I had the rare privilege to have been part of a panel arranged by the Edelman PR firm at the famous South By Southwest conference in Austin Texas a few weeks ago. My sister Katrine, who lives in Austin and has attended SXSW many times, continued to correct me each time I mentioned SXSW. She insisted that only “newbies” say South by Southwest. Everyone else calls it “South By.” Ok…so I was a newbie. Perhaps I will get the lingo right next year. Continue reading
Happy New Year to everyone!
While I had planned this New Year’s Day post to be my answer to the often debated 2012 question “Should our industry get rid of the word spa?” that will have to wait until my next post. I feel compelled to share the December 28th NY Time’s Article called Destination: Wellness written by Jesse McKinley as well as my response to the piece. First…check out his lengthy article that was, I am afraid, not very flattering to our spa and wellness industry. (Check out the comments also.) Continue reading
I thought it might be fun to review my whirlwind trip to Austria & Germany in the next few blogs with the above headlines in mind. Here are the stops I made:
The famous Lanserhof Health and Medical Centre in Austria
The New Schloss Elmau Luxury Resort and Cultural Hideaway in the German Alps
Klafs in Austria, the proud manufacturer of sauna, wellness and spa products
Toskanaworld, Bad Orb in Germany, a new spa with warm thermal salt water
The AHGZ German Wellness Conference I attended and at which I spoke
First stop Lanserhof located in a little community called Lans near Innsbruck.
I WAS IMPRESSED WITH… the famous Lanserhof program and especially its founder and visionary, Andreas Wieser. This successful property (that I would label a destination spa with medical components) has been around for 27 years. They require a minimum two week stay, and have had an impressive occupancy rate of over 95% for decades. The food I experienced at lunch was magnificent – and their new cookbook, Energy Cuisine, just came out.
Their mantra is “medicine of the future” and they describe themselves as Europe’s leading health center for regeneration and preventative medicine. I noticed some predictable offerings such as detox, movement therapies, executive health, sleep medicine, aesthetics, nutrition and such and then some novel terms such as Body Memory, Burn Out Program, Vital Aging, and Alzheimer Prevention.
I was impressed with how much time Andreas spent with me as he had just returned from a three week vacation hiking through the Alps by himself. While I would have probably been a crazy person getting back into work mode, here was someone clearly in a state of mindfulness. Andreas had remarkable vision when he started the Lanserhof program almost three decades ago, but he seems to have maintained his ability to think ahead – maybe even way ahead. His discussions regarding Body Memory, Fluid Dancing and Energy in general reminded me that he may be one of the most important visionaries in our industry – yet he is “understated” in his approach and manner so it isn’t as obvious. It was very helpful for me to spend some time getting to know him on this visit and at the subsequent Wellness Conference we both attended the next day. It gave me a better sense of his pulse on the future.
I WAS SURPRISED BY… Lanserhof’s stunning setting with picture-postcard-views of the Alps from almost every room! Did I miss this when I went to their website? I don’t remember seeing this in any of their brochures – in fact checking their main brochure I realized that most of their photos were taken on a cloudy day. A pity.
There are some spas where I get a clear picture in my mind of their setting because they have successfully used one fantastic image (sometimes with what looks like a bit of “color enhancement”) over and over again – in some cases for decades! Examples include: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa with that turquoise pool in front of some very red rock (we even used it for the cover of one of our SpaFinder Directories), Six Senses Soneva Gili with a waiter appearing to walk on water between a pool and the brilliant color of the ocean water in the Maldives, or the natural rock cave of Grotta Giusti in Italy.
I really had no idea what to expect at Lanserhof so when I found a drop dead gorgeous view of the Alps as a major centerpiece, it was definitely a surprise.
I was also surprised (and thrilled actually) to learn that Andreas is going to be opening two more Lanserhof properties with a similar program in the next couple of years – one near Tegelsee that will be another destination spa and another near Hamburg that will be their first day spa. Interesting that this brand extension comes now…after 27 years. It reminds me that our 2011 SpaFinder Spa Trend forecast that included “The Spa Brandwagon” was really right on.
