Q&A
Elaine Okeke Martin


Africa has been flying under the radar in the spa industry, but that may be about to change. Jane Kitchen talks to Elaine Okeke Martin, Spa and Wellness Association of Africa’s founder and president, to find out more

From Spa Business 2017 issue 3 . . BY Jane Kitchen, Spa Business and Spa Opportunities

What’s special about the African spa industry?
I think one of the reasons people fall in love with Africa is the decency of the people. There’s also an energy you feel in Africa – from the light, the earth, the air, the rain. African spa guests can also enjoy treatments while looking out at grazing elephants, for example. And you really feel alive when you’re among lions.

Which countries are most established in spa terms, and which are the ones to watch?
South Africa, Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Morocco and Tanzania all have well-established spa industries. Kenya is also one to watch, as it’s increasingly focused on health tourism and has a government goal for 2030 that includes a budget dedicated to health and wellness tourism. The Kenya Tourism Board recently launched a joint venture with Kenya Airways to promote the country, and Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since independence in 1963 – a US$3.8bn Chinese-built high-speed railway, the Madaraka Express – has just opened, connecting the port city of Mombasa with the capital of Nairobi. The train travels through two national parks and will be a tourism booster. Furthermore, the number of international visitors to Kenya grew 13.5 per cent last year, to 1.34 million.

Africa is transforming tourism and I’m happy to be part of it. I’m happy to see the development of the African Charter on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism – signed last year by 20 African countries – and its goals for 2030, which are an obligation to seriously reflect on the connections that exist between tourism and sustainable development.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what the Spa and Wellness Association of Africa does?
I graduated from CIDESCO International in Denmark in 1999 and I’ve been in the industry for the past 18 years. I founded the Spa and Wellness Association of Africa (SWAA) in 2010 as a professional platform to support standards and education in the industry, as well as African countries within the sector. SWAA is a nonprofit organisation and our members and decision-makers are busy spa and wellness professionals who volunteer their time and expertise. We have members in the main spa hub countries like Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Morocco, and we’re promoting SWAA to other countries now.

We unite member national spa and wellness associations from across the continent, along with businesses, educators and individual members. We aim to develop and maintain internationally recognised standards while giving members a platform to channel their voices. We also seek to improve the knowledge, technical skills and professionalism of all spa and wellness professionals. Our membership prices range from US$49 (€42, £37) for student memberships to US$350 (€298, £267) for a corporate membership and US$2,000 (€1,704, £1,525) for country memberships.

SWAA is becoming a coalition for African countries and works to promote Africa as a wellness destination. We consult with – and for – various government departments, such as the Ministry of Tourism, Education and Health, as well as national associations in the African spa and wellness industry.

We support tourism boards to see how we can help them set up budgets for wellness tourism. Some African countries – including Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia and Mauritius – have targets for 2030 and beyond that include medical and wellness tourism budgets. This is all part of Vision 2030, one of the most comprehensive development agendas in modern African history, which extends as far as 2063. We can see that the interest in spa and wellness is there, and industry figures like those laid out by the Global Wellness Institute are helping governments in African countries to look at ways to develop the wellness tourism sector and promote their countries.

What is SWAA doing to support education and standards?
We’re planning to develop standards for African indigenous treatments, collecting data on local treatments and African medicinal plants, with the support of the Global Wellness Institute’s Africa Wellness Initiative (see our report on the following page). We’re also teaming up with Angela Derks, an international education consultant, who will help identify and develop the standards we will put in place.

Our networking events, held in different countries each year, provide a place where members can come and train. We soon plan to have education providers available on our online platform, so people in Africa can access the online training for US$5 to US$10. We’ve made it mobile-friendly, so we can reach rural areas, where people might not have access to computers, but will have mobile phones. We hope to launch this programme by mid-2018.

SWAA Unbuntu Education (which translates as ‘humanity towards others’) is an initiative within SWAA that helps to certify therapists and supports spa managers or directors through educational programmes. It also supports spas, wellness centres, beauty academies and schools in Africa with accreditation and provides a platform for less fortunate people in Africa who want to join our industry, giving them a start through a SWAA-accredited school or spa.

What are the main obstacles to spa growth in Africa?
There is a common misperception held by tourists from industrialised countries, who view Africa as one homogenous area, and not as a diverse continent made up of 54 individual countries. Therefore, media reports on events like the Ebola outbreak often result in an exaggerated fear. Despite the fact that the outbreak areas were geographically closer to Europe than to Eastern and Southern Africa, safari companies experienced cancellation rates between 20 and 70 per cent. There were heavy financial losses across the African tourism industry, and many job losses.

