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Introduction

New York City-based spa industry leaders have over seven years built up and refined two international organizations that today are effectively promoting and guiding the resort spa industry. In carrying out this role, these leaders have shown owners and managers of spas and ancillary enterprises how a mastery and adoption of positive wellness values and programming can be both a civic duty and an attractive business opportunity.

The two organizations are the Global Spa and Wellness Institute (GSWI) and the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

The GSWI sponsors an annual Summit, help each of the past seven years in a different part of the world. It is an invitation-only gathering.

Global Wellness Institute

A parent organization – the GWI, operates year-round. It serves as a holding/umbrella-like organization. In addition to organizing the Summit, it initiates and funds research and conducts wellness tourism. It is an international think-tank. It brings together leaders and visionaries. Its basic goal is to positively impact the future of the spa and wellness industry.

In carrying out its mission, GWI seeks to facilitate industry conversations and collaborations, to create and make widely available research information and industry insights, and to trigger innovation in products and services, all while being mindful of sustainable growth and best business practices.

The GWI has adopted a proactive (versus preventative or medicalized) view of wellness, a global perspective and commitments to integrity (e.g., unbiased research), shared problem solving and the highest standards of reason, science and integrity for evidence-based positions, whenever humanely possible.

All REAL wellness enthusiasts should welcome this powerful ally that seeks to drive the wellness movement forward around the world on a positive and multidisciplinary basis, particularly one with resources and connections at the highest decision-making levels in both public and private sectors.

The Global Spa and Wellness Summit

Dr. John Travis gave a few presentations at the 8th Annual Global Spa and Wellness Summit (GSWS) in Marrakech, Morocco in September, 2014. He and I learned a lot about the spa industry, much of which we did not fully recognize or appreciate. We met delightful people as committed to positive well-being and all that goes with it (e.g., ecological consciousness, social policies, economic viability) as those we encountered over the decades of attendance at the fabled University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point National Wellness Conference. And we developed a new appreciation for the potentials of the spa industry. Not lastly (new benefits will surely be glimpsed in time), we gained more than a few delightful relationships and commenced collaborations likely to prove enjoyable and productive in the years ahead.

There were three full days of presentations and all manner of substantive meetings and fun activities. Forty-five nations were represented among the 400 or so delegates. The scope of presentations was impressive, including attention to architectural design adaptations on the nature of the spa experience, the increasing focus on sustainability, likely consequences of seismic generational and gender shifts, the anticipated impact of technology on human interaction and so much more. The industry economic weight? No less than 3.4 trillion in U.S. dollars.

It is an understatement to suggest that the Summit was a remarkable event. I came away with the sense that it could prove to be a watershed event for the industry, and perhaps for the wellness movement, as well. It seems to me that spa leaders recognize they can shape the wellness movement in the direction of positive well-being, as wellness was first advanced by Dr. Halbert L. Dunn and others half a century ago. By engaging with REAL wellness, the industry will render an immeasurable service to their communities while growing the successes of spas the world over.

The Spa Advantage

With regard to sponsoring REAL wellness education, destination resort spas have at least three advantages over corporate and other institutional (e.g., hospitals and universities) sponsors:

  1. Spa resorts have less reason to fear controversy. This allows wellness managers to offer lectures and workshops on topics wherein program participants may feel offended by perspectives and facts at odds with their comfort zones. Corporate wellness managers, on the other hand, refrain from sponsoring vital programming, such as reason, science appreciation and critical thinking skills, explorations of meaning and purpose,