Spa China Summit begins

I am excited to be attending the 3rd annual Spa China Summit, held this year at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Sanya on Hainan Island, China.  The event is organized by Spa China Magazine, and Editor-in-chief Fifi Kao and her team have put together a timely and relevant agenda.  It is being attended by between 150-200 Spa Directors, owners and managers from throughout China and environs.

The topics for the first day are oriented to understanding the current Chinese spa industry.  Graham Earnshaw, CEO of SinoMedia and the publisher of Spa China Magazine, started things off with a short speech about the growing opportunity in China.  Earnshaw has been living here in China for about 30 years, long enough to be fluent in Mandarin and also to be aware of the evolution of the country, especially in the last 10 years.  He noted that the 10-20% annual growth of the economy can’t be sustained over the long term, but still sees plenty of potential for the creation of both day and hotel spas to meet the needs of the countries emerging middle class.

Fifi Kao then illuminated us on the cultural differences between Chinese and western people, and what these differences mean in spas.  She based her presentation on the graphic illustrations of Chinese-born German designer Yang Liu.  Mr. Yang, having lived in both cultures, perfectly captures some of the different approaches, and Fifi then showed us how to apply this knowledge in the spa environment.  Very interesting, and definitely a primer to doing business in China.

Asia-Pacific spa pioneer (and Asia Pacific Spa & Wellness Council board member) Samantha Foster gave a presentation on the power of associations, based on a SWOT analysis.  Although associations can be difficult to sustain, largely due to the low funds and volunteer membership, they are important for building networks and strengthening relationships between like-minded individuals and companies within an industry.  It seems that almost every country in the Asia-Pacific region has its own spa association, and the APSWC aims to link the various country associations (currently numbering 17) and to help to preserve the indigenous spa and wellness practices from the member nations.

We then enjoyed regional reports on the current state of the Chinese spa industry, delivered by 12 different representatives from all across China.  To begin, each person stood up and introduced themselves, and then said “welcome to my spa” in their dialect, which helped to highlight the amazing amount of diversity just within this one country.  Reports from Changchun, Dalian, Hangzhou and many others related that their spa businesses were still in the nascent stages; mostly hotel-based, and without strong local business, yet.  But there are also a few markets in China where both day spas and hotel spas are fairly well-entrenched, including Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzen, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai.  All have seen a slowdown in business as a result of the economy in the last 18 months, but feel like business is on the upswing once again.  The problems Chinese spas face are not unlike those in many other countries; seasonal business, lack of standards and not enough qualified staff, or schools to train them.

Summer Xia of Summa Spa Institute discussed the need to look beyond the obvious with clients, and provide them a path to health and well-being, then Acupuncturist and TCM practitioner Ken Rosen gave a rousing talk on the benefits and science of sweat, and urged us to make sure we sweat regularly!  Which is not hard to do here, all you have to do is walk outside!

After a late afternoon break, we convened beachside for a cocktail party sponsored by Aromatherapy Associates, and enjoyed the ocean breeze.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow.