Wellness Summit Day 2

Our day began with a guided meditation, led by Dr. JemBendell, Director of Lifeworth and Associate Professor at Griffith Business School.  Dr. Bendell’s work is as a strategist and consultant for sustainable luxury for high-end brands, and he is accredited with the organizational concept for the Marine Stewardship Council.  Bendell’s presentation, “Integrating Personal and Global Wellness,” shared the idea that wellness is a form of contentment and balance, and our personal wellness is connected to the wellness of the collective whole.  So this is what clients are seeking, both personal wellness and re-connection to nature.  He cited a study that showed that post-operative patients with a view of nature have better outcomes and need less painkillers.  We need to be creative and find ways to deliver the unexpressed needs of our clients; illustrating that point Bendell quoted Henry Ford; “If I asked what my clients want, they’d say a faster horse.” He referenced online resources are Greenerhealthcare.org, greenyoga.org, greenglobe.com and authentiluxury.net.  The sum of the presentation was that creating real change is not up to any one person or entity; we need to work as a group to achieve our goals, as multi-stakeholder standards are more credible.

Dr. Karina Stewart of Kamalaya was up next with “Should the Spa Industry Take the Lead in Democratizing Wellness,” and began by walking us through the history of spa treatments.  Dr. Stewart reminded us that our healing traditions are ancient, and were available for the people at large, not the elite.  “In long-ago times, there was a holistic approach to life and health, and many commonalities that were holistic in the larger sense, like food habits and other rituals.  People employed a preventive approach to live optimally.  Ayurveda means ‘science of life;’ they were taught what time is best for body and biorhythms, when it was best to wake up, and when to eat what kinds of foods.”  Dr. Stewart shared that the term “wellness” emerged in the 1950’s, but became more popular in the 1970’s with the writing of people like Adele Davis.  She then shared some modern-day definitions of wellness:

Charles Corbin, Az. State; “Wellness is a state of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of wellbeing.”

“Wellness is a choice to assume responsibility for the quality of your life, a conscious decision to shape a healthy lifestyle.”

National Wellness Ass.; “Wellness is the active process of becoming aware of and making choices consistent with healthy lifestyle.”

Dr. Stewart points out that the current discontent and disillusionment with medical system is helping to drive the wellness wave.  She cites studies showing that 47% of American males and 38% of women will get cancer, despite 47 years and billions of dollars fighting it.  Only 2-3% of cancers can be attributed to genes, and yet that’s where the funding goes.  The incidence of heart disease has not changed in over 30 years.  According to a JAMA report, physician and medication error and adverse drug effects kill 225k people annually, and is the 3rd leading cause of death.   She reminds us of the Pritikin concept; our modern day tools for achieving wellness need to be a knife and fork.

Dr. Stewart highlighted three important issues in moving into wellness in the spa industry; delivering true experience with results, educating on responsible behaviors, and providing the tools to maintain and sustain their education.  “We must begin the journey ourselves, and know that the basics are key, the ground upon on which we build.” says Dr. Stewart.

The next keynote “Full Integration, Proven Methods” was delivered by Andrew Gibson, Group Director of Spa with Mandarin Oriental.  Gibson spoke of the challenges combining wellness with hotel visits, especially considering that the average hotel stay is 1.2 days.  But both the hotel and the hospital have similar goals, to fill beds and offer treatments.  MOHG, along with Espa, developed the idea of selling time rather than specific treatments, and to that view, employs highly trained therapists who are able to deliver whatever treatment might be appropriate.  The Mandarin treatment menu is designed to achieve wellness through balance, respecting the uniqueness of the individual and delivering personalized and therapeutic experiences.

