I was in Bangkok a few weeks ago (when the Red Shirts who were demonstrating still looked more like a Sunday parade) attending the Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Coalition (APSWC). Since I usually take pretty comprehensive notes at conferences (keeps me awake and alert), I have selected some points I found particularly interesting, surprising, or important to share with you.
- 17 countries are represented in the APSWC
- First speaker – passionate (to tears) about climate change issue. Used the term, “climate refugees.” Feels that the economic slowdown has been a blessing giving people and businesses time to focus on more than just making money.
- Speaker on Demographic Changes 2020 – in 2050 there will be 9.2 billion people, today there are about 7 billion. Life expectancy is highest in Canada, Australia, and Scandinavia. In Africa it is less than 50 years.
- A major problem in most areas is that there will be fewer workers compared to retirees.
- China needs more people. (That statement got my attention!) China is aging – they may be in trouble if they don’t modernize before they age. Will China become gray before it becomes rich?
- Japan will lose its #2 position to China. Japan needs to open its borders to skilled immigrants or they will be in the worst situation.
- Thailand is the Detroit of the east.
- Vietnam is in good shape for growth.
- India is in good shape for growth in regards to aging however they have major infrastructure problems.
- Germany’s aging situation is the worst in the EU.
- UK is in the best shape because migrants are helping their economy.
- US will continue to be this century’s superpower because it attracts migration.
- We are seeing more nationalism than globalization.
- There are currently 7,000 languages in the world and this is dwindling quickly. Be aware that this means we lose history.
Implications for the spa industry?
- Prepare for an aging clientele.
- Prepare for aging employees.
- Think through the impact of an aging population globally. Perhaps we have an opportunity to redefine aging? Our industry could galvanize around the theme of keeping people in the workforce longer. Spas can be marketed as the antidote for an aging population – to keep the elderly vibrant and working.
- Sustainability issues necessitate that we look at our products not just as organic but also sustainable. Sandalwood for example might be organic but using it isn’t sustainable. We need to market more to local clientele versus travelers because of sustainability issues. Spacation/staycation will become more attractive. Growing opportunity for social conscious travel.
- More wellness and healing features. More social and lifestyle spas versus medi spas. Wellness as self-care reduces dependency on western medicine.
- Spa industry here seems threatened by: a) People in the medical field who seem better organized and have more resources and might usurp leadership and impose regulations b) Big brand beauty companies because of their power
- Another huge problem all over the world for the industry is training. There has been so much investment in facilities yet not enough in training. (I would add to that… not enough in marketing either.) Fear expressed by many in management: What if I train them and they leave? But think about this: What if I don’t train them and they stay?
I very much enjoyed the conference and found it quite valuable to hear what is going on in different countries. It was particularly interesting to notice that there are some things of concern here that I don’t see in other parts of the world. One example? The concern that the medical industry can harm (indeed maybe is even out to harm) the spa industry.
I also noticed that the coalition is somewhat self-critical. One comment I heard from several attendees is that they seem to have the same conversations year after year at the APSWC conferences. I thought they were being too hard on themselves. This was just their 4th meeting and they have gotten a great deal of work done.
What I think is important for everyone to realize is that making progress with 17 different COUNTRIES with physical distance between them, diverse cultures, various historical backgrounds, etc. is not easy for any entity. I applaud them for what they have accomplished and I think it is good for our entire industry that they are gathering together (at each person’s own expense I might add) to improve education, establish professional guidelines, champion best practices, share figures, and so forth.
If I were to make any suggestions it would be to consider:
a) simplifing their organizational structure somewhat as it may be impeding progress
b) adding joint marketing initiatives to their agenda
c) adapting a more pro medical and spa stance
d) encouraging members to be more transparent and share more figures
e) getting more involved with social networking
f) not looking so much to the US or UK for establishing standards but establishing their own
g) seeking funding from an entrepreneurial source or a product company that would have a lot to gain from a strong coalition that is helping to grow the spa industry in the Asia Pacific region
My twitter address: @susieellis