold.

Unfortunately, these are not new ideas and following feedback from the forum, a taskforce has not been formed. Instead, the GSWS has decided that it’s time for a radically different approach and the 2014 summit will call on retail experts from outside the industry, such as innovative marketing specialist Paul Price, to provide inspiration for future actions.

Global Hotel Spa Forum
Hotel spas represent 16 per cent of the global spa industry according to data from SRI International and generate 27 per cent or US$19bn (€13.9bn, £11.3bn) of total spa industry revenues. However, they haven’t seen many changes in recent years. In this forum, hotel spa operators and industry stakeholders brainstormed ways to re-energise the sector to help increase guest numbers and capture rates, to improve margins and to create innovative programming/facilities.

Carrying out guest-centric research to find out what customers really want was one of the suggestions that came out of the lively session. At the same time, participants agreed that there’s a need to become stronger advocates for industry benchmarking and to collaborate more to address issues they’re all facing.

Numerous possibilities in terms of initiatives, taskforces and next steps resulted and are outlined in a white paper (see the link at the end of this article).

Conclusion
Many of the forums on the 2013 summit agenda will be on the 2014 summit agenda and will give those who formed taskforces the opportunity to meet and continue their discussion and work. In addition, it’s likely that a additional forums may be added, including, for example, one focused on corporate wellness.

To view the white papers in full visit: http://lei.sr?a=U1W8I


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susie Ellis is chairman and CEO of the Global Spa & Wellness Summit and president of Spafinder® Wellness 365. Author of the latter’s annual trends report, she’s a prominent writer, speaker and analyst of the wellness industry.

email: susie@gsws.org
twitter: @susieellis
phone: +1 212 716 1212


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2014 issue 1

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