The Intersection of Spas and Wellness

Images from the Global Spa and Wellness Summit

A few weeks ago, I was at the Global Spa and Wellness Summit at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.  The theme of the conference was “Innovation through Imagination” and thought leaders from across the spa and wellness industries discussed the future intersection of spas and wellness.

It is only natural in industry conferences such as this that the conversation turns to the destination spa model.  These are spas such as Canyon Ranch, Miraval and Rancho La Puerta, which offer programs lasting several days or more including nutritionally balanced cuisine and nutritional counseling, fitness programming and personal training, medical health assessments with the oversight of an on-site physician, and a variety of mind-body programming from meditation to lectures on lifestyle or stress relief (see my article on “Four Big Ways Spas Contribute to Greater Health and Wellbeing” featuring Mark Liponis, the medical director for Canyon Ranch.)

These spas serve as the ideal that many of us in the spa industry aspire to, offering comprehensive and integrative wellness programs that make a real impact on their customers.  Visitors at these spas learn positive skills to drastically change their lifestyle.  They adopt new diets, start exercise programs, lose weight, practice mindfulness, and reconnect with their values and goals in life.  It is truly transformational.

Speaking at the Global Spa and Wellness Summit

Unfortunately, however, these destination spas only make up (at least in the U.S.) about 2% of the industry.  So while it is great to connect with thought leaders in health and wellness and discuss this inspirational destination spa model, what does this mean for the other 98% of spas that don’t have these comprehensive programs and facilities?  How do we offer a wellness experience at a small, hotel spa, or a day spa in a shopping mall, or a beauty salon?  The answer to this question is the real key to unleashing the potential of spas as a harbinger of wellness.

When we dig into the potential of the 98% (not to be confused with “the 99%”) we will be able to truly leverage the power of the spa industry as a force for wellness in the world. As an example, consider my experience at the hotel spa (the Remède Spa  at the St. Regis Hotel) that I had upon arrival to Aspen.  I had a splitting headache from the altitude and was feeling pretty miserable.  Upon arrival to the spa the staff immediately expressed concern for my wellbeing.  The spa manager, Julie, suggested I take an aspirin every day until I adjusted to the altitude.  And then she invited me to relax in the facilities, offering me water, fresh fruit and a selection of healthy teas.  She also suggested I try their oxygen lounge, which is also helpful in the higher altitude.

The Confluence Pool at St. Regis Aspen Remede Spa

After an hour in the spa including stretching in the steam room, alternating between the hot tub and the cold plunge and relaxing in the lounge, I felt like a new man. I didn’t have a chance to get a treatment or even to try the oxygen.  They reminded me to avoid alcohol and drink plenty of water until I had acclimated to the altitude.  I walked in feeling absolutely wrecked from a day of travel, and I walked out with a blissed out body, a clear mind, and a few new strategies for dealing with the altitude.

I realize that not every spa is going to have the wonderful water facilities that they have at the Remède Spa in Aspen.  But I think what made this a wellness experience were some simple core experiences that almost any spa could offer:

1.  The staff was nurturing and concerned for my wellbeing.
2.  They offered time and space for relaxation and reflection.
3.  They provided experiences that were pleasurable, stimulating positive emotions.
4.  They provided guidance and suggestions to help improve my wellbeing.
5.  They gave me tips that I could continue to follow, even after I left the spa.

Spas get a bad rap for being a luxury indulgence, only about getting pampered or beautified, all fluff and no substance.  But after meeting with the thought leaders of this industry, I can assure you: they are singularly concerned with the wellbeing of their customers (and beyond.) And this is not only true of destination spas, but the entire spa industry, offering wellness experiences that we all desperately need: touch, silence, separation from technology, separation from urbanization, time and space for mindfulness, reflection and contemplation, and a kind, gentle nudge towards a healthier lifestyle.

 

 

by Jeremy McCarthy

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The Psychology of Spas and Wellbeing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Responses to The Intersection of Spas and Wellness

  1. charlie wills June 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    $$$.
    That is what seperates the 98% from the rest,,,

    How cheap can we go is the 98% (Hotel Spa Model)! and it shows…

    Where the other 2% spend the $$$ to get more $$$

    The 2% also fear not entering into the Intergrated Science and Spiritual community, the other? scared to death of it…

    The 2% wlll pay for the right staff,,,the other 98% usually pay a Spa Director a wage to live on but the rest from the assistant straight down? Crumbs…and you get what you pay for..

    The word diet should be struck from the spa vocabulary,,,replaced by glycemic index, leptin and ghrelin for a example of Old School Education still used by the 98%,,,use diet at a 2% and they might Laugh you out the door behind your back..

