Well, the Global Spa Summit 2011 in Bali has concluded and happily it has gotten rave reviews. That’s quite an accomplishment since I think GSS 2010 in Istanbul was pretty spectacular. Kudos goes to all the delegates who attended (we were sold out with 300 attendees), and the GSS board members who each spent a great deal of time and energy this year heading up various aspects of the Summit. In particular the co-chairs, Anne McCall Wilson who headed up the agenda and Jeff Mathews who took care of so many of the Bali logistics did an extraordinary job.
While my future blog posts will share with you some of the valuable insights, research and discussion topics, I thought the way to begin might be to start with the welcome remarks I made on the first morning in which I attempted to set the stage for Anne McCall who went on to introduce this year’s theme, “Engage the Change. The Customer. The Business. The Future.”
Monday morning, May 16, 2011
Thank you Peter.
Well, here we are in beautiful and exotic Bali. It was just a year ago that many of us were getting to know each other in the hamams of Istanbul, cruising down the Bosphorus and exchanging ideas at the Cirigan Palace.
This year the scenary has changed, however our connection with each other feels so comfortable – and stronger than ever. At least that is how I felt last night when I met so many of you at the St. Regis reception. I hope you feel it too.
I join Peter and the entire board in welcoming all of you to our 5th Global Spa Summit. That of course includes those who have been with us before, and those who are new. A special welcome to the delegation from China who will be giving us a glimpse of what it is like to be in the spa or beauty industry there. Let me also give a warm welcome to the four student teams – all from hospitality schools here in Asia – who will be competing in the “spa of the future” competition that will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday morning before the Summit sessions begin those days.
The board has spent a year – a very engaged year – planning every detail of this Summit. I particularly want to thank my fellow co-chairs, Anne McCall Wilson, VP Spas Fairmont Raffles Hotels Intl, and Jeff Matthews, President and COO Mandara Spa Asia for the time they donated. And of course the Summit details would not come together without Dulcy Gregory our associate executive director who is my right arm and left arm. She is the person who is truly the hub of this GSS wheel.
Looking back over the year since our last Summit, it never fails to astonish me as to what a difference a year makes.
Last year at this time there was still a lot of talk about recession. We had no idea that within a year there would regime change in Tunisia and Egypt, uprisings in other parts of the Arab world and that Osama bin Laden would be killed. We would witness Japan suffering an unimaginable combination of catastrophes – earthquakes, tsunami and a nuclear power disaster of unprecedented proportions. Last year at this time we didn’t know that there would be a Royal Wedding that would captivate people around the globe with pageantry, elegance and heart. A year ago we were hardly aware of terms such as Groupon and Living Social and we were still to be surprised that Time Magazine would chose a 26 year old young kid as the Person of the Year for having the greatest influence on world events in 2010. That of course was Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
Against this backdrop of world affairs, our spa industry has evolved a year as well of course. We have seen the word wellness infiltrate our industry. The briefing reports I received this year – and thank you by the way to so many of you who contributed a briefing for your country – that is one thing I noticed in particular. Wellness was everywhere. And do you realize that just five years ago it was a term hardly used in our industry and has in fact not been in existence for more than more than just a few decades?
As much of our spa industry around the world began what would be a slow recovery from the recession, Asia gallivanted ahead becoming the place where so much of the spa growth action is. Wellness tourism would become an emerging concept. We would begin looking at our industry in light of an aging population and start to ask ourselves, what does that mean for our future? We would see spa brands become ever more visible, and even be surprised by some new business models that would for example show us that it is possible for one brand to open almost 1,000 spas in less than seven years. We would continue to see health care systems around the world crippled by skyrocketing costs and the word prevention would emerge as the only strategy that everyone can agree on as a part of the solution. We have even noticed that the medical community glances our way at times these days. We have attempted to include environmental responsibility and sustainability in our businesses – in all honesty without a lot of success most would say.
And all along the way we see the consumer ever more stressed – in need of our services more than any time in our history.
The mission of the Global Spa Summit is summarized by the words you see written under our name. “Joining Together. Shaping the Future.” And everything we do here is toward facilitating that goal.
Just before we get started with this year’s agenda, I thought it might be helpful for you to know four of the foundational principles that guide much of what we do. Three of these were there from the beginning, and one developed as time went on.
Number 1: We make a concerted effort to facilitate relationships between you the leaders and decision makers of our industry. At the core, this is where the magic is. Bringing bright accomplished people together and helping them interact, debate ideas and probe for solutions to shared problems can’t help but produce dynamic results. These past five years we have seen many collaborations, we have witnessed many business deals done, and countless friendships formed. And yes, we have even had one wedding already! And who knows how many more there may be.
Number 2: We endeavor to be truly global. Early on we decided that the only way to do that would be to move our annual meetings around to different parts of the world. While it may not be the easiest thing to do from a logistics and planning point of view, it has nevertheless given our Summits immense vibrancy.
