by Bernard Burt, May 2007
May 2007 - Running a spa conference like their business, Spa Finder Chairman & CEO Pete Ellis and President Susie Ellis convened the first-ever Global Spa Summit devoted to the business side of the spa industry last week in New York. Focused on management issues, from investment to staffing, the three-day event drew an unprecedented top-level gathering to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Having experienced explosive growth in the past decade, the spa industry needs benchmarks, Ellis said. Consolidation is predicted because the operators of spas are fragmented and segmented.
Global branding of spas by major hotel chains is changing the way travelers select resorts. Builders need benchmarks to justify investment, the conference was told. Keynote speakers included Steve Case, founder of Revolution LLC which acquired and expanded Miraval Living from Arizona to Manhattan. Also on the program was Kevin Kelly, president of Canyon Ranch, which has grown from Arizona to Miami Beach and aboard the Queen Mary 2.
The invitation-only event differed from conferences of spa professionals in Europe, Asia, and America: no motivational speakers explored the mind-body connection, no exhibition hall filled with skin care products, no committees. Instead, registrants dialogued with panels of experts.
“It was the best investment of my company’s time and money,” commented Anne McCall Wilson, Vice President Spas for Fairmont/Raffles Hotels International, Inc.
“We’re about health and the prevention of illness,” said Canyon Ranch President Kelly. Baby boomers are predicted to increase demand for spa services in China, Germany, and Australia, while continued growth is forecast for the Americas and U.K.
Emerging issues include education of spa staff and managers. Retailing in spas was predicted to become an important profit center, according to lifestyle consultant Mark Wuttke, whose Atlanta-based company set up shops for the new spa at Sea Island Resort.
Susan Harmsworth, founder and chief executive officer of ESPA, a consultancy and management firm based in the UK, noted that spa growth has been global but the integrity of management is not consistent in every country. “What I worry about is that some summits tend to attract self-promoters,” Harmsworth explained, “and those are parochial without a global view. ESPA has clients around the world.”
Spa Finder’s Ellis said the need for this summit became apparent “since the industry had no focal point to discuss any standardization.” In all, more than 150 delegates from around the world participated. Many applicants were turned down, according to Ellis, because the Summit was limited to top-level decision makers. Plans to make it an annual event are moving forward, he added.
Scott Piro, MKPR
|Also See:||Spa Industry Study: What Happens When Guests “Phone It In” / September 2005|
|When Deciding Where to Stay, One Question May Determine the Choice. Does It Have a Spa? / September 2006|
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