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Harmsworth receives ISPA Visionary Award

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Sue Harmsworth, chair and founder of ESPA International, was awarded the ISPA Visionary Award this morning (16 October) at the International Spa Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas.

The award is presented each year to someone in the spa industry who has made significant contributions to both the definition and positive movement of health and wellness over the lifetime of their career.

In accepting the award, Harmsworth said she has always had a strong interest in health and wellbeing from the time she was a child, and also called on the industry to enhance its knowledge base as the demand for wellness services increases.

“We as an industry are such a happy, positive, generous one, and our guests are going to need us more and more in these turbulent times,” she said. “With the growth of wellbeing and wellness, practitioners and experts will need more knowledge than ever before.”

Harmsworth said much of today’s core curriculum for therapists is outdated and irrelevant and that she has seen a vast decline in basic entry-level skills over the last ten years.

“The therapists coming out are not good enough for our very knowledgeable consumers,” she said. “We need much more rigorous training at the grassroots.”

Harmsworth also spoke about the rise of disruptors and the influence of technology on our industry.

“Technology isn’t going away – in fact the advances coming are quite phenomenal,” she said. “But we mustn’t allow it to let us lose our human spirit, our soul and the power of touch.”

She cautioned that anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation and cancer are all at peak levels, and said the rise in programmes in mindfulness, sleep and resilience in our industry is a direct result of that.

She offered these words of advice for the industry: “Stay true to yourself, learn something new every day, and embrace change. The industry will change radically over the coming year and there will not be one-size-fits-all.”

Harmsworth’s early career began in health and beauty journalism at Vogue. She went on to open a beauty salon in Toronto, a thalassotherapy resort in France and a health farm in the UK, before launching her ESPA business in 1993.

Under her leadership, the company has been responsible for the design, development and management of more than 200 spas in 60 countries.

Harmsworth works with experts in natural science to create ESPA’s product range, which is powered by combinations of plant actives, marine actives and essential oils.

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Sue Harmsworth, chair and founder of ESPA International, was awarded the ISPA Visionary Award this morning (16 October) at the International Spa Association’s annual conference in Las Vegas.
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