Category Archives: 2012 Summit

Massage and spa careers was a hot topic at pre-Summit Salons

Posted on Saturday, October 5th, 2013, by lisastarr | Leave a Comment

Lisa Starr and other delegates participating in CG Funk's "Your Assets Wear Shoes! Raising Awareness of Massage and Spa Careers" Acquaintance Salon gathering.

Lisa Starr and other delegates participating in CG Funk’s “Your Assets Wear Shoes! Raising Awareness of Massage and Spa Careers” Acquaintance Salon gathering.

Lisa Starr, Senior Consultant, reports from the 2013 GSWS that raising awareness of massage and spa careers was a hot topic at pre-Summit Salans, noting that “… as the global spa and wellness industry grows, shortages of qualified therapists threaten the industry’s development, an issue revealed in last years’ GSWS-commissioned report. Complicating things, the reasons for the shortages differ by region and country. Causes range from misguided perceptions about the viability of spa therapy as a career to salary challenges to licensing issues.


GSWS Weekender 32: What Did Steve Jobs Learn in India?

Posted on Saturday, October 20th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | 2 Comments

What Did Steve Jobs Learn in India?

A Google search for him yields 608,000,000 results… His more than 600-page biography was a 2011 New York Times best seller… He is known around the world as a “master of innovation“…

Of course, we’re referring to Steve Jobs.

He’s made a regular appearance in our Weekender newsletters over the past few months. But one story in particular has struck a chord with us as we move into the planning of the 2013 Summit in India. One might say it’s a perfect bridge from innovation to India.

The excerpt below is from Part 1 of a 60 Minutes interview with Walter Isaacson, the author of the best-selling Steve Jobs biography and the CEO of the Aspen Institute (where we held our 2012 Summit this past June).

Voiceover: Jobs took a leave from Atari and spent seven months wandering across India looking for spiritual enlightenment. And it turned out not to be a waste of time.

Isaacson: And when he comes back he says, “The main thing I’ve learned is intuition, that the people in India are not just pure rational thinkers, that the great spiritual ones also have an intuition. Likewise, the simplicities of Zen Buddhism really informed his design sense—that notion that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Intuition. Simplicity. What do they mean exactly? Jobs learned to follow “intuition” instead of “intellect,” learning that success in business isn’t always the result of logic and rationale, that one has got to trust their gut. And simplicity? We’ve all heard the saying “less is more.” The smooth, sleek design of the suite of Apple products that we know (and love) certainly speaks that simple truth.

So, with these two concepts in tow, Jobs came back from India, borrowed a couple thousand dollars from his parents and started Apple in his garage.
Intuition and simplicity could very well be the secret ingredients for innovation. It seems that the GSWS has much to learn from the extraordinary culture of India as it begins its 2013 Summit journey. And with that, we embark on new discoveries. But this isn’t goodbye to innovation. Don’t worry; we’re bringing that along with us.

Happy weekend,
The GSWS Team

GSWS Weekender 31: Innovation’s Finer Moments

Posted on Saturday, October 13th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | 1 Comment

Well, Peter Rummell’s “get-rid-of-the-word-spa” idea certainly created some sparks!

Absurd or logical, right or wrong, genius or insanity…whichever way you look at it, this IDEA got us talking. And it’s IDEAS that lead to discussion, which then leads to…(you know where I’m going with this)…innovation.

The tagline of the GSWS is “Joining Together. Shaping the Future,” and it was our hope that this Weekender series would do just that: gather together an industry community and give it a place to share its voice and, ultimately, shape the future of the global spa and wellness industry.

For almost 12 months, we’ve dug into the topic of “Innovation through Imagination,” and, before gearing up for the switch to the 2013 GSWS theme (we are keeping it a surprise), we thought we might revisit a few of those Weekender topics that got our blood pumping.

The coolest part is that the conversations are still going—all you need to do is put your two cents into the comment field and press submit. Here’s a few to ponder:


In what ways do you agree or disagree with Dr. Andrew Weil’s points of view? This leading authority on preventative medicine made some insightful points about the U.S. healthcare system, prevention, happiness and contentment. Check it out.

Innovation alert: spas and the science of happiness. There’s still more to say on the powers of positive psychology in spas.
Are you practicing?


Do you agree that the spa and wellness industry has seen very little innovation? Let’s just say the consensus was a resounding YES. Dare to disagree?


Which spa or wellness companies do you feel are the most innovative? Discover which companies made the short list. Have another to add?


Do you have a favorite TED talk? It’s one of the most acclaimed events out there today. We’ve heard them, watched them and been inspired by them. Who is number-one in your book?