Good health and wellbeing is another factor that Africa must look at. Defining the health of both locals and tourists is important, and we must not create a gap between the two. Tourism plays a critical role in achieving water access and security, as well as hygiene and sanitation for all, but hotel development needs to be regulated to ensure that hotels and resorts do not syphon off – quite literally – much-needed water from local communities.

What are the biggest opportunities for the spa industry in Africa?
Africa is waking up to wellness, and the diaspora has created a demand not only on the continent, but also internationally.

Companies today need to cater to African skin types and demands, but awareness is growing. Just seven years ago, when I’d speak about ways to target the African markets, companies weren’t too keen on adding a woman of colour to their ads, but today, product houses and media have woken up to ‘Africa Rising’. We have several ‘Made in Africa’ skincare lines, such as Terres D’Afrique, and the numbers keep growing. But spas in Africa need to raise their standards to cater to the demand from well-travelled wellness tourists seeking international and indigenous treatments. We can’t continue with sub-par standards and expect to compete globally. Africa needs more skilled people, and we are far from target. We need collaborations from governments and businesses to further develop these skills if we want to grow. And we also need to change the way we promote the continent as a whole.

Africa offers vast natural resources – from dramatic coastal landscapes to wild safari parks to untapped hot springs – and there’s an incredible opportunity to build on that, using the continent’s rich ancestral knowledge to create truly authentic spa and wellness experiences.


Africa Wellness Initiative

 

Sandra Chadehumbe
 

Africa Wellness The Global Wellness Institute launched the Africa Wellness Initiative (AWI) this year. Elaine Okeke Martin serves as chair, with Sandra Chadehumbe, CEO of South Africa-based Well Nation Africa, as vice chair.

The initiative aims to promote African wellness by strengthening wellness institutions, training and human resources development. It also plans to build a database of wellness operators, practitioners and skills, and will help record, develop and protect Africa’s unique skills and indigenous knowledge by promoting a culture of African-inspired knowledge-sharing within the global wellness industry. The initiative will include the innovative use and promotion of native African plants, robust programmes and events to build up a strong educational and entrepreneurial spirit within the African spa and wellness industry, as well as help strengthen the industry in terms of standards and accreditation within Africa.

Other board members include Mariane Akwenye from Namibia, Denzil Phillips from the UK, Dr Stephan Helary from South Africa, Dr Chase Webber from South Africa, Ngozi James from Nigeria and Lina Njoroge from Kenya.



Sub-Saharan spa industry
2,317 spas (up23% from 2013-2015)

US$1.1bn spa revenues (up18% from 2013-2015)

Sub-Saharan spas employ 28,911 people (up18% from 2013-2015)

5.4million wellness trips taken in Sub-Saharan Africa

Wellness tourism expenditures topped US$4.2bn in 2015 (up14% from 2013-2015)

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Top spa markets in North Africa
Morocco
1,785 spas with us$244m in revenue

Tunisia
196 spas with us$76m in revenue

Egypt
362 spas with us$67.5m in revenue

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Top thermal & mineral springs markets in North Africa
Tunisia
74 establishments with us$67m in revenue

Algeria
166 establishments with us$36.7m in revenue

Morocco
11 establishments with us$13.4m in revenue

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Top wellness tourism markets in North Africa
Morocco
2.5 million wellness trips worth us$1.5bn

Tunisia
500,000wellness trips worth us$322m

Egypt
400,000 wellness trips worth us$307m

Source: Global Wellness Institute


SWAA Conference
The 3rd annual SWAA Conference is set to take place 7-9 September at the Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort in Mauritius. With a theme of ‘defining Africa’s role in the global wellness phenomenon,’ the conference aims to identify opportunities and challenges the African wellness industry faces in order to respond to the growth ahead.

Speakers include Dr Franz Linser of Linser Hospitality; Lisa Starr of Wynne Business; Kathryn Moore of Spa Connectors; Verena Lasvigne-Fox of Four Seasons, and more.

