Ahealing hotel is a living entity – it’s the most optimistic outlook of the future,” said Anne Biging, CEO of the Healing Hotels of the World, as she opened the fifth annual Healing Summit in Berlin in March. “It’s about changing our heart, changing our mind and changing our habits, because without that, nothing is going to happen.”
The summit attracted around 130 attendees from 27 countries and a diverse range of industries for two days of talks about the business of healing.
Healing and resilience
Neuroscientist Dr Marjorie Woollacott explained how science is catching up with a more subtle understanding of healing. She addressed how the placebo effect shows the power of the mind over healing and pain. Woollacott also highlighted studies showing how meditation improves ADD symptoms and the efficacy of reiki on people who have had a heart attack.
“Complementary therapies can help us to heal our own self, our society and our planet,” she said.
Steve Griffith, founder of Sukhavati Ayurvedic Retreat & Spa in Bali, detailed his success in corporate wellness. Before opening his retreat, he created a leadership programme of transcendental meditation and ayurveda, which 2,000 people a year now participate in. “Organisations are looking for individuals to have resilience,” he said.
Experience over spa
Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, president of New York’s Fischer Travel Enterprises, detailed what her clients – high net-worth individuals who pay a US$100,000 joining fee plus US$25,000 a year membership – are looking for. “The luxury traveller wants what money can’t buy – they want experiences,” she said. “Going to a spa and moving from one thing to another doesn’t create a truly luxury experience – they want an educational and experiential experience, and they want to connect with people around the world.”
These sentiments were echoed by Stella Photi, founder of UK travel agency Wellbeing Escapes; Diana Stobo, founder of The Retreat Costa Rica; and Corinna Yap, wellness director at COMO Shambhala, when outlining the growing wellness markets in Europe, North America and Asia.
Stobo said that increasingly, her clientele is looking to immerse themselves in nature and to test their courage. “It’s expanding and taking a step out of your comfort zone,” she explained. Her location encourages people to meet one another and become part of a community in their stay – something Photi also said her clientele is increasingly asking for. Yap reported that in China, more families are taking on wellness travel so COMO has created programming for children.
Getting the message
Mia Kyricos, president and founder of wellness consultancy firm Kyricos & Associates, advised attendees on creating brands that have emotional impact. “The difference between good and great brands are the ethereal things – the emotional connection,” she said. She told attendees that wellness needs to be inclusive. “Wellness and wellbeing is not about demographics – it’s about psychographics,” she explained. “Everyone can relate to wellness and wellbeing on some level.”
But while everyone may be able to relate to wellness, getting the message across to consumers is not always straightforward. A panel of journalists, including Abby Ellin, a contributor to the New York Times; television journalist Bianca Alexander of Conscious Living TV; radio journalist Valerie Smaldone; and communications professor Natalie Redcross discussed the best ways to communicate a healing message in today’s fast-changing world. Alexander highlighted how showing scientific evidence to back-up claims is key, “especially for the mainstream audience who do not understand a lot of what we’re talking about.”
Samantha Foster and Joy Menzies of global consultancy firm Destination Spa Management revealed a new means for Healing Hotels of the World to communicate its message to consumers. The duo have created a five-level structure to help wellness properties within the consortium reflect their level of commitment to healing. “Owners and operators need to be able to position themselves clearly,” explained Menzies. “This will help them to offer genuine healing experiences and talk to their marketing partners about what their position is.”
Spa consultant and educator Lisa Starr spoke about the importance of members of staff and collateral in communicating the healing aspects of a spa or hotel once guests are on property in order to keep levels of satisfaction. “We need to do a better job of communicating to guests what’s offered; if the options are unclear, the guests will not have the optimal time,” she said.
At Sukhavati in Bali, teaching guests to meditate helps them learn how to heal. In addition, Griffith said that each day at noon, the entire staff meditates with guests. “Everyone is seeking wholeness,” he explained. “They don’t know what they’re seeking sometimes – they just want to be whole again.”