Thursday, September 18, 2014


I first became familiar with ISPA (The International SPA Association) in the mid-1990s when my passion for all-things spa was growing stronger each day after my first destination spa experience in 1988.  I got “hooked” on the many benefits of health and wellness from that comprehensive weeklong experience. 

In 1988, very little information was available on the subject matter and what was available was found in print in obscure books and occasional articles in magazines and newspapers.  Trying to locate the information on the subject matter was archaeological in scope, especially given that the terms “World Wide Web” (www) or “Internet” weren’t even around.  I like to think of myself as a spa trailblazer, although I’m sure many younger types involved in the industry have never heard of me.  But, that’s another story….

ISPA began in 1991, and over the years, has become the definitive global organizational force for spas and spa professionals.  In the early days of ISPA, it had a member category for the press and wanting to immerse myself in industry aspects of spa, I became one in 1995.  The first ISPA Conference I attended was in 1995 and I was giddy and delirious in having found, what I thought back in the day, was another calling for me.  But that too, is another story…

Since that time, the press membership category was dissolved, although I think it should be re-instated.  To date, I’ve attended fourteen or fifteen of its Conference; each one has gotten more impressive than the next.

What follows in this article is a compilation of some of the recent information on what’s happening at ISPA.  I think it’s invaluable for non-industry types to gain exposure to the inner-workings of such a worthy organization and glean from the details that spa is much more than a romp in hedonism, and so, I enjoy sharing trade information with the non-trade.

~ The Heart of ISPA ~

Spas are places devoted to overall well being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit. Several International SPA Association (ISPA) member spas are taking that a step further and are focusing on educational programs, fundraisers, donations and other philanthropic gifts.

(Lynne McNees)
“Spas are great at customizing and responding to their customers,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees. “Consumers feel good about going to businesses that give back. Spas are successfully doing their part and supporting the communities that support them. The spa industry has been paying it forward for years and we are becoming more aware of the good deeds spas and their providers are doing.”

Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Lantana, Florida, partners with the United Way of Palm Beach and Habitat for Humanity. In the process of renovation this year, Eau Spa will donate everything that still has value in Habitat for Humanity building programs, according to Owner Eva Hill. The spa also contributed to Family First and Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse during the holidays, donating toys and clothing.
“We chose these charities because they do a great job guiding families to reach goals, and in the meantime they help them to get through hard times,” said Carolina Griffith, head of Eau Spa’s children’s beauty at coast program. “It is very important to give back to the people in need, especially kids.”

The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe, New Mexico, chose a widespread approach to giving back and developed a philanthropic partnership with the Santa Fe Community Foundation after a membership survey demonstrated the spa’s guests’ dedication to the community. The partnership produced the Las Campanas Community Fund, a permanent investment of 5 percent disbursed annually to local charities—as much as 75,000 dollars in 2012. “Our programs are founded and supported by members and have become integral to our operation,” said Todd Show, Director of Fitness, Tennis and Spa.

Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Missouri, requires that, upon interview and hiring, each associate understands he or she must give one complimentary treatment per month to one of four local charities. The Spa shares its initiatives with clients and asks for financial help during certain months, such as Domestic Violence Awareness Month“In giving I have received so much more back in return: Gratitude, great friendships, a sense of peace and fulfillment,” said Ann Brown, Spa Director. “I have also seen it truly change some of the staff’s attitude about life and being selfless.”

In addition to donating to philanthropic institutions and local nonprofits, Kurotel - Longevity Center and Spa and in Gramado, Brazil, also partners with schools to promote healthier lifestyles.  “Health is the greatest asset that a person can possibly have,” said Human Resources Manager, Deise Cristina Arend. “In the same way we hope to change bad habits in our customers, we also believe it is important for the people in our community.”

~ Media Matters ~

Cultural traditions are deeply rooted in many countries’ language, religion, food and art. Some of these traditions were apparent at the recent ISPA Media Event. Spas from around the world highlighted their newest treatments, many of which stemmed from historic customs.