The 2018 Conference will be held in Morocco, with dates to be determined. For more information, visit swaafrica.org



Jane Kitchen is managing editor at Spa Business.

email janekitchen@spabusiness.com

 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2017 issue 3

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Spa Business - Elaine Okeke Martin

Q&A

From Spa Business 2017 issue 3
Elaine Okeke Martin


Africa has been flying under the radar in the spa industry, but that may be about to change. Jane Kitchen talks to Elaine Okeke Martin, Spa and Wellness Association of Africa’s founder and president, to find out more

Jane Kitchen, Spa Business and Spa Opportunities
Elaine Okeke Martin, founder of the Spa and Wellness Association of Africa
SWAA is creating standards for Africa’s many indigenous treatments
SWAA seeks to improve therapists’ knowledge and technical skills
SWAA Unbuntu Education is an initiative that helps to certify therapists in Africa
One&Only Nyungwe House in Rwanda is scheduled to open this year
Companies like Bushtops Camps offer open-air treatments in dramatic surroundings
There is growing global demand for wellness experiences in Africa

What’s special about the African spa industry?
I think one of the reasons people fall in love with Africa is the decency of the people. There’s also an energy you feel in Africa – from the light, the earth, the air, the rain. African spa guests can also enjoy treatments while looking out at grazing elephants, for example. And you really feel alive when you’re among lions.

Which countries are most established in spa terms, and which are the ones to watch?
South Africa, Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Morocco and Tanzania all have well-established spa industries. Kenya is also one to watch, as it’s increasingly focused on health tourism and has a government goal for 2030 that includes a budget dedicated to health and wellness tourism. The Kenya Tourism Board recently launched a joint venture with Kenya Airways to promote the country, and Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since independence in 1963 – a US$3.8bn Chinese-built high-speed railway, the Madaraka Express – has just opened, connecting the port city of Mombasa with the capital of Nairobi. The train travels through two national parks and will be a tourism booster. Furthermore, the number of international visitors to Kenya grew 13.5 per cent last year, to 1.34 million.

Africa is transforming tourism and I’m happy to be part of it. I’m happy to see the development of the African Charter on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism – signed last year by 20 African countries – and its goals for 2030, which are an obligation to seriously reflect on the connections that exist between tourism and sustainable development.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what the Spa and Wellness Association of Africa does?
I graduated from CIDESCO International in Denmark in 1999 and I’ve been in the industry for the past 18 years. I founded the Spa and Wellness Association of Africa (SWAA) in 2010 as a professional platform to support standards and education in the industry, as well as African countries within the sector. SWAA is a nonprofit organisation and our members and decision-makers are busy spa and wellness professionals who volunteer their time and expertise. We have members in the main spa hub countries like Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Morocco, and we’re promoting SWAA to other countries now.

We unite member national spa and wellness associations from across the continent, along with businesses, educators and individual members. We aim to develop and maintain internationally recognised standards while giving members a platform to channel their voices. We also seek to improve the knowledge, technical skills and professionalism of all spa and wellness professionals. Our membership prices range from US$49 (€42, £37) for student memberships to US$350 (€298, £267) for a corporate membership and US$2,000 (€1,704, £1,525) for country memberships.

SWAA is becoming a coalition for African countries and works to promote Africa as a wellness destination. We consult with – and for – various government departments, such as the Ministry of Tourism, Education and Health, as well as national associations in the African spa and wellness industry.

We support tourism boards to see how we can help them set up budgets for wellness tourism. Some African countries – including Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia and Mauritius – have targets for 2030 and beyond that include medical and wellness tourism budgets. This is all part of Vision 2030, one of the most comprehensive development agendas in modern African history, which extends as far as 2063. We can see that the interest in spa and wellness is there, and industry figures like those laid out by the Global Wellness Institute are helping governments in African countries to look at ways to develop the wellness tourism sector and promote their countries.

What is SWAA doing to support education and standards?
We’re planning to develop standards for African indigenous treatments, collecting data on local treatments and African medicinal plants, with the support of the Global Wellness Institute’s Africa Wellness Initiative (see our report on the following page). We’re also teaming up with Angela Derks, an international education consultant, who will help identify and develop the standards we will put in place.

Our networking events, held in different countries each year, provide a place where members can come and train. We soon plan to have education providers available on our online platform, so people in Africa can access the online training for US$5 to US$10. We’ve made it mobile-friendly, so we can reach rural areas, where people might not have access to computers, but will have mobile phones. We hope to launch this programme by mid-2018.

SWAA Unbuntu Education (which translates as ‘humanity towards others’) is an initiative within SWAA that helps to certify therapists and supports spa managers or directors through educational programmes. It also supports spas, wellness centres, beauty academies and schools in Africa with accreditation and provides a platform for less fortunate people in Africa who want to join our industry, giving them a start through a SWAA-accredited school or spa.