Happy Weekend,
The GSWS Team

GSWS Weekender 30: Do you think our industry should get rid of the word “spa”?

Posted on Saturday, October 6th, 2012, by Dulcy Gregory | 56 Comments

Would you get rid of the word “spa”?

Yes, you heard us right. Think about it. Getting rid of the word spa. Good idea? Bad idea?

This simple yet disruptive idea came straight from the mouth of 2012 Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) keynote speaker, Peter Rummell, former head of Disney Imagineering.

Peter was part of a Tuesday afternoon panel, along with GSWS board member, Philippe Bourguignon, and fellow keynote speaker, John Kao, titled “Imagining the Healthy Town of the  Future.” And the conversation went a bit like this (taken directly from the session transcription)

MR. RUMMELL: If I were the king of your world, the first thing I would do would be get rid of the word “spa.”

I had this conversation with some people who were more worldly and smarter than I am yesterday, and they reminded me that my reaction was an American reaction and that may well be true, but the word “spa,” at least here in the United States, has a connotation to it which is just deadly, compared to the openness and the broader thinking that I have heard in these rooms for the last two days. So I think there is some fundamental redefinition that needs to happen, and it is as simple as branding.

FEMALE VOICE: What is the deadly definition, in your opinion?

MR. RUMMELL: The deadly definition of, “spa”? Is that it is for rich, white women. Well, you asked me.

Well, there you have it. And while Rummell may be right in saying that the reaction is that of an American, it is a reaction nonetheless.

One of the things that didn’t go on the record, which we learned later, was that some of the 2013 GSWS keynote speakers—Peter Rummell, Jose Maria (former president of Costa Rica) and innovation expert John Kao—all agreed that, before attending the Summit, they had no idea the spa and wellness industry was truly this important and significant.

Serving up a good ol’ dose of controversy might be exactly what we need to get innovative and move our industry forward. And that first step might be to take a good hard look at S-P-A.

So, do you think our industry should get rid of the word “spa”? Let us know. And feel free to elaborate, expand or go off on a tangent. Get controversial if you will. You’ve gotta admit, it’s kinda fun.

Happy Weekend,
The GSWS Team

GSWS Weekender 29: Trick or Treat: It’s a Virtual Cadaver!

Posted on Monday, October 1st, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | Leave a Comment

Spa education can be more than skin deep.

Or so we learned at the 2012 Global Spa & Wellness Summit in Aspen, Colorado. In between sessions, delegates could take a peek at one of the event’s innovative exhibits, the BioDigital 3D Human (what we affectionately refer to as the Virtual Cadaver). This tool was originally designed for medical school students; while real cadavers are expensive and have limitations, this application allows you to layer on various systems, do actual dissections and start at square one with the click of a button.

Picture this: Start with a skeleton…

Add the muscular system…

You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around
(to take a closer look at the right trapezius)…

And that’s what it’s all about!

But, seriously, this 3D Human might be one of the most resourceful industry tools out there. Imagine exploring over 3,000 anatomically accurate models of the human body, performing cross sections and dissections, while learning how various conditions, injuries and diseases affect the human body (many of which can be treated with spa and wellness therapies). And while you can find the evidence on… with the BioDigital 3D Human, you can visualize the benefits.

And what’s the best part about it? It’s free! You can sign in with Facebook or Google for instant access. For $6 a month you can upgrade to a premium version and BioDigital also provides custom solutions for the platform.

So what are you waiting for? Put this guy to work! It’s totally innovative, whichever way you slice and dice it.

How do you see the BioDigital 3D Human benefiting you and your business?
Let us know.

Happy Weekend,
The GSWS Team

GSWS Weekender 28: What innovative ideas have you seen that promote your country’s spa and wellness industry?

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | Leave a Comment

Media loves bad news, and Mexico happens to have been a media favorite in the past few years due to the nation’s recent challenges with violence, drugs and conflict. Thankfully, this is now beginning to change, and the future looks very promising for the people (and spas) of the beautiful country of Mexico.

In stark contrast to the negative images the media has been painting was a very positive experience—thanks to three outstanding presenters from Mexico—at this year’s Global Spa & Wellness Summit. We had a chance to feel the genuineness, creativity and innovative spirit of Mexico, And we were all wowed by the generosity of this delegation, as they gifted every single delegate with a very expensive coffee table book called “Harmony + Serenity + Balance: Spectacular Spas of Mexico.”

