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Event Report
Global Wellness Summit

The 16th annual Global Wellness Summit convened in Tel Aviv to discuss the biggest issues in wellness following the pandemic. Jane Kitchen reports on the highlights


After three years, the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) finally made it to Israel. The summit was originally set to take place in Tel Aviv back in 2020, before the pandemic hit, then was postponed again in 2021 due to unrest in the area. But this year, the 16th annual GWS brought upwards of 400 delegates representing 39 countries to convene in Israel’s commercial capital to discuss themes of technology and healthcare, longevity, inclusive wellness, faith’s role in wellbeing, nutrition, art and music and the natural world.

As has become tradition, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg opened the summit with a preview of Gratitude Revealed, a film which set the tone for the three days ahead, reminding delegates of the power of being grateful for both our physical and mental wellbeing. GWS chair Susie Ellis then reminded us of all we have to be grateful for as an industry: the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is predicting that the wellness market has surpassed 2019, pre-pandemic levels and is valued at more than US$5tn (£4.1tn, €4.8tn) this year and that it will grow at an impressive 10 per cent annually through to 2025. And wellness travel is set to grow a stunning 21 per cent a year from 2020 through to 2025 – from a US$720bn (£587bn, €684bn) market to over US$1tn (£815bn, €950bn) in 2025.

“What’s happening in the industry is in a way, astonishing,” she said. “People are demanding that wellness sits at the centre of almost everything they do. From where and how they live, to where and how they work, to how they travel and what they want to experience while travelling, to how they track their health, hack their biology and be the best they can be, physically and mentally. Whether this is a reaction to pandemic times, or simply a new consciousness about the importance of both healthcare and self-care, all of it adds up to increased opportunities for our industry.”

Co-chairs Amir Alroy, co-founder of Welltech Ventures in Israel, and Omer Isvan, president of Servotel in Turkey, delivered a packed three-day programme put together by GWS chief creative officer Nancy Davis. The theme ‘Open Minds. Open Hearts. Open for Business’, was designed to recognise the importance of embracing an open attitude as the world reels from years of challenges. They brought some of the top minds from Israel and around the world in medicine and technology to speak to delegates, alongside familiar faces from the spa and wellness industry.

Alroy explained that wellness innovation in Israel is on the rise, with more than 500 wellness startups and 2,000 health tech companies in the country. “The wellness arena in the Middle East is vast, both in needs and offerings,” he said. Isvan said that while hospitality has been important in integrating wellness into life, he thinks we’re graduating out of that space now. “We’re seeing a change, moving from the hands of the wellness industry provider to the hands of the individual,” he explained. “Knowledge and self-adoption of wellness regimes have integrated into daily life. We need to be so much more mindful of the sophistication of the individual.”

HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & LONGEVITY
Technology is one reason for the increasing sophistication of the individual when it comes to wellness – and its ability to both inform and connect means that people are increasingly taking greater control of their own wellness and discovering new ways to track and boost their health.

Dr Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer for the Cleveland Clinic, reminded us that society has expanded life expectancy by about two and a half years every 10 years since 1890. “We are entering a great age reboot,” he said, where you can control your genetic inheritance and how you function epigenetically by your actions, so that we can live not just longer, but better.

Roizen, who was summit co-chair in 2021, was joined on stage by Dr Tzipora Strauss, head of neonatology at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel and head of the hospital’s upcoming Longevity Centre. She spoke about technology’s role in longevity medicine, where AI is increasingly important, as well as the need to motivate people to maintain their performance as long as possible. “Babies that are born today will live at least 100 to 150 years,” she said. “We need to bring those babies not just lifespan, but healthspan.”

Shai Efrati, a professor at the Sackler School of Medicine & Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University and director of the Sago Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Research at Shamir Medical Centre in Israel, spoke about one way to do that: through the game-changing science of hyperbaric medicine. Efrati detailed how hyperbaric chambers, which have been successfully used for wound healing for decades, can help with brain health and function as well, effectively reversing ageing by improving cognitive function, memory, attention and executive function. “We are actually taking the biology back in time,” he said. “We can reverse many things in the past that we thought were not reversible. We can actually generate neurons. We can build brain tissue like we build muscle.”

It’s these kinds of medical advances that have the wellness industry inspired to take on bigger issues