To further the wellness orientation, Mandarin has 4 properties that act as wellness “hubs;” Marrakech, Dhara Devi, Sanya and Cancun.  These properties have a unique individual on staff from a wellness discipline such as acupuncture or shamanic practices, who is the centerpiece of a wellness program and is shared with other Mandarin facilities.  The Mandarin properties also use local talent across the brand for lectures and events, such as TCM doctors or yoga experts.  Also, all American properties are donating meeting space and free treatments for breast cancer support groups in the month of October.  Gibson mentioned a new website in the UK which is a good consumer resource, treatmentsyoucantrust.co.uk.

South Africa, new legislation BHSEA, proposed regulations changes that would affect spa therapists.

The delegation next enjoyed another edition of “Ideas worth Exploring,” 3 10-minute presentations on a specific topic, this time Strategic Synergies.  First up was corporate health expert Camille Hoheb, Senior Business Advisor for Global Spa and Wellness.  Hoheb shared that currently, 60% of worldwide deaths are from preventable causes, and she outlined the many opportunities spas have to fill the education gap for consumers on how to develop and sustain new and healthy wellness habits.  Susie Ellis of SpaFinder and the Global Spa Summit made a very sensible presentation supporting the separation of “spa” and “medical” tourism, at least in terms of governmental oversight and regulation.  Although spas and medicine have similar goals, to make people feel better and achieve wellness, they have very different protocols and success measurements.  I discussed a case study of a recently opened spa within a medical practice; lots of great ideas but many challenges when combining medically-licensed professionals, spa therapists, and a retail orientation.

Ask the Experts panel with Joerg DeMuth, Jon Canas, and Horst Rechelbacher, moderated by Adria Lake, on the topic “Efficacy Claiming it’s Place.”  DeMuth is skeptical of many efficacy claims, saying they often come from a panel of consumers who receive free products and then rate them on a scale of 1-10.  For example, he cited studies from NuSkin, which claim the products were evaluated by an “independent” doctor at a clinic; what they really did ask consumers their opinions, no testing was involved.  Jon Canas relates that he expected that the cosmetics industry would follow the model of the drug industry, where there is a measurable success rate.  Canas had originally assumed that for a drug to be approved by the FDA, it would have a success rate of at least 80%, but in fact it turns out that most drugs are approved based on clinical efficacy results that are below 50%.  Says Canas, “Of course, if you are in a serious or terminal situation, you’d take even a 20% chance.  But it turns out that 80% of the time it won’t actually work.  We should not be so concerned that we are doing things that are not measured to have high degree of success.  Plus, humans are all different, we are not coming out of a widget factory.”   Rechelbacher says he doesn’t hand out free products, doesn’t believe in that.  He’ll invite 70-80 press in one evening, everyone tests the product and takes it home, if they take it home there is an interest.

DeMuth makes a compelling point; “It’s important that the consumer doesn’t just ‘believe’ us, they need to be more critical, read the labels, and do their own research.  Putting cosmetics on is not like polishing a car, it’s like adding food to your body.  If you want in-depth knowledge you have to inform yourself; the industry cannot be relied upon to give the answers to you.”

Rechelbacher adds a comment on the organic vs. natural debate, and says that if you’re really a expert, there is a big difference.  “Natural means nothing.  Petrochemicals are organic, organic chemistry consists of compounds that can kill you.  The issue is our current guidelines are outdated.”  Additionally, he believes we should be asking clients what they want, doing sensory testing, not making choices for them. Canas and Rechelbacher engaged in a polite disagreement regarding the words organic and natural and the merits of the various certification agencies; at the end of the day, consumers don’t really know what these words or “seals of approval” mean, but it’s the manufacturing PROCESS that needs to be certified, not just the ingredients themselves.

In another “Ideas worth Exploring” presentation, Charles Au and Greg Payne discussed their new venture, a wellness/medical spa opening here in Singapore in the next month.  Then Vicki Weber of Lotus Star gave a fascinating energy therapy demonstration using members of the audience.  We broke for another healthy lunch, and then enjoyed afternoon Skill Development Sessions by Samantha Foster, Ken Rosen, Jon Canas and myself.  The gala dinner and Crystal Awards are this evening, so more on that in a separate blog.