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What to expect at next month's Global Spa and Wellness Summit in Marrakech

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The eighth Global Spa and Wellness Summit (GSWS) is fast approaching – due to take place from 10-12 September at the Four Seasons Resort Marrakech, Morocco – bringing together the leaders and innovators of the spa industry to

help guide and shape the future of wellness in years to come.

Over the past couple of months, Susie Ellis – chair and CEO of GSWS and president of Spafinder Wellness 365 – has revealed a number of events delegates can look forward to, in addition to the usual panel-led discussions, small group breakout sessions and dining debates.

The line-up of speakers at the Summit, the theme of which is “Fast Forward” for 2014, is extensive. It includes innovative thinkers such as Swedish economist Dr Kjell A Nordström, architect Bjarke Ingels and marketing expert Paul Price. Ellis told Spa Opportunities that in order to discuss the future of spa and wellness, however, delegates must understand the industry’s origins and evolution. To do this, Don Ardell PhD and John Travis MD – both of whom are considered founders of the wellness movement – have been invited to speak at the Summit.

For the second year, the summit will feature dedicated forums for spas, hotel spas, hot spring spas, spa education and hydrothermal spa creators. New forums under consideration include those set to focus on corporate wellness and mixed use/real estate.

The Global Spa and Wellness Economy study undertaken by GSWS and long-time research partner SRI international will provide fresh data when it is released at the 2014 Summit and is set to include the first ever data on the global hot springs market. Predicting a giant boom in the hot spring industry, Ellis said: “Governments have not always thought about the hot springs aspect of wellness tourism, but it’s a wellness pursuit – visiting a hot spring provides relaxation and prevents stress.

“The data will really galvanise the hot springs industry as it’s a market that has never been aggregated before like this. So many countries offer this type of wellness but under different names, such as thermal, mineral and thalassic therapies. By uniting under one umbrella, however, there will be more recognition of the types of natural water therapies available – introducing a more competitive business edge to the global market,” Ellis continued.

Although she is part of an entity that provides global spa market research for the industry, Ellis stressed that the tourism bodies of individual nations should do more to find out how many spas they each have and acknowledge their revenue. “By categorising wellness for themselves, it will help national tourism industries to make better decisions,” Ellis said.

The New Zealand city of sRotorua is one such place that has identified hot spring wellness as an important driver for developing its tourism economy. The city’s mayor, Steve Chadwick, will attend the summit to promote the business potential for the natural hot springs in Rotorua.

Details of a new six-month spa management mentorship programme and a careers website – with resources for spa business interns – will also be unveiled at the summit. The announcements will be made during the third annual Spa Education Forum 2014 by the forum's leaders, including Anna Bjurstram, GSWS board member and vice president of Spas & Wellness; Lori Hutchinson, founder of Hutchinson Consulting, and Jean-Guy de Gabriac, CEO and founder of Tip Touch International.

While there are 130,000 to 180,000 spa managers/directors currently working globally, there are only 4,000 students worldwide currently enrolled in spa management-related degree programmes – according to the Spa Management Workforce & Education: Addressing Market Gaps report by SRI International in 2012. The mentorship scheme and the website are two tools to help address the serious gap between the number of spa managers and therapists needed, compared to the number of trained people that can fill them.

“Attracting more people to spa careers – and supporting those newly on the spa manager/director path – is mission-critical for our industry,” said Anna Bjurstram. “While there is so much work to be done, the new mentorship programme, spa career website and internship tools are very much steps in the right direction. We can thank industry leaders for spearheading these independent initiatives – they’re donating their time and passion to build a stronger industry workforce for our bright, collective future.”

The latest recruit to the GSWS board of directors, announced in August, is Franz Linser, PHD – founder and managing director of international consulting firm Linser Hospitality. Linser brings two decades' worth of experience in the hospitality, wellness, spa, sports and political worlds to GSWS. At age 28, he was responsible for the Austrian National ski team’s training and went on to develop a patented training system for high-profile athletes and rehab patients.

Linser’s appointment to the board of directors follows the addition of global tourism expert Jean-Claude Baumgarten and Mexican entrepreneur Gina Diez Barroso de Franklin in January.

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The eighth Global Spa and Wellness Summit (GSWS) is fast approaching – due to take place from 10-12 September at the Four Seasons Resort Marrakech, Morocco – bringing together the leaders and innovators of the spa industry to help guide and shape the future of wellness in years to come.
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