Presenters included Gina Diez Barroso de Franklin of Grupo Diarq (a company with nine subsidiaries and 500 employees); Pedro Aspe Armella, former Secretary of Finance for Mexico; and Diana Mestre of Mestre & Mestre Consulting (she has been the inspiration behind many of Mexico’s most famous spas). Their views on this nation were very uplifting, and they highlighted the country’s spirit of innovation and the many positive changes, like the recovering unemployment rate, the international reserves at high levels and a positive demographic transition.

Bottom line, Mexico is not just about the challenges it has been facing lately: There is so much innovation and creativity coming out of this country, and a 40-minute presentation on a Tuesday afternoon in Aspen wasn’t nearly enough time to give the country justice. Gina, Pedro and Diana provided videos, images and economic pie charts that you will certainly enjoy perusing.

To quote Gina’s video: “At the end of the day, Mexico is a country that has all the RESOURCES to be an innovative country.” And it truly does! Gina (who assembled that beautiful spa and wellness book showcasing the country’s heritage, history and culture, in an attempt to bring awareness to the need for “rescuing indigenous traditions” of Mexico) not only spoke eloquently about innovation—she also perfectly embodied it, with her creative idea to come to the GSWS with such a memorable gift for everyone.

What innovative ideas have you seen that promote your country’s spa and wellness industry?

Wishing you an inspiring weekend,
The GSWS Team

GSWS Weekender Issue 27: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.

Posted on Saturday, September 15th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | Leave a Comment

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs… No, not Steve Jobs. We’re talking about spa management jobs.

With the weather getting cooler and kids heading back to school, we couldn’t help but be reminded of the latest GSWS research report, “Spa Management Workforce & Education: Addressing Market Gaps,” by SRI International (founded as Stanford Research Institute), which was presented at the 2012 Summit in Aspen, Colorado, this past June.

Grab an apple (and a hot cup of tea), settle down in your chair and contemplate the following from the report:

“There are approximately 4,000 students worldwide currently enrolled in spa management-related degree programs. There are an estimated 130,000-180,000 spa managers and directors currently working in spa businesses around the world.

There are approximately 64 spa management-related degree programs available in universities, colleges, and schools worldwide and there are only about 41 providers of spa management continuing education programs globally.

Clearly the number and size of spa management-related degree programs is not meeting the spa industry’s hiring needs for well-trained management personnel.”

Below are 20 recommendations from SRI to get more people adequately prepared for spa management. Which spa management recommendations do you think are most valuable? Let us know.

Happy brainstorming!
The GSWS Team

Encouraging Skills Development among Current /Future Spa Management Personnel
1) Disseminate information about existing education/training providers.
2) Sponsor scholarships for spa management students.
3) Disseminate information about spa management internships.

Engaging Schools and Training Providers
4) Engage educators in major spa industry events.
5) Reach out to universities/colleges/schools that already offer spa management-related programs.
6) Encourage universities/colleges/schools to add spa management-related degrees and courses.
7) Encourage spa therapy schools to add management/business coursework to their curricula.
8) Study and disseminate “best practices” in spa management education/training.
9) Establish an online forum for education-related exchanges.
10) Endow a faculty position in spa at a major hotel/hospitality management school.
11) Help schools add “spa lab” training facilities for their students.
12) Promote scholarly research on spa.
13) Disseminate information about spa management books and educational materials.

Encouraging Investment in Human Resource Development among Spa Companies
14) Encourage spas to invest in human resource development.
15) Disseminate information about industry certifications (such as ISPA/AHLEI CSS).
16) Promote ongoing research on spa workforce and human resource development topics.
17) Encourage spas to establish spa management trainee programs.
18) Encourage resort/hotel chains to include spa rotations in their management trainee programs.
19) Be careful to explain specific requirements/responsibilities in job listings because of inconsistent use of spa management job titles.
20) Be more cooperative as an industry to promote spa management education, training and skills development.

GSWS Weekender Issue 26: How do you think telomere testing will affect the spa and wellness industry?

Posted on Saturday, September 8th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | 3 Comments

Have you heard of telomeres? If not, you will soon because telomere (pronounced tel´o-mir) testing is poised to become a game changer for the spa and wellness industry.

What are telomeres?
We have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and telomeres are the buffers, or caps, blocking the ends of them. They protect our chromosomes’ ends from deterioration, from fusing with others or rearranging (causing abnormalities that can lead to cancer). They are replenished by an enzyme, telomerase, and are the only malleable aspect of our DNA.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn (middle) and Dr. Elissa Epel (right) are co-founders of Telome Health, and experts in the field of telomerase and telomere research. At the 2012 GSWS in Aspen, Dr. Epel explained to delegates that in early childhood, telomeres are long and healthy and, as we age, they shorten.

