GSS 2010 program begins!

The 2010 Global Spa Summit (www.globalspasummit.org) program began on Monday afternoon with concurrent "Bridge Building" breakout sessions.  I attended an SRO "Financial Benchmarking" session moderated by Mia Kyricos of Starwood.  Mia kicked things off by going around the room and asking everyone what industry segment they represented, and what they were after in terms of benchmarking data.  It quickly became apparent that there won't be an easy solution!  This year's Summit is sold out at 250 delegates, representing 40 different countries.  While the Summit is predominately attended by hotel & resort spa leaders, there are also folks from destination, day, medical, and cruise ship spas, as well as equipment and product vendors, tourism professionals, and spa developers.  This diverse group have data needs that are sometimes the same, and sometimes very different.

Another take-away for me was the evidence that spas are no longer easily segregated in terms of type; in addition to those mentioned above, there are new hybrid business models, and when you add that to the global marketplace factor, one spa's apples become another spa's oranges.  Smith Travel continues to collect spa sales data, and Ernst & Young is joining with their own efforts, currently focused on the Middle East but expanding to other regions in the coming 18 months.  SpaBooker has been working with Smith Travel and has built easily collected standard metrics into it's software, great news for the day spa segment, whose lack of current and usable data is vast.

Another breakout was focused on developing marketing alliances or partnerships, and was moderated by SpaFinder's Sally Fraenkel.  Numerous ideas and examples were supplied by the group, including SpaFinder's recent marketing experiment with McDonalds; Fraenkel felt hesitation about identifying with the fast-food chain, but couldn't pass up the global opportunity of a print, television and online campaign with a potential for millions of views.  The group brainstormed about possible spa industry partners, and came up with a list including lingerie stores, fitness centers, sports federations, celebrity tie-ins, credit card company rewards programs, hotel alliances, department stores, regional spa associations, and medical associations.

The delegation then enjoyed a keynote address by members of the spa, tourism and wellness sector in Turkey; for more on that presentation see the Global Spa Summit blog entry at http://bit.ly/chLTq9.

The evening culminated in a lovely cocktail reception on the grounds of the Ciragan Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus, and then a welcoming dinner for the entire delegation.  Eight architecture students who had entered a "Spa of the Future" contest had been judged during the day and the prizes were awarded.   The Summit was off to a great start and most of us were off to bed!

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