Q & A with Mia Kyricos, industry leader and Starwood Director

Follow along with the globe-trotting Mia Kyricos, Director of Global Spa Brands and Programming at Starwood and one of the great minds of the spa industry.

How many years have you been involved in the spa/hospitality industry?

With the exception of 4 years in the dot.com industry, I've been in hospitality (including restaurants, hotels, private clubs, management consulting and spas) for a total of 18 years.  I have been focused in spa/wellness for the past 9 years.

What was the path that led you into the spa industry?

It was a combination of personal and professional passion.  In August of 2001, I enrolled at the Hotel School at Cornell University to earn my MMH (Masters of Management in Hospitality Administration) or MBA for service professionals.  I was gearing up to study every aspect of the hospitality industry from a business perspective, and had committed to a personal program of health and wellness to survive what was reputed to be a very rigorous, full-time, two year program.

Two weeks after I arrived at campus, 9/11 happened and we (myself and 54 classmates) were all shocked to the core.  No matter what facet of the hospitality industry we came to study - airlines, hotels, gaming, etc. - the future did not look good, with one exception.  The spa industry seemed to stagnate, but did not experience the dramatic drop in business that the other segments did.  And I was further attracted to the spa industry because it was a place where my passion for customer service and my personal mind-body health logically overlapped.

So I approached Dr. Mary Tabacchi, who taught the spa course at Cornell, and became her graduate assistant.  Over the course of two years, I was not only exposed to the history of the industry from an academic perspective, but I also volunteered for ISPA and began to network like it was my job.  I lived and interned at Canyon Ranch for a summer, and either facilitated or participated in several real-life consulting projects for multiple hotel companies, including one for Starwood.  After graduating from Cornell, I leveraged my previous operational experience and became Spa Director of Exhale's flagship spa in Manhattan.  I also helped to develop a spa resort in Maine.

Soon after 2004, I was offered a rare leadership opportunity to join the corporate spa department of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.  I have since held multiple positions in spa development, operations and marketing, and I am now responsible for the management and evolution of five global spa brands.  I'm a lucky gal because my job has taken me all over the world, exposing me to the business from many different cultural perspectives.  It's been wonderful!

What is your favorite place in the whole world?

There are so many places that I love, but my favorite corner of the world continues to be York Harbor, Maine, my home town.  It has the perfect mix of rocky coastline, four seasons, down-to-earth people,  fantastic seafood, childhood memories and my incredible family - all within arm's reach.

If you could have any profession in the world, other than what you do now, what would you be?

That's a tie between travel writer and a culinary personality known for healthy, wholesome foods.  In fact, in my next life, I hope to own/operate a restaurant in a cozy, relaxed community where "everyone knows your name."  Kinda like Cheers, but a little better for you.

What is your motto or concept that you live by?

You regret the things that you don't do in life far more than the things you do . . . so just do it!

What is your most treasured possession?

My passport.  Nearly every page is stamped or includes a travel visa, and I recently had to have pages added.  It's beautiful!

What’s your go-to spa treatment?

Deep tissue massage.  Throw in some reflexology, and I am a giddy, giddy girl.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Putting myself through graduate school (even if I'm still paying off the loans.!)

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Lose the perfectionism.  It's so distracting and time-consuming.  Oh, and my slow metabolism.  At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.   :-)

Care to share any details on family life, i.e. spouse, partner, children, pets?

I just married my high school sweetheart, Mr. James Edward O'Hara III (sorry honey, had to gloat), which happily and humbly makes me Mrs. O!  I also have a big, fat, Greek family that rocks, and I happen to be a twin.  I don't have any children or pets as of yet, but I do pretend to have a chocolate lab named "Sedona" (long story.)

Tell us two things about yourself we don’t know.

I am enrolled at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, where I'm working towards earning a Masters of Wellness from the world's first accredited program.

I grew up with a healthy respect for outdoor sports, including hunting and fishing, which means I'm a very good shot, and still love to "reel in" dinner.