We all have a numerical biological age, but we also have a “cellular age.” And, essentially, telomeres are the way to measure “true” aging and cellular health. What’s more, and most important, is that telomere length appears to be negatively impacted by a host of unhealthy behaviors and positively impacted by a host of healthy behaviors.

So, what shortens telomeres?
While it’s still unclear exactly how psychological stress shortens telomeres, telomere length is negatively impacted by unhealthy behaviors such as:

  • Stress and stress sensitivity
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Depression/perceived lack of control
  • Early emotional trauma
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor diet (low in fruits and vegetables, etc.)

What lengthens telomeres?
Based on the cross-sectional studies so far, the following may help maintain or even lengthen our telomeres:

  • Increasing vigorous exercise to four to five times a week
  • Improving nutrition: Eating a low-fat diet, eating less red and processed meat like hot dogs and sausages, or taking dietary supplements that activate telomerase (the replenishing enzyme)
  • Improving metabolism: If overweight, losing some extra weight or reducing waist circumference
  • Enhancing wellbeing: Reducing psychological stress and depression and increasing feelings of personal control and purpose in life

Can telomeres be protected? Can we reverse cellular aging?
Given studies that show the relationship between poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and high stress on telomere health, it’s a reasonable assumption that one can indeed protect his/her telomeres. For instance, one study on post-menopausal women showed that mind wandering (which leads to negative thoughts) caused shorter telomeres — while focusing the mind through meditation lengthened them. Another study on a group that meditated intensely for three months saw significant increases in telomere length.

Clearly, as Epel puts it, telomere science is “just at the tip of the iceberg.” The implications for the spa/wellness industry are STRIKING AND POTENTIALLY PROFOUND.

Check out Telome Health FAQ’s to learn more.

Have a good weekend everybody!

GSWS Weekender Issue 25: Psst…which of these six spa and wellness resource lists has been the most helpful to you?

Posted on Saturday, September 1st, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | Leave a Comment

At a recent Summit, I overheard a delegate whisper to another, “I have saved a lot of time and money by going to the GSWS website to access the free resources— in fact, I used to hire a consultant to gather this information for me. Now I can get it myself.”

It occurred to us that not everyone knows about this “secret.” With all the work that was put into creating this great resource and the ongoing efforts to keep things updated, it would be a shame if more people didn’t avail themselves of the information.

Never before has there been a “hub” for the spa and wellness industry where these resources have been aggregated and curated — and they are available to you for free. It is in the spirit of the Summit — whose tag line is “Joining Together. Shaping the Future.” — that makes this possible. The executives who attend the annual GSWS and those who support it through their sponsorship dollars share the belief that our industry will be stronger if information is available to all so that connections and better decisions can be made.

Have a good weekend,

Now you can go to one place and find:






GSWS Weekender Issue 24: In what ways do you agree or disagree with Dr. Andrew Weil’s points of view?

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | 8 Comments

Dr. Andrew Weil addressed the GSWS delegates in Aspen via modern technology as he was on an overseas trip at the time of the Summit. He made two important points relating specifically to our agenda:
1) Addressing the root cause of the US healthcare system and suggesting how spas can help and
2) sharing his thoughts on the goal of happiness. Here are some of his observations – largely in his own words:

• The U.S. spends more per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world—upwards of 16% GDP—and at the same time has poorer health outcomes.
• The root cause of the problem is that what is called healthcare, is actually a disease management system. All this money is spent to manage existing disease, most of which is lifestyle related and therefore preventable.
• The reason there isn’t a better job done with prevention and health promotion is simply that they don’t pay.
• The other reason for the expense is because of the reliance on technology to solve most all problems—this includes pharmaceutical drugs— and technology is very expensive. Health professionals are not trained in low-cost, low-tech ways of managing common ailments.
• The problem is that this dysfunctional system is generating rivers of money that are flowing into very few pockets – the pharmaceutical industry, the manufacturers of medical devices and the big insurers.
• Healthcare of the future has to be based on wellness and health promotion – the spa industry can be very central in this new kind of healthcare.
• The only hope is through education, raising awareness, and a grassroots movement that changes the political balance of power. Spas could help by educating people about the importance of wellness, health promotion and prevention.
• Regarding happiness – I’m not sure happiness is the goal of life. I think we should be open to the possibility of happiness but, it seems to me, it’s much better to work towards contentment.
• Contentment is an inner feeling of things being fulfilled that are relatively independent of external circumstances. When you’re healthy, a part of health is a feeling of wellbeing – that may not be the same as happiness.