I was also surprised at how similar much of their program seemed to be to the many destination spas I am familiar with in the U.S. And then came an even greater surprise (although it explained the former one) – before Andreas opened Lanserhof all those years ago, he visited North America and stayed at the Golden Door, Canyon Ranch, Rancho La Puerta, The Oaks, the Cooper Clinic and the Greenhouse! It was heartening to know that he speaks of this fondly and with great gratitude for the hospitality and openness shown him while he was doing his research.
I HAVE SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR… the future based on my experience seeing the lifecycle of destination spas in the U.S. I remember the years when the destination spas Andreas visited also had very high occupancy rates. At that time they did almost no advertising. They lived off of PR which was plentiful back then. However the landscape began to change in the 80’s and 90’s as competition heated up with many new spas coming to market and people’s busy schedules shortening the time they would spend away at a spa. As a result, all the destination properties that had such high occupancy rates in the early years began to invest in advertising. The Greenhouse in Dallas even had to close.
With two new Lanserhof spas on the drawing board, it is likely that there will be some cannibalism of current guests from the established location at the same time the competitive landscape could increase. It is also more challenging to run three operations than it is to run one – and the day spa is an animal of a different kind from the destination spa. Planning to invest in a strategy for marketing and advertising now might be a good idea for the long term.
Another suggestion I have is a result of a funny moment that happened during my visit. I was getting ready to present Andreas with the award I had brought along that announced Lanserhof as this year’s SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite Spa in Austria. I asked him where would be the most picturesque spot for our photograph of me handing him the award’s plague. To my surprise, he didn’t know! It dawned on me that when you don’t do a lot of promotion or advertising, and have lived in these surroundings for so long, perhaps you aren’t even aware of the best photo opportunities at your property. So I looked out at the magnificent view and suggested, well how about we do a photo with the Alps in the background. Duh!
When we predicted this trend last year we decided to draw attention to the scary and silly spa stories to make the case for ‘evidenced based medicine’ (EBM) to begin being associated with spa modalities. We considered using the term ’evidenced based medicine’ in the title of the trend but then decided that it was likely to cause eyes to glaze over – that it would likely be a yawn. But the principle was anything but boring – and how right we were! Here is what we wrote last year:
8) Scary and Silly Spa Stories Drive Evidence, Science, and Standards The fallout from heavily publicized spa horror stories—and the recession-driven consumer insistence on no-gimmick treatments with real, measurable benefits—will quicken a rising industry trend: the demand for evidence-based therapies, stricter industry standards, and greater transparency/resources to help spa-goers separate the spa wheat from the chaff. As spas move into the health and wellness sectors, facts, evidence, and science that support industry approaches will move front and center, even at the cost of a few diamond facials.
A horrific sweat lodge tragedy (even if it was incorrectly yoked to the spa industry), as well as some truly scary stories of med-spa procedures gone terribly wrong, got our attention in ’09. As did the silly spa stories, whether nibbling fish pedicures or slithering snake massages. Yes, media representations of the spa world can sometimes be flat-out wrong or cartoonish, but the impact can, with wise response, ultimately prove positive: It’s leading to more activity to ensure safety and standards and provide clear evidence that spa approaches actually work—the most powerful weapon for an industry increasingly staking out its health and wellness authority and the bedrock upon which future growth is based.
Well, when we said that it was important that there would be clear evidence that spa approaches actually work, we couldn’t have known that the New York Times would give us exactly what we wanted. Those of us in the spa industry know that there are many studies that show evidence for spa modalities but most are buried in medical databases without much incentive by anyone (as in drug companies) to unearth them.
Therefore it was very exciting to see the article in the September 20th issue of the Times titled, “Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep.” They reported a study that was done by Cedar Sinai in LA where they took blood samples from people before and after a 45 minute Swedish massage. Here is what they said about the results. “ To their surprise, the researchers, sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, found that a single session of massage caused biological changes.” The changes they mentioned included a decrease in cortisol levels (stress hormone) and an increase in lymphocytes which helps the immune system.
