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The New State of Spas

The past 12 months have taught us many lessons. Not the least, and perhaps the greatest, is the importance of maintaining personal wellness in body and mind. Even in relatively placid times, the benefits of meditation, yoga or a refreshing spa day are myriad, promoting physical and emotional health that resonates in our own lives and society as a whole.

Wellness has now grown into a global movement. The challenge for spas lies in the need to deliver real wellness options beyond pure beauty and pampering treatments. A combination of a healing touch with effective business strategies is key to a successful career in this industry, said Carmelina Montelongo, instructor for University of California, Irvine Division of Continuing Education’s Spa and Wellness Management certificate program.

“I would say that the most challenging aspect of any spa management educational program is the fact that professionals in this sector require an essential combination of hard and soft skills,” Carmelina said. “On one hand, spas are traditionally about the healing power of human touch, but then on the other hand, hard skills such as business, management and finance are critical to the success of the spa business.”

Simply put, spa managers need to “create and maintain the magic that makes up a spa, while operating a financially solid business.” That’s exactly what Carmelina and the Spa and Wellness Management program aim for — advancing the careers of today’s wellness pros and introducing newcomers to the art and business of the industry.

As an experienced spa consultant, she has lent her vision and financial management skills to top luxury boutique spas throughout Mexico. Notably, she was a key player in the planning stages for the Chablé Resort & Spa in Yucatan, served as its Wellness Director, and led the spa to becoming one of the Seven Best Spas in the World in 2018, according to Tatler Spa Guide.

Chablé Resorts is a leading example of the ‘wellness’ approach the industry has adopted. Wellness for Chablé is about making people laugh, helping them to reconnect and a celebration of mind, body and soul.

Carmelina took time to share her thoughts on the state of wellness in 2021.

How would you characterize the growth of the wellness movement?

Wellness is a word that was rarely even spoken 10 years ago. Today the spa and wellness movement forms a $4.5 trillion global industry made up of 11 sectors, growing over five times faster than global GDP. All of these sectors enable consumers to incorporate wellness activities and treatments into their daily lives.

What are the key factors driving this phenomenal growth?

As the world’s population grows older, as well as lonelier, consumers are looking to incorporate more wellness choices into their lives. Simultaneously, the decline in health as well as the environmental crisis has led people to find alternative and healthier lifestyles. The pandemic is another factor. I think that an increased awareness proves that wellness is not static but rather an active process where a person’s choices and actions determine their overall state of health.

How has the COVID pandemic affected it?

In just a few months the entire world became more aware of the importance of integrating simple wellness routines into their everyday lives, including daily mindfulness, meditation and yoga practices, among others. We’ve seen increased demand for streaming classes and at-home workouts. And with so much uncertainty, mental wellness has never been more important. The pandemic has also raised consciousness on the need for a strong immune system.

What changes can we expect in a post-pandemic world?

It may take long for the global economy to recover, so I think it’s finally time for a paradigm shift in the spa industry. This is the perfect time for spas to focus more on science-backed treatments, especially those supporting the immune system — ozone therapy and IV infusions are my favorites. Sauna bathing, steam rooms and hot springs have also proved effective in preventing viral infections.

How does University of California, Irvine’s Spa and Wellness Management program prepare students to succeed in this space?

The fully online program teaches technical skills on how to effectively manage staff, operations and facilities, while values and inspiration from top experts in the industry. Combining the hard and soft skills can be a challenge. Trust me, I’ve come across real masters in the industry; however, only a few go beyond this set of skills by truly caring for the wellbeing of guests and their own staff. I am proud to say that our Spa and Wellness Management program addresses all of these needs, and more.

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