Number 3: is our dedication to accomplishing things together that we could not or would not likely do on our own. We wanted to make sure that our coming together would be meaningful in that we would get some things done. We would cross some finish lines not just stir up conversations. We wanted action, achievement, tangible results.
And I think that we can say that this has in fact happened. One example of course is the research that we have commissioned over the years. None of us would have likely invested in this research on our own. When we began five years ago, there was no global spa study. At that time there were only a handful of countries who even had any data at all about the spa industry in their country. No one had yet attempted a global study. In the first place it is a very challenging task to do and of course it is costly. Nevertheless we took it on and retained SRI International to do the first study that would look at the spa industry globally. It cost $125,000 and we ended up having 8 companies step up to help fund it. From that landmark report we learned that there were over 80,000 spas around the world at that time (many more now) and that our yearly industry revenues were approximately $60 billion. But SRI also positioned us in the broader picture as a global spa economy that in addition contributes revenue via eduation, media, tourism, real estate and such. They pointed out how we were tied to other sectors such as fitness, beauty, medicine, nutrition and so forth. And that in fact the global spa economy was an almost 200 billion a year force to be reckoned with.
Our second piece of research was about wellness. Again commissioned with SRI International, they traced for us the exact history of the term wellness, the development of the concept and the aspects of what they called a wellness cluster that is approaching the 2 trillion dollar figure.
And I know you will be very excited when on Wednesday you will be introduced to the twp initiatives we took on this year – one looking at Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism and the other one in creating the first ever Evidence Based Medicine Portal for Spa and Wellness Therapies. Yes, we have gotten that done! All of us working together.
That is a powerful realization. Think for a minute of what else we might be able to accomplish if we set our minds to it. By galvanizing all 80,000 + spas around the world and an even larger wellness sector, and with the financial support of our pooled resources imagine what we could accomplish. How about some of these as possibilities?
- We could create a definitive guide of spa definitions that would bring clarity to the consumer and yet allow for local and cultural differences.
- We could fund research to see, for example what the benefits of massage are comparing a weekly massage to monthly massages.
- What if we declared a global spa and wellness day? Perhaps like Earth Day – we could launch a wellness day or wellness week around the world introducing new people to what we do.
- How about if we all open up our spas to medical doctors who have never been to a spa and invited them in for a free treatment thus helping introduce them to our world?
- What about taking a role in the emerging trend of measuring happiness in addition to GDP? Or exploring how our industry might be a player in disruptive innovation?
- And what about philanthropy? Should we pool our efforts and resources and encourage the adoption of a cause where we can really make a difference together? Some have suggested the issue of clean water as a good candidate giving nod to our roots of sanitas per acqua. Or perhaps there is another cause we might rather consider.
Well, some of these ideas might be valid and some might not be. But with the gathering of accomplished people that I see here in front of me today, the question is no longer can we accomplish something together but rather what do we want to accomplish? At the end of this year’s Global Spa Summit 2011, might there emerge one initiative in particular that we could say – yes, let’s get that done by next year.
And then finally the fourth principal.
Number 4: Now this is one that I would have to say evolved over time, it wasn’t really in place right from the beginning. That is the principle of being inclusive – rather than exclusive. As Peter mentioned earlier this morning, we knew from the beginning that our gathering would need to be “invitation only” so that we would be able to attract – and continue to attract – people like you, the top executives in your industries. However we have come to learn that while not everyone can be invited to our gathering, and not everyone who is invited can afford to attend the Summit, there is no reason that others should not or can not benefit from the work we do here.
So after the first year where we had a rather misorly approach distributing our research, speaker notes and Powerpoints only to the few hundred people who attended the Summit, we quickly realized that this wasn’t in our or the industry’s best interest. After all, the valuable research we funded needed to get out there. The ideas that were discussed here were better off shared. And getting more people to contribute to the conversation and engage in problem solving has greater value than nurturing an elitest closed culture. So along the way we decided to become open, transparent and inclusive.
All of our research is now free and available on our website for anyone to access. Our speakers have been generous in allowing us to put their Powerpoints online for anyone to see. We have even transcribed some of the keynote speeches so that people all over the world would be able to benefit from reading every single word that we heard spoken. On our website we have endeavored to aggregate all the spa research from around the world. We have listed all the known spa associations and spa publications and made our yearly briefing reports accessible. This year we are blogging, tweeting and everything will be recorded on video and then shared. All the tremendous amount of data we have aggregated for you on the memory stick you were given at registration, will also be shared.
These four principles: relationships, globalness, accomplishments and inclusivity guide our journey.
And now it is time to begin that journey for 2011. It is my privilege and pleasure to introduce you to Anne McCall Wilson, Vice President of spas for Fairmont Raffles. Anne has been the co-chair this year who was largely responsible for the program, our theme, and our agenda. I have learned a great deal from working with Anne as we have collaborated for the past 12 months. She is one creative, organized, goal-oriented, and fun person! Please welcome Anne McCall Wilson, VP of Spa, Fairmont Raffles Hotels.
My twitter address: @susieellis
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