Ta da! Just what the doctor ordered – or shall I say, just the kind of thing we needed to help give this trend some impetus – and to have some good back up for giving myself an A+ for this prediction!
My twitter address: @susieellis
Lance Armstrong gets 200 massages a year! That – and the reason he even mentioned this – was one of the “pearls of wisdom” I gleaned from yesterday’s closing session at what turned out to be a very good ISPA Conference in Austin, Texas.
It was around 11:00 a.m. and Deborah Szekely walked onto the stage to give some background information regarding the ISPA Alex Szekely Humanitarian Award, which is named in honor of her son (a past leader of ISPA) who passed away from melanoma cancer in 2002. As always she was eloquent, and this time, had a bit of a surprise for the audience. She came across a letter that Alex had written to Lance Armstrong during his bout with cancer. He expressed how inspiring Lance’s book had been to him and that he had even purchased 100 copies to give to all his friends and family. Thus Deborah read Alex’s words from that letter to introduce this year’s award recipient. It was all very moving.
Lance Armstrong (38 years old) came out from behind the stage curtain receiving a great deal of applause. He was wearing blue jeans, a tight blue t-shirt and sneakers with yellow soles that matched the yellow “Live Strong” bracelet he was wearing on the tanned right arm of his very toned body. It would be an understatement to say that the entire audience fell in love immediately. (And yes, I do mean men and women!)
He spent the next 30 – 45 minutes talking about his bout with cancer, winning the Tour de France seven times, his family and the work he is doing now raising funds for his foundation. He also answered some questions from the audience.
Filtering Lance’s remarks through my spa and wellness lens, here are some things that stood out to me:
- Lance Armstrong addressed Deborah as Ms. Szekely and began his remarks saying that while watching her introduction on a monitor backstage his reaction was, wow, this woman should continue speaking!
- In brief, his cancer began with a major headache (that later showed to be as a result of lesions on his brain), spitting up blood (that later turned out to be a result of golf ball size cancer in his lungs), and swelling in his testicles (that later turned out to be testicular cancer).
- When he was first approached with the idea of a “Live Strong” yellow bracelet, he didn’t think it was such a great idea feeling that few people would want to wear it.
- Today, 70 million “Live Strong” wrist bands have been sold ($1.00) which means $70 million has been raised for cancer research.
- He has four children – the oldest is a boy, followed by twin girls, and a six-month-old baby.
He has won the Tour de France seven times and came in third in last year’s race. He mentioned that it was good for his kids to see their dad not win the top prize.
- Lance acknowledged that his yellow wrist bands are made in China and that he has gotten some criticism for that in the past. However, he isn’t apologizing any longer since he met with the Dalai Lama and noticed he was wearing an orange wrist band with the word “Compassion” on it. Curious to know where he had them made, Lance surreptitiously turned it over to see that it too was made in China! (That got huge laughs!)
- In answer to a question about heart rate levels during training, he mentioned that they no longer monitor heart rates at all. Now it is all about power – thus they measure watts.
- Another thing they are beginning to use for training is compression boots.
- He has a great relationship with his mother, and although he is not currently married, he is in a committed relationship.
- He is all about prevention and thinks physical education should be put back in schools. (That’s where he formed his interest in competitive athletics.)
- He does not always eat healthfully and faces the same temptations that everyone does. Chips, salsa, etc. Like most of us, he needs to talk to himself about getting back on track with his training.
And finally the most memorable moment for me was his reaction to the question: How can spas make their establishments more physically appealing to men?
His face basically said, “Why is that a problem? And anyway, who cares?” He went on to say that he gets 200 massages a year and how important massage is to improve performance. It was as if he was saying that the decor of a place wouldn’t even factor in to his decision on where to have a massage. It’s all about the massage.
Hey spa industry…we’ve come a long way!
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