“It is important to remember that spas are not only committed to physical renewal, but also that of the mind and spirit,” said ISPA President, Lynne McNees. “Spas are dedicated to the restoration of the whole person. At this year’s ISPA Media Event we see spas incorporating all components of this shared mission, by way of cultural touches, into their spa experiences.”

~ Culture & Heritage Treats ~

Unique healing techniques and religious practices are often defining cultural characteristics. At the ISPA 2014 Media Event, spa properties founded in distinct cultural traditions showcased treatments that draw inspiration from these native rituals.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group tapped into their roots by offering Chinese medicine inspired Calm Mind Guided Meditation, to offer calm mind therapy.
Mii amo offered Hozhooji, the Mii amo Blessing, which uses a turquoise clay in massage therapy to reduce stress and awaken positive energies within the body, mind, soul and spirit. 
Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa shared the healing power of Nicaraguan volcanic clay used as a body mask in their Six Spa Sanctuaries treatment.
Omni Hotels and Resorts demonstrated their Grove Stone Healing Hand Treatment, keeping the historic tradition of massage fresh.

~ Food Treats ~

Food is a simple way to bring people together to share in a culture. At this year’s Media Event, many spas used food ingredients as a means of tying a native tradition to a classic treatment.

Massage Envy Spa treated guests to a spa cuisine, Sugar Foot Therapy.
Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program discussed the link between diet and overall health and showed that healthy cooking is easy with a healthy food prep demonstration.
Miraval Resort & Spa gifted their new cookbook, “Miraval’s Sweet & Savory Cooking" to attendees.
Rancho La Puerta’s Salsa y Salsa combined a salsa tasting and a salsa dancing class offering a peek into what guests can experience at their property.
The Essex Resort and Spa mixed up a refreshing summer treat for the media with their Watermelon Vodka-tini Hand Treatment.
The Lodge at Woodloch partnered with Dogfish Head Brewery to create beer-inspired spa treatments.
The Spa at the Hotel Hershey incorporated their signature ingredients into their Chocolate Spa Eye Refresh Treatment.
Travaasa Experiential Resorts demonstrated their Blender Bike which channels physical energy created during a workout to power a blender for a fresh smoothie.

~ Water Treats ~

Water is a founding component of the spa industry.  Many exhibiting spas at this year’s event tied this element into native and water-based practices.

Aspira Spa showcased their Sacred Waters Massage and discussed how indigenous traditions can inspire spa experiences.
Jason Hydrotherapy offered their MicroSilk Treatment, an oxygenated bath that benefits the skin.
The Spa of the Rockies demonstrated their Mineral Spring Water Therapy that showcases the property’s 125-year history of mineral-based treatments.

~ Body Treats ~

A healthy body is encouraged as part of an overall healthy mind, body, and spirit. These companies showed attendees the latest trends in keeping your body healthy.

Hilton Head Health showed how one could perform MyoFascial Release techniques on themselves.
Matrix Fitness showcased their 7xi Console, equipment that allows you to be connected while exercising.
Tiger Tail USA demonstrated their signature Tiger Tail, a hand held rolling device designed to roll over muscles, relieving soreness and tension.
ResortSuite was the software provider facilitating all appointment scheduling online prior to the event. Each attendee also received a Haiku tote bag, sponsored by SpaWeek.

~ By The Numbers ~

(The Big 5 statistics from the ISPA 2014 U.S. Spa Industry Study are showing growth in all areas, indicating that the spa industry will continue in this progression. Total revenue, spa visits, revenue per visit, total number of employees and the total number of spa locations are the statistics collectively known as the “Big 5. ) 
The ISPA 2014 U.S. Spa Industry Study “Big 5” statistics reveal positive trends in 2013 that will continue to stimulate the economy and generate revenue in the United States in the months ahead.  

