Spa professionals from around the world gather this week in Kissimmee, FL for the 23rd annual conference and expo of the International Spa Association (ISPA). With a lineup of visionary speakers and more than 300 exhibitors, the event at the Gaylord Palms Resort is expected to draw top industry leaders as well as spa managers and owners.
As a founder of ISPA, this annual gathering alway amazes me. Launched in Washington by volunteers in 1991, ISPA now has more than 3,000 members. And still growing.
Stress may be the common bond of today’s spagoers, but 23 years ago it was all about pampering, fitness, and weight loss. Now we’re focused on wellbeing, taking spas to a new level as partners in preventing illness.
Deborah Szekely, the “Godmother” of American spas, has seen spas nurture mind, body, and spirit for 72 years since she opened Rancho La Puerta in Mexico, and Golden Door in southern California. Our annual get-together is highlighted by presentation of a Humanitarian Award in memory of Alex Szekely, her son.
Dr. Jordan Metzl, a nationally recognized sports medicine physician at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, will present “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano” – Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body. Looking like a model for men’s fitness, Dr. Metzl offers keys to keys to holistic health.
Being great by choice motivates business and wellbeing, says best-selling author Jim Collins, who is a keynote speaker at the conference. “Great companies are are not necessarily the biggest or the most innovative,” explains Collins in his latest book “Great by Choice.” How great companies blend creativity and discipline will spark his presentation.
The spa industry has grown tremendously since we launched ISPA, but it is still a hands-on business. Change comes from within, says Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life” (published by Hay House). Another book from Hay House is by a member of the U.S. Congress from Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan, who explains how the practice of mindfullness changed his lifestyle in Washington.
Honoring spa visionaries, ISPA’s Dedicated Contributor Award will be presented to Susie Ellis, president of marketing giant SpaFinder Wellness Inc, responsible for National Wellness Week to be celebrated in March. Based in New York City, Suzie serves on the honorary board of directors for the Washington Spa Alliance. After industry colleague and friend Alex Szekely died of melanoma at age 44, Susie’s mission to raise melanoma awareness resulted in the new “I Will Reflect” awareness bracelet.
Also being honored is John C. Gray, long-time CEO at California’s Glen Ivy Hot Springs, one of America’s pioneer health resorts. “We were young, ful of energy and enthusiasm, and we shared a vision of what could be” says Gray.
Future spa leaders receive recognition from the ISPA Foundation. A scholarship named for industry pioneer and Cornell University Associate Professor Mary H. Tabacchi has brought new creativity to spa management.
For veterans like Ralph Newman, COO of WTS International based in Rockville, Md., the need for guest contact stays in the blood. “I still get a charge from delivering an unexpected ‘wow’ to guests.”
Professional development is vital in the spa industry. Sharilyn Abbajay, chair of the Washington Spa Alliance, also serves on the ISPA Board of Directors. Her advice: “Know your purpose and be be prepared to be inspired by the keynote speakers.”
Getting together with the people who are taking spas to the next generation is an inspiring experience. Having participated in all 22 conferences, ISPA 2012 holds the challenge of learning what’s ahead.
Information: visit www.ispa2012.com