GSWS Wrap-Up – Days 2 & 3

Once again, the delegates of the 2012 Global Spa and Wellness Summit were inspired by the exciting range of speakers and experts on the final two days of the conference. The prevailing message—don’t be afraid to fail. Some of the most successful people in the world failed at one point only to eventually succeed.

Be sure to visit the GSWS website to access the presentations, transcripts, reports, and more, and check out the August issue of American Spa for a full report, but here’s a glimpse of the final two days.

Tuesday, June 5

  • Dr. Daniel Friedland told us “if you know how your brain works, you know how to work your brain” in his session called “Let’s Neurovate: Know Your Brain to Imagine and Innovate.” It was a fascinating look at how the brain works and how we can make it work to its fullest potential.
  • Another medical guru, Dr. Elissa Epel, then shared her research on telomeres and explained how they can act as markers of overall health.
  • The morning continued with a roundtable on the Healthy Town of the Future with Phillippe Bourguignon, John Kao, and Peter Rummel, chairman of the Urban Land Institute and the former Chairman of Disney Imagineering and a keynote from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who shared his thoughts on healthcare, healthy living, and wellness. He quoted Einstein when he said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
  • Lunchtime involved a fascinating report from McKinsey & Company’s Elizabeth Stephenson, who talked about the Five Crucibles of Innovation that will impact the future. They included a rebalancing of the world’s population, a new global productivity imperative, a shift of the global grid, a re-pricing of global goods and services to accommodate the world, and the emergence of a new market state.
  • Peter Rummel then returned to share his thoughts for managing the creative process; Charlene Florian from Kerstin Florian International and Sonu Shivadasani of Six Senses then reported on the importance of water and shared an exciting new global hospitality effort for water conservation (check out the August issue of American Spa for more details); and a panel of experts shared their perspective on Mexico’s hospitality and spa scene. Stay tuned for the October issue of American Spa for a Destinations story on the Riviera Maya region in which I’ll report on some of the magical spa services that are in practice in Mexico.
  • The day ended with an incredible gondola ride to the summit of Aspen Mountain for a wonderful Gala Cocktail Reception and Dinner. The views were inspiring, and the night was spectacular.

Wednesday, June 6

  • Wednesday revealed some incredible research on hospitality and spa. A detail report will be available in the August issue of American Spa, including Jan Freitag’s Smith Travel Research Study on the state of affairs in hotels and spa; Andrea Foster’s PKS Consulting Report on the health of travel and a look at some hospitality brands that are working toward greater wellness for their clients and employees; and SRI International’s Katherine Johnston’s look at the Spa Management Workforce—in a word, we have a great need for education and development of spa managers, and we all must be tasked with cultivating and inspiring talent. Anna Bjurstam of Raison d’Etre introduced Johnston and challenged us all with the following: “We can educate our staff and risk losing them or keep them uneducated and dumb.” I was inspired by this study and plan to delve into the topic of spa management education this fall on the pages of American Spa.
  • Other highlights of the day included a one-on-one with Mariel Hemingway and Susie Ellis, a look at some exciting innovations in technology that we can incorporate into the spa, and the announcement of the winners of the Student Design Challenge. Congratulations to the University of Denver team. They created an exciting non-traditional spa concept that is marketed to teen girls and inspired us all with their creativity and enthusiasm for the project.
  • One of my favorite presentations of the Summit then came from C.K. Low from Malaysia who showed us how he and his wife grew their business, Herbaline, from one tiny skin clinic to a 39-outpost collection of lucrative, unique, and lovely skin spas. I plan to interview him for a future Success Story for the magazine—you will be inspired by his approach. I certainly was.
  • A panel Will Power and the Pursuit of Happiness, starring Mary Tabacci, Dr. Andrew Weil, researcher Jessica Alquist, and Starwood’s Jeremy McCarthy was then followed by a wonderful concluding talk by Rancho La Puerta’s Deborah Szekely, who just celebrated her 90th birthday. She shared her thoughts on the industry and her hopes for the future.
  • Finally, the location of the 2013 Global Spa and Wellness Summit was announced. We’ll be heading to India, and according to board member Andrew Gibson, group director of spa for Mandarin Oriental, he is determined that we will end next year’s event with a group Bollywood dance performance. I’m certainly looking forward to it.

Visit for more information. Cheers to the wonderful team who created a truly unforgettable event.