The total number of spa visits climbed to an all-time high in 2013, reaching 164 million (2.5 percent increase on the previous year). Combined with a 2.5 percent increase in total revenue per visit, total revenues generated by spas in 2013 rose to $14.7 billion, an increase of over five percent on the 2012 level.  Nearly 350,000 individuals are employed by the spa industry nationwide, close to a two percent rise from the previous year.

ISPA President Lynne McNees commented on the positive growth:
“We are excited to see a continued positive growth trajectory and a record-setting number of 164 million spa visits achieved in 2013.  It’s even more refreshing to hear that our members are also experiencing these trends within their spas.  This year marks the 15th anniversary of the initial launch of the ISPA industry study in 1999.  Since that time the size of the U.S. spa industry has soared from an estimated 4,140 spa establishments in 1999 to 20,180 in 2013.  Over the past fifteen years, ISPA has captured the changing landscape of the spa industry through its annual industry study including the five-fold increase in the number of spas.  Today’s consumer has greater access to spas and more choices than ever before.”

According to Colin McIlheney, PwC Global Research Director:
“What we are seeing with this year’s study is the reflection of continued growth. With the key indicators, including total revenue and spa visits increasing, this study highlights the positive trend across the board in the industry. The respondents to the survey also expressed confidence that growth will continue in the coming months."

The complete study, funded by The International SPA Association Foundation and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), will be released on September 30, 2014.

~ Noteworthy ~

ISPA has announced this year’s ISPA Innovate Award winners. Due to the success in 2013, ISPA has expanded the ISPA Innovate Awards to now encompass three categories: business practices, experiences and products.  

“Innovation is the driving force behind growth in the spa industry,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees. Recognizing the innovation that is occurring within ISPA’s membership will encourage and inspire future ideas.” 

Business Practices Innovate Award winners:
COOLA Suncare, located in San Diego, Calif. represented by Chris Birchby, founder and chief executive officer, focusing on “mobile POS for products and spa poolside.”
East Village Spa, located in Des Moines, Iowa represented by Cassie Sampson, owner, focusing on “employees with disabilities find perfect spa employment.”
Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, located in Corona, Calif. represented by Brad Jensen, operations manager, focusing on “leadership development process ensures employee’s performance success.”
SpaEquip Inc., located in Calistoga, Calif. represented by Philippe Therene, founder, focusing on “the gift of spa experiences for all.”
The Spa at the Breakers, located in Palm Beach, Fla. represented by Amy Retay, director of spa operations, focusing on “measurement tool to reward service provider’s performance.”

Experiences Innovate Award winners:
Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, located in Tallebudgera Valley, Queensland, Australia represented by Tracy Willis, marketing and public relations director, focusing on “sensory spa experience with live drumming.”
Montage Resort & Spa, located in Laguna Beach, Calif. represented by Michael Conte, spa director, focusing on “hand crafted experiences with organic garden ingredients.”
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, located in Ojai, Calif. represented by Gloria Ah Sam, spa director, focusing on “safe treatment modifications for oncology spa guests.”
Spa Gregorie’s, located in Newport Beach, Calif. represented by Amanda Manwaring, spa manager, focusing on “inspirational letters inspire spa guests to pay it forward.”
The Spa at Pinehurst, located in Pinehurst, N.C. represented by Jennifer Roche, spa director, focusing on “contemplative sand painting: a mindful group workshop.”

Product Innovate Award winners:
Belmond the Inn at Perry Cabin, located in St. Michael, Md. represented by Denise Haddaway, spa director, focusing on “honey-based, all natural bee products.”
Body Bliss, located in Sedona, Ariz. represented by Nick James, owner, focusing on “technology that makes authentic aromatherapy truly personal.”
Mio Skincare, located in Hunington Beach, Calif. represented by Mara Stern, marketing, focusing on “liquid yoga restorative bath soak treatment.”
Osea Skincare, located in Malibu, Calif. represented by Jenefer Palmer, chief seaweed officer, focusing on “skin and body-care made like fine wine.”
ResortSuite, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada represented by Frank Pitsikalis, founder and chief executive officer, focusing on “spa guest check-in and questionnaire tablet app.”