Check out the video of Dr. Weil’s presentation here, or read through the entire transcript of his exact words. Since many who are reading this either know Dr. Weil personally or have read one of his many books, let us hear from you. Let us know where you agree with him, or where you disagree with him. cvs Kytril

GSWS Weekender Issue 23: Latest findings that make Willpower much easier

Posted on Saturday, August 18th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | 5 Comments


A new book, “Willpower, Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” by Dr. Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, came out earlier this year. It has some very interesting findings that could help the spa and wellness world structure programs for greater success.

Jessica Alquist, one of Dr. Baumeister’s researchers, spoke at the 2012 GSWS in Aspen, Colorado. Here are some pearls of wisdom from her presentation:

  • Willpower, self-control, self-discipline, all mean basically the same thing: the ability to control our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviors.
  • Self-control is the key skill that really changes people’s lives.
  • A famous marshmallow study showed that children who were better at self- control when they were very young – also ended up doing better in school and later in life.
  • Self-control is a better predictor of college grades than the IQ test.
  • Self-control is a lot like physical strength – when you exercise a muscle, it becomes fatigued and eventually unusable. After one act of self-control, the next one becomes harder.
  • Decision-making relies on the same resource that self-control relies on. If you have people make a bunch of decisions, they then show poorer self-control. If you have people exert a lot of self-control, they then have more trouble making decisions or end up making poorer decisions.
  • Decision-making takes resources. There is something about decision-making that may take away from the restorative process. (Spas might want to consider reducing the amount of decision-making guests need to do… think menus, etc.)
  • People with high self-control experience temptation less often. They structure their environment to not be overly tempting. (Spas might want to consider reducing temptations for guests…think fewer buffets, no brownies in the locker room, etc. as it taxes guest’s will power)
  • People with good self-control (willpower) don’t keep a lot of junk food in their homes. They keep their lives structured so that they’re not tempted unnecessarily.
  • Make lifestyle changes sequentially, not all at once. Instead of tackling several lifestyle improvements at the same time (think New Year’s Resolutions) just select one at a time. (Spas could coach guests to take small, individual steps.)
  • Habits don’t require self-control. If someone gets into a habit (like going to the gym daily or not eating sugar, etc.), it won’t tax their self-control to continue doing that.
  • If people want to change their behavior, the habit research shows that one of the best things for them to do is to go to a new environment. (This bodes well for the spa industry.)
  • Self-control actually relies on glucose because the brain needs fuel. Ironically, when people diet they are denying their body the very fuel they need to control their behaviors. This is one of the keys to why most people do not (cannot) stick to diets.
  • You can strengthen self-control. Cultivating mindfulness is one way.

Delve deeper into this topic:

Or join the conversation with our question of the week: Do you think spas should reduce temptations for their guests?


GSWS Weekender 22: Innovation Alert: Spas and the Science of Happiness

Posted on Saturday, August 11th, 2012, by Alexandra Plessier | 3 Comments

Innovation Alert:
Spas and the Science of Happiness

Many talks during the first two days of the Innovation through Imagination-themed GSWS were about defining innovation and exploring ways to innovate. The third day had a different tone – very practical – because we got to hear from people who put forth some innovative ideas for the spa and wellness sector.

This GSWS Weekender is about one of those ideas: “Spas and the Science of Happiness,” which was presented by Jeremy McCarthy, director of Global Spa Development and Operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts. He did a great job explaining the new field of Positive Psychology and related it specifically to the world of spa and wellness. It’s definitely worth watching his short video and reading through the transcript of his speech.

Here are some highlights – in Jeremy’s own words:

  • In the spa world we talk about body, mind and spirit. Really, what we do is often more about the body.
  • It’s time to put more emphasis on mental well-being and the psychological impact of what we do.
  • Positive psychology focuses on what is right with people and the things we want more of in life: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, and a sense of purpose or meaning, accomplishment, all of the things that contribute to a flourishing life.
  • We need to get inside our customers heads. We need to really think about the mental and spiritual side of that.
  • The spa experience is not really about, in my opinion, facilities, treatments, and products. It’s really, at the end of the day, about, “How did we make our customers feel?”
  • What we do really well is provide healing that feels good because there is no other healing institution that people look forward to going to, that people enjoy when they are there, and that people remember fondly afterwards, the way they do spa.
  • In the last 10 years I think mental health has really focused on happiness, you saw all the books – that has been a huge trend. I think in the next 10 years, the focus will be mindfulness.
  • What are you giving your customers to think about for the hour they are on the massage table? If you can plant a seed that gets them thinking about either something they are thankful for, something they are hopeful for, or somebody that they love, then you have just made that hour of experience something that is going to be much more than just a physical relaxing massage experience.

Question of the week: What are some other ways our industry can incorporate Positive Psychology? Email us to join the conversation.