The Wellness PrescriptionMarch 1, 2013

Meetings + Spa Resorts = Smart Business By
March 1, 2013

The Wellness Prescription

Meetings + Spa Resorts = Smart Business



When employees need more than a hearty belly laugh to lessen stress-related workplace issues, a suitable antidote is a visit to a spa for an hour, a day or many days.

Spa treatments such as hot stone massage, aromatherapy, exercise, deep breathing, warm baths, mindfulness massage, meditation and the like all lessen stress, according to Susie Ellis, president of SpaFinder, one of the largest spa marketing companies in the world. Ellis explains in her blog ( that increases in spa visitations are due to the fact that “people are more stressed out than ever, and professionals at spas are dedicated to caring and nurturing guests who are seeking what spas offer,” she says. “While a visit to a spa or wellness destination may not magically turn someone from unhealthy to healthy, it can certainly help people change directions in their lifestyles,” Ellis adds. “Stress is at an all-time high. Spas reduce stress. Most people who have been to a spa (25 percent of the U.S. population) would agree with those statements,” says Ellis.

Ellis has a point: The industry is growing by leaps and bounds. According to the International Spa Association (ISPA), there exists today approximately 20,000 various types of spa facilities across the country. ISPA’s most recent U.S. Spa Industry Study, released in 2012, reported that consumers spent $13.4 billion on a wide range of traditional and cutting-edge spa treatments and services in 2011, as compared to $12.8 billion in 2010 — an increase of 4.5 percent. And, spa visits jumped from 150 million to 156 million — an increase of 4.1 percent.

Experts tell us that happy, engaged employees mean greater productivity and improved ROI. Even hotels are getting on the wellness bandwagon.

Healthy + Hotels = Top Trend

Heading the list of SpaFinder’s Top 10 Spa Predictions for 2013 is Healthy Hotels (visit for the other nine predictions). “Expect corporate wellness and wellness tourism to become huge,” Ellis says. “In 2013 and beyond, what constitutes a true vacation will be redefined, and hospitality will be rewritten. We’ll see an explosion of new wellness-everywhere hotel chains and spa environments becoming more mainstream. In the past, gyms and spas have been positioned as mere amenities, but now these walls are being conceptually and literally broken down. Established hotel chains are rebranding around wellness, and it’s not just about fitness.”

Anna Bjurstam, CEO and owner of Stockholm, Sweden-based Raison d’Etre, a full-service spa management company, is a spa consultant who has worked with more than 100 spas in 60 different countries, created eight of the world’s most well-known spa brands and helped educate more than 150 spa managers.

As a research presenter at the 2012 International Spa Association (ISPA) Conference & Expo held in October at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center near Orlando, Bjurstam notes, “The concept of the vacation and business traveler is being rewritten. It’s not just about experiencing the hotel, but being well in it, meaning eating well, sleeping well and training well.”

Like Ellis, Bjurstam says that the wellness-everywhere hotel trend is taking place around the world as evidenced among such major hotel brands as Westin Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and MGM Resorts International, among others.

For instance, at MGM Grand Las Vegas, 42 Stay Well guest rooms were recently introduced. Each one offers more than 12 health and wellness features including vitamin C-infused shower water, which neutralizes chlorine for healthier hair and skin; various advanced lighting features that can regulate sleep/wake cycles or increase energy and reverse the effects of jetlag; EMF protection from electrical equipment, which emanates sleep-disruptive electromagnetic fields; and an air purification system that reduces allergens, toxins and pathogens.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess recently introduced new spa offerings designed for groups at its 44,000-sf Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa. The new offerings are specifically designed to reduce stress and increase productivity, not to mention overall health, and can be customized for groups of all sizes with a variety of options — from teambuilding activities to group workouts, and from classes to workshops. Another corporate-style program at the resort is “The Healthy Executive.” Designed for individuals, this is an exclusive full-day plan that includes private consultations with the spa’s on-staff physician, nutritionist, and an exercise physiologist among other options.

The goal at Westin Hotels & Resorts is to feel better when you leave than when you arrived, and its Westin Essence program is designed to do just that. Since Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed was first introduced in 1999, Westin has broadened its base of health and wellness options with a variety of amenities including SuperFoodsRX dishes for nutrient-rich but flavorful meals when away from home; exercise studios and running maps; Gear-Lending, a special program that allows guests to travel light by renting exercise clothing and sneakers freshly provided onsite by New Balance; clutter-free meetings with fully equipped and streamlined workstations; and a customized in-room spa basket, with everything from flowers to music and aromatherapy oils.

Even Whole Foods is talking about developing a new health resort in Austin, TX — the company’s headquarters and the home of the first Whole Foods. The new project will focus on healthy lifestyle education, according to Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey. “Think of it as a center where people would go for a day, a weekend or a week for healthy lifestyle education,” said Mackey in USA Today.

East + West = Wellness

Sometimes “the spa” encompasses an entire center devoted to more healthful lifestyle choices. Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D. opened the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in 1996. Located at the newly renovated La Costa Resort and Spa (611 guest rooms and 110,000 sf of indoor-outdoor space) in Carlsbad, CA, the Chopra Center offers a wide variety of programs and retreats that integrate the healing arts of the East with the best in modern Western medicine.

Recently added is the center’s new Workplace Wellbeing curriculum of pick-and-choose workshops designed to enhance any group meeting in the form of half-day, full-day and multi-day retreats.