What are the main obstacles to spa growth in Africa?
There is a common misperception held by tourists from industrialised countries, who view Africa as one homogenous area, and not as a diverse continent made up of 54 individual countries. Therefore, media reports on events like the Ebola outbreak often result in an exaggerated fear. Despite the fact that the outbreak areas were geographically closer to Europe than to Eastern and Southern Africa, safari companies experienced cancellation rates between 20 and 70 per cent. There were heavy financial losses across the African tourism industry, and many job losses.

Good health and wellbeing is another factor that Africa must look at. Defining the health of both locals and tourists is important, and we must not create a gap between the two. Tourism plays a critical role in achieving water access and security, as well as hygiene and sanitation for all, but hotel development needs to be regulated to ensure that hotels and resorts do not syphon off – quite literally – much-needed water from local communities.

What are the biggest opportunities for the spa industry in Africa?
Africa is waking up to wellness, and the diaspora has created a demand not only on the continent, but also internationally.

Companies today need to cater to African skin types and demands, but awareness is growing. Just seven years ago, when I’d speak about ways to target the African markets, companies weren’t too keen on adding a woman of colour to their ads, but today, product houses and media have woken up to ‘Africa Rising’. We have several ‘Made in Africa’ skincare lines, such as Terres D’Afrique, and the numbers keep growing. But spas in Africa need to raise their standards to cater to the demand from well-travelled wellness tourists seeking international and indigenous treatments. We can’t continue with sub-par standards and expect to compete globally. Africa needs more skilled people, and we are far from target. We need collaborations from governments and businesses to further develop these skills if we want to grow. And we also need to change the way we promote the continent as a whole.

Africa offers vast natural resources – from dramatic coastal landscapes to wild safari parks to untapped hot springs – and there’s an incredible opportunity to build on that, using the continent’s rich ancestral knowledge to create truly authentic spa and wellness experiences.


Africa Wellness Initiative

 

Sandra Chadehumbe
 

Africa Wellness The Global Wellness Institute launched the Africa Wellness Initiative (AWI) this year. Elaine Okeke Martin serves as chair, with Sandra Chadehumbe, CEO of South Africa-based Well Nation Africa, as vice chair.

The initiative aims to promote African wellness by strengthening wellness institutions, training and human resources development. It also plans to build a database of wellness operators, practitioners and skills, and will help record, develop and protect Africa’s unique skills and indigenous knowledge by promoting a culture of African-inspired knowledge-sharing within the global wellness industry. The initiative will include the innovative use and promotion of native African plants, robust programmes and events to build up a strong educational and entrepreneurial spirit within the African spa and wellness industry, as well as help strengthen the industry in terms of standards and accreditation within Africa.

Other board members include Mariane Akwenye from Namibia, Denzil Phillips from the UK, Dr Stephan Helary from South Africa, Dr Chase Webber from South Africa, Ngozi James from Nigeria and Lina Njoroge from Kenya.



Sub-Saharan spa industry
2,317 spas (up23% from 2013-2015)

US$1.1bn spa revenues (up18% from 2013-2015)

Sub-Saharan spas employ 28,911 people (up18% from 2013-2015)

5.4million wellness trips taken in Sub-Saharan Africa

Wellness tourism expenditures topped US$4.2bn in 2015 (up14% from 2013-2015)

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Top spa markets in North Africa
Morocco
1,785 spas with us$244m in revenue

Tunisia
196 spas with us$76m in revenue

Egypt
362 spas with us$67.5m in revenue

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Top thermal & mineral springs markets in North Africa
Tunisia
74 establishments with us$67m in revenue

Algeria
166 establishments with us$36.7m in revenue

Morocco
11 establishments with us$13.4m in revenue

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Top wellness tourism markets in North Africa
Morocco
2.5 million wellness trips worth us$1.5bn

Tunisia
500,000wellness trips worth us$322m

Egypt
400,000 wellness trips worth us$307m

Source: Global Wellness Institute


SWAA Conference
The 3rd annual SWAA Conference is set to take place 7-9 September at the Heritage Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort in Mauritius. With a theme of ‘defining Africa’s role in the global wellness phenomenon,’ the conference aims to identify opportunities and challenges the African wellness industry faces in order to respond to the growth ahead.

Speakers include Dr Franz Linser of Linser Hospitality; Lisa Starr of Wynne Business; Kathryn Moore of Spa Connectors; Verena Lasvigne-Fox of Four Seasons, and more.

The 2018 Conference will be held in Morocco, with dates to be determined. For more information, visit swaafrica.org



Jane Kitchen is managing editor at Spa Business.

email janekitchen@spabusiness.com


Originally published in Spa Business magazine 2017 issue 3

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