    A 98% would never say, ” testoserone, estradiol, progesterone, melatonin, hormone D-3,
    dopamine, or serotonin..”

    They would rather at the 98% BS their way through the 58 year olds Hot Flashes by suggesting a Hydrotherapy or massge…Yea Right!!!

    After spending time at the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon, Zoetry Wellness & Spa, Starwoods, Karisma, Mandarin I can say ” 100% it is only the $$$ factor that seperates the two and Big Lack of Education!

    Some Things Never Change

  2. Kristina Hinckson June 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Great article and glad to know that the industry is returning to its roots. We must be reminded that this is nothing new but just coming full circle now that research is in demand. We have always been about wellness with compassionate customer service (what looks like pampering to the spa guest/patience) Kristina Hinckson. MS, ISPA CSS, LMT, NCTMB, LE

  3. Jeremy McCarthy June 27, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Charlie, hate the game not the player! Everything you describe is not specific to spa but is a problem with the economic paradigm we all live in. Just saw this article on the yoga industry which has the same problems: http://www.yogadork.com/news/yoga-is-too-expensive-or-why-it-should-be-free/.

  4. Jeremy McCarthy June 27, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks Kristina, That is definitely what I felt at the summit, an attempt to examine our roots and return to the core of what we do while also being open to possibilities for change and innovation. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  5. charlie wills June 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Thanks J-Man!

    Money and Greed in the Hotel spa is exactly why there is only 2% doing it well,,,Just look at what Liponis said below…

    “Liponis has a unique perspective as a physician who has been integrating medical services into the spa offerings at Canyon Ranch for over 15 years. The iconic destination spa there has grown to an astonishing 15 physicians on staff including former Surgeon General, Richard Carmona.”

    Where are the Doctors at the other spa’s? few if any ,,,why? Hotel’s are to Cheap to pay the staff needed….no other explaination is there?

    They are fixed on the Old School massage slave deal,,,charge a guest $90 to $225 for a 50 minute rub and pay the slaver $19 to $35 dollars, Great mark up!!! Why try anything else?

    J-Man, you said ”
    How do we offer a wellness experience at a small, hotel spa, or a day spa in a shopping mall, or a beauty salon? The answer to this question is the real key to unleashing the potential of spas as a harbinger of wellness”

    Answer: Hire a Expert and profit share wih them, very simple,,

    J-Man uou said “Unfortunately, however, these destination spas only make up (at least in the U.S.) about 2% of the industry. So while it is great to connect with thought leaders in health and wellness and discuss this inspirational destination spa model, what does this mean for the other 98% of spas that don’t have these comprehensive…

    Answer: Simple, spend the $$$ or become so Aniquated you die,,,

    I Love how the show experts spin the same wheel over and over again while trying to protect their base modus operandi…but it’s failing fast,,,
    Example the South Florida Sa Market now has over 2,0000 new anti-aging centers to compete with….You have a choice of blowing a quick Hundie plus tip against a BHRT program that cuts viseral fat, promotes cardio health and boosts liido,,,kinda a no brainer…

    All the spa wellness talk is getting older by the month and profits are falling fast on this side of the map..

    That is the problem with Corporate Hotel Spa’s…..To Cheap to move to the next level, just more meeting and Bla Bla Bla, same rap different day and words…at least the small guy has a great chance to change fast…

    There is huge reward if you do it right and hire/share the right people..a friend just did that the income has expoded

  6. Jeremy McCarthy June 29, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Sorry Charlie, but I think you are way off here.

    The hotel industry is no more or less greedy than any other business (including destination spas or any other wellness institution with physicians on staff or other highly paid professionals.) That is why I say hate the game, not the player. Your complaints seem to be about businesses trying to make a profit rather than just giving away what is best for humanity or for their employees, but that is not the economic paradigm that we live in.

    In fact, I think there is an unfortunate double standard in our society. We seem to think it’s OK for someone to make a profit by selling ipads or automobiles but as soon as someone is trying to sell wellness or wellbeing or something else that actually benefits humanity, they are expected to give it away for free or they are considered greedy.

    Hotel spas are not overly profitable, so your suggestion that hotels are paying peanuts and keeping the lion’s share out of greed does not really add up. The reason hotel spas do not hire a physician is not because of greed. It’s partly because they can’t afford to, but mainly because that’s not what their customers are looking for.

    I don’t think physician supervision is what will make spas successful. They are successful because they offer things that people aren’t getting from their physicians.

  7. charlie wills July 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    You said
    “I don’t think physician supervision is what will make spas successful. They are successful because they offer things that people aren’t getting from their physicians.”

    But the 2% that are most successful do…

    All the spa’s I have woked with made big bucks,,,
    cheers

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