~ Spa’s Generosity ~

The global spa community will provide food for 17,000 hungry children by attending the 2014 ISPA Conference & Expo. All attendees will receive a ResortSuite sponsored FEED Bag. The proceeds for each bag supplies ten meals for the World Food Programme.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to give back as a part of our annual event by partnering with FEED and ResortSuite,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees. “FEED’s initiative to provide meals to children through the World Food Programme is a valuable contribution that we are now able to share with our industry. We are proud to work with ResortSuite, a longtime supporter of ISPA and the spa community.”

ResortSuite is thrilled to be associated with FEED and support this meaningful cause at the ISPA Conference & Expo this year,” said ResortSuite founder and CEO, Frank Pitsikalis. “We have been involved with ISPA for many years and are honored to make a direct contribution to those in need through our sponsorship.”

ResortSuite is a hospitality software company used by some of the most prestigious spas, clubs, hotels and resorts in the world. All ResortSuite software is “guest-centric” in technology design, allowing hospitality properties such as spas, clubs, golf courses, ski lodges, and more to be run more efficiently.

FEED is a social business with a mission to create good products that help feed the world. Founded in 2007 by Lauren Bush Lauren, after Lauren traveled around the world and witnessed the effects of hunger first hand as a student ambassador with the World Food Programme. Every product sold has a measurable donation attached to it. FEED has been able to provide more than 84 million meals globally through the WFP and Feeding America. FEED has also supported nutrition programs around the world, providing more than three and a half million children with Vitamin A supplements through UNICEF."
Lauren said, "I am so appreciative of ISPA and ResortSuite for their decision to make a huge difference in the lives of children and families around the world through giving FEED bags at the ISPA Conference & Expo. It's exciting to know that everyone will leave with a bag that gave 10 meals, and that collectively, 1,700 meals were donated. On behalf of FEED, thank you!"

~ In Closing ~

The International SPA Association is the spa industry’s leading professional organization.  By visiting its website, you can familiarize yourself with invaluable information about the organization, including obtaining more information on the spas mentioned above in the “Spa-Goers” drop down.  The 2014 Annual Conference & Expo will be held this October 13-15th at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.  The event usually draws several thousand attendees from around the world, and features extensive continuing education workshops, keynote addresses, special events, presentations, and an Expo area with hundreds of spa service and product providers.  Lastly, it is with regret that finances prevent me from joining ISPA at its upcoming Conference again this year.  I’m sure it’ll be another stunning success!

That’s it for this edition.  Until the next one, remember to take care of yourself and those you love.

By Terry Herman

TERRY HERMAN is a recognized expert in the industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In the 1990s, she authored an extensive "Glossary of Spa Terminologies" and holds two copyright registrations.  Consumer and trade publications have also interviewed her as an expert.  She also conducted an extensive nationally broadcasted interview tour on aspects of creating an at-home spa, interior design, music, stress and time management.  Her work has been published extensively in print and digital in both consumer and trade publications.  In addition to writing, reviewing and being interviewed as an expert, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker.  She also served on the International Advisory Board for the former EXPERIENCE | PREMCHIT Journeys In Retreat To Wellness; the Advisory Board was comprised of ten international experts in various fields of wellness and spa.  She also served as a Group Manager for the popular LinkedIn group, The Spa Buzz.  Her social media outreach includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Cision Seek or Shout, Plaxo, Red Room, Pinterest, and Tripatini.  Be sure to read her food, wine and
culinary digital magazine, TERRY’S SECOND HELPINGS.  You can email her at


(Photo credits as represented by the specific brand.)

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