According to Chopra, “Research shows that approximately 15 percent of the work force in the U.S. is ‘actively disengaged.’ The cost of actively disengaged workers in the American work force is about $350 billion a year. There are another 57 percent of people who are not actively disengaged, but they’re disengaged, which means they’re just punching the clock, just ‘getting through the day’ without achieving anywhere near their true potential. That leaves only about 28 percent of workers who are actively engaged.”

Monica Graves, program manager at the Workplace Wellness Center states that last year a worldwide, industry-leading financial institution elicited the help of the center’s Workplace Wellbeing programs to create a customized wellness incentive retreat for 50 of their top-performing financial advisors.

“The group demographics consisted of 90 percent men with an average age of 65. The participants experienced three days of balance, transformation and inspiration through a thoughtful modernization of the ancient techniques of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old healing arts philosophy,” she says.

According to Graves, The Chopra Center educators taught the group practical and powerful tools for stress management, work-life balance, inspirational leadership and successful collaboration in the workplace. Also, the attendees had a “rejuvenating experience through the Ayurvedic meals, spa treatments, beach excursions and leisure time in the beautiful setting of the La Costa Resort and Spa,” she says. “It was so successful that an alumni program is now in development for some time this year.”

Golf + Spa = Perfect Combo

Many planners seek out resorts that combine golf and spa, which provides attendees with the best of both worlds. That combination works very well according to Rod Provart, consultant for Provart Global Event Marketing LLC in Hopkins, MN. Provart says that many of his clients prefer a resort with golf and spa, as does one client who regularly books The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Kiawah Island, SC (255 guest rooms and 35,000 sf of meeting space).

Provart’s choice of The Sanctuary was easy as “several of the firm’s top managers actually have homes on Kiawah Island,” he relates. “The event has been very successful because of the casual opportunities for discussion and work, and the opportunity to relax and enjoy some golf or spa activities as many do.”

Choices abound at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, home to five championship golf courses including the famous Ocean Course, site of the 2012 PGA Championship.

Provart’s group, a leadership meeting, numbers about 45 attendees but does not include either spouses or guests. Attendees use the spa on an individual basis.

“The spa director works with us to schedule individual spa appointments based on attendees’ schedules. She also designs personalized spa gift baskets for each guest that books the spa, which rounds out the whole spa experience and provides something to take back home,” Provart says.

“While the resort provides a relaxed environment in which to conduct business, it also fosters camaraderie amongst the attendees who, in this case, were from top management. They love the beautiful golf and the spectacular spa offerings. And, although our selected spa treatments are the standard facials and mas­sages, I do believe they help make for a more productive meeting when it comes time to get down to the meeting itself.”

Creativity + Interactivity = Great Networking

Jim Post, partner and vice president of operations at Advantage Destination Management Services in Miami, FL, used his creativity to come up with a solution to meet his client’s needs. Post needed a specific spa-related program that fostered networking among the attendees — a must-have ingredient for his meeting customer.

Because the spa resort did not offer such programs, Post chartered a yacht for an afternoon cruise that included sightseeing as well as basic spa services on the deck provided by certified technicians. Afterwards, attendees were treated to a simple spa menu of mimosas, tea sandwiches, fruit and yogurt.

Noting that there was something for everyone, Post adds, “Some guests were there for the sightseeing, some for the spa treatments and spa menu, and some for the luxury of the cruise experience.”

Post believes that “spa activities are great when they are interactive with the entire group so that they can still network and get to know each other. Spas are just coming on board with that idea; but they need to have the right person in place, someone who’s bubbly and knows how to work with the group.”

For another client, Post arranged a meeting in Palm Beach that also featured a full day of spa activities by the resort’s swimming pool. “We had cabanas set up as day spas with an array of spa treatments. Everyone signed up for at least one or two sessions,” says Post. “It was very well received, especially after a few days of being in workshops and attending seminars.”
For his corporate groups, Post is in favor of arranging 30- to 45-minute spa breaks rather than coffee breaks. Chair massages and hand-wrist massages get the blood flowing and make attendees more alert at meetings, Post notes.
One more benefit of meeting at a world-class spa resort, according to Post, is that “the group is content to stay on the property because the whole spa philosophy saturates the premises and makes the stay so pleasurable and rewarding.”


The G Spa at Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, CT, recently received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for 2012. The spa specializes in Native American-inspired specialties including moisturizing wraps, massages and mani-pedis that utilize milk and honey, chamomile extract, sea minerals, essential oils, red clay, vitamins A and E, grape seed extract and more.

In Las Vegas last fall, The Spa at Wynn Las Vegas reopened with newly designed interiors that promote a feeling of health, wellness and a sense of relaxation. With 45 renovated treatment rooms, the spa sports new signature treatments including Tropical Journey — a steamed compress and body massage using coconut and ginger oil, and Xtremities Indulgence, which targets the head, hands and feet.

Meanwhile, The Spa at Encore, Wynn’s sister property with 51 treatment rooms, has added two new spa experiences: Nalu Body Ritual, a Polynesian fusion massage, body exfoliation and coconut oil scalp treatment; and Fire and Ice Stone Ritual, an infusion of heat with cool stones for contrast.

Final Thoughts

Wellness is certainly catching on in the workplace, which is a good for all concerned. As Deepak Chopra reminds us, “Once people begin participating in a healthy, balanced lifestyle, they suddenly feel quite good. Well-being is actually addictive, but it’s a healthy addiction that benefits individuals, companies, the community and the world.” I&FMM

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