Hotel Online  Special Report


 Bernard Burt's Recap of the 16th Annual International
SPA Association (ISPA) Conference & Expo 
By Bernard Burt, Senior Editor, Spa Management Journal, November 2006

November 2006 - When the founders of ISPA met in 1991, holding a convention in Las Vegas would have been unthinkable. But times have changed, and the turnout for ISPA16 at The Venetian Resort and Casino exceeded all previous attendance records. Especially rewarding for me, as founding director, was networking with many original members in this worldwide community of wellness activists. For the first time since ISPA was launched, we addressed the future. Questions about expanding the base of spagoers evoked amazing ideas in a two-part workshop, with revolutionary predictions. Like the Ritz-Carlton requiring all hotel managers to work for a week in their spa, according to Karen Korpi, Ritz-Carlton VP of spa development worldwide, who has more than 37 new properties scheduled to open this year.
With the new leadership of Jim Root, we can look forward to growing both the spa experience and the profession.

The Cloister on Sea Island, Georgia, starts this year with a completely new spa under direction of Jim Root and programs that integrate healthy lifestyle with sports. Having experienced Jimís dynamics at Miraval and Meadowood, Iím looking forward to his seaside adventures. 
Miraval, the newly diversified destination spa brand, is expanding! Previously only available at Miraval Resort near Tucson, Arizona, a new eco-adventure will be built in Costa Rica. Blending its full range of lifestyle experiences into Costa Ricaís unique local culture and lush environment, Miraval targets the luxury market.  Already a popular destination with soft-adventure travelers, Costa Rica is exploding with mainstream luxury travelers seeking a new experiential vacation, said Miraval CEO John Vanderslice at a retreat hosted by Healing Lifestyles & Spas magazine. As the pre-eminent eco-sensitive resort destination, Miraval Resort Costa Rica is planned for 100 guest rooms and 40 villas; Located in Guanacaste Province, opening is scheduled for late 2008. 
Fueled by Steve Caseís Revolution Living resort group, Miravalís expansion also includes Miraval Living in Manhattan. Conversion of a classic apartment building at 515 East 72nd street will result in condominiums centered on a wellness lifestyle program. The building residents will have access to fitness facilities, dining, and outdoor exercise as well as motivational lectures, and Miraval dining. Sales were launched in November, with residences priced from $650,000 to $3,000,000. Occupancy is expected by the end of this summer. Meanwhile, back at the original Miraval, environmental architect and designer Clodagh has begun work on renovations of the main campus that will include residences.
Canyon Ranch CEO Gerald Cohen was on hand at the Vegas conference, where many ISPA members were spotted working out at the Venetianís Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Plans for the second Canyon Ranch Living development in Chicago were announced.  Architect Robert Henry, responsible for several leading resorts, is working with the Chicago project planners on an elliptical tower that will include a hotel, condominiums, retail, and Canyon Ranch SpaClub on the Miraacle Mile. Cohen said their much-delayed Miami Beach resort is expected to open this fall.
Naming the first ISPA scholarship for Cornell University professor Mary Tabacchi is particularly appropriate. This will enable schools everywhere to help young people enter the spa profession. So far, only the University of Arizona offers a degree in spa management, has integrative medicine program chaired by Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, endowed by Canyon Ranch founders Mel and Enid Zuckerman.  Response to the scholarship endowment fund is a testament to the vision of ISPA Foundation chairman John Korpi, who learned to love spas (and his future wife) at our first gathering, the New Age Health Spa in New York, where he met Tabacchi as well as Guy Jonkman, publisher of Spa Management Journal.
Remembering Alex Szekely with laughter and tears, friends gathered to honor Deborah Szekely who turns 85 this spring. Singing for her supper, she will inaugurate Rancho La Puertaís cooking school, La Cucina Que Canta, and launch the ranchís private label skin care line, with profits to benefit Fondacion La Puerta for educational programs in the Mexican community of Tecate where the health resort opened 66 years ago. At the end of a vegetarian dinner in the Wynn Hotel, each table shared stories about Alex. Mary Tabacchi remembers him as a student at Cornell; Jim Root worked for him at the ranch, Deborah Evans was inspired by his service to ISPA, John Lopis had fun working on the board when Alex was president and we all wound up bathing nude together in Baden-Baden. The elegant evening was orchestrated by Mary-Elizabeth Gifford, newly appointed public relations director for The Cloister Spa at Sea Island, and Susie Ellis, president of Spa Finder, with support from Jurlique.

For the pioneers who gathered seventeen years ago at Neversink firehouse, ISPA16 reaffirmed our commitment to making spas a life-enhancing experience.

Based in Lexington, KY, the International Spa Association has more than 3,000 members worldwide, including hotels, resort, and urban day spas. Contact:


Bernard Burt

Also See: An American Original Celebrates 80th Anniversary: Gurney's Inn Brought Thalassotherapy to New York / September 2006
Kohler Co. Makeover of Scotland's Old Course Hotel Features First Kohler Waters Spa Outside America / July 2006


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