Not only is the wellness industry growing rapidly, but so also is new technology and innovation – we need to fully understand its potential to drive our industry forward,” says Mariana Palmeiro who heads up the faculty of spa and wellness management at Swiss hospitality school Glion Institute of Higher Education.
With this in mind, the school welcomed forward-thinking spa directors and hotel executives on an intensive three-day education programme in December entitled Innovation and Technology: What does it mean for Spa and Wellness?
A range of guest speakers from the US and Europe covered everything from AI and algorithms to brain optimisation. Global spa education expert Mary Tabacchi, who co-delivered the programme with Palmeiro, says: “This executive education programme is the first of its kind… Technology is upon us. Not just Apple Watches and Fitbits, but amazing technology that will likely revolutionise wellness/spa and healthcare. This is both exciting and frightening – however, it is coming.”
Brain optimisation, based on neuromodulation technologies such as magnetic and infrared light stimulation, can be used for stress reduction, improved executive functioning, greater creativity and more. Devon and Julie White, co-founders of US-based neuro-enhancement company Field, explained to participants how these FDA-approved treatments are now being holistically mixed with coaching and mental healing to develop a completely new type of wellbeing programme.
Simone Gibertoni, CEO of Swiss medical resort Clinique La Prairie outlined the potential for gene testing in spas. In a new partnership with GenePredicts it’s developing a portfolio of preventative wellness programmes. This includes Nutripass, which matches diet to genes. Palmeiro says: “There are many genetic tests available in the market, but it’s when a result is combined with a personalised set of guidelines to improve one’s life that it really fits in a spa type environment.”
Representatives from two medical wearable startups backed by Swiss tech incubator EPFL pointed out how it’s important for the spa and wellness community to be more proactive in collaborating with innovators. DomoSafety measures the movement of a person around their home (such as in senior living communities) and alerts caregivers about potential abnormal behaviour, said Serge Grisard. Be.Care measures heart rate variability and James Bissell explained how it can be used to detect and prevent burnout or executive stress. Both have the potential to support employee wellness solutions and quality of life services for resorts, mixed-use developments, medical and wellness facilities.
Aras Erekul, corporate director of experience development at Canyon Ranch, US, presented the latest spa data management practices. Using guest data from before, during and after a stay, as well as an analysis of social media presence and website interaction, the company is developing a sophisticated algorithm supported by AI. It will use this system to predict guest preferences for practitioners, therapies and programmes, to help with more accurate personalisation, planning and experience delivery.
Sammy Gharieni, owner of spa equipment company Gharieni, and Nicolas Ronco, founder of YeloSpa, focused on business innovation. Both men are respected in the industry for their creative approaches and their points of discussion included franchising, automated systems and massages by robots – could human contact by a masseur become a luxury while the use of machines moves into the mainstream?
It was with the Glion’s backdrop of the Swiss mountains and picturesque Lake Geneva, that the 12 attendees gathered. Group numbers were limited to create an intensive learning environment and in between presentations, time was set aside so they could discuss how each innovation or technology relates to their business.
“This was more than just assembling in a conference room and downloading the latest industry benchmarks,” explains Palmeiro. “Participants developed new concepts and hypotheses and matured their ideas, making this a more advanced exercise.”
Palmeiro has first-hand experience in developing and operating spas, having worked as a project manager for Mandara for more than five years in Bali, and later on running her own consultancy in Indonesia. She’s also a graduate of Cornell University and she invited Tabacchi, her mentor and professor emerita of Cornell, to co-deliver the seminar as a visiting faculty member.
The event is part of Glion’s Wellness to Business Executive Education initiative which Palmeiro launched last year. The education initiative delivers wellness focused online and on-campus certification courses in Switzerland and the UK to both hotel general managers, spa directors and other industry leaders. Online courses in 2019 will focus on excellence in spa operations, revenue management and market analysis and valuation, while a face to face programme will revisit innovation and technology later in the year.
Palmeiro concludes: “Education is essential in bringing new perspectives, new inspirations and solid growth to spa businesses.”