Live Event Coverage: The Washington Spa Alliance Inaugural Conference

In the world of spa conferences this one was a breath of fresh air—interesting people and lively discussion. Keynote speaker  Philippe Bourguignon, CEO of  Miravel, set the stage for a host of speakers from a wide range of spa related subjects ranging from biodynamic farming to  spirituality and sustainability.  Both the intention and the chemistry proved right. The 70 or so guests who attended the day- long  event at the National Press Club in Washington, D. C.  jumped in and participated and it was in the interaction of the group that the conference found its voice.

A few of the speakers ….

Pam Peeke, MD, author and advisor to the US Surgeon General, was full of gusto in addressing  the current issues in the world of wellness. Making a call for pro-active  “prevention”  rather than  “cures',” she emphasized  “living skills” and spoke on the roles of acupuncture, meditation and the emerging opportunities these modalities present for spas.

SpaFinder's always insightful Susie Ellis presented her 2011 Trend watch/predictions.  Bourguignon detailed current industry stats observing that “consumerism for consumerism sake” is declining and that, as spas enter an  era of knowledge, guests are searching for the following: authenticity, a more natural environment, shared experience, healthy living, meaningful moments and a "good deal."

Bourguignon shared that Miraval is customizing the spa experience to address each individual's life style. With a focus on complementary medicine, it has a different flavor than the Montage Personal Lifestyle Profile "Surrender" program that we began in 2005 where movement, food, and restorative vital elements are integrated with specific 'spa' therapies to address individuals' needs.  At one point Bourguignon quoted U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron: " From April next year we will start measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving; not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life"

Music to my ears…

A little disconcerting was that so many of the speakers considered the effects of touch and spa therapies to be merely a 'placebo effect.'  While acupuncture seemed widely accepted, no one seemed to embrace traditional spa practices, i.e. hydrotherapy and the reflex therapies which are the core of the physician-based European spa model.

As someone who has practiced and taught spa therapies for most of my adult life, I understand the  power and efficacy of spa therapies.  As a Manual Lymph Drainage therapist I have seen skin ulcers heal within 3 weeks of MLD treatments after two years of traditional medicine had failed.  Placebo effect?  With hydrotherapy I have seen long term disrupted sleep patterns reversed after several treatments.

It begs the question: Are we disowning our own tool box of healing therapies?

Thanks and acknowledgments to Mary Bemis, Bernie Burt, Mary Gendron, and all the people who put themselves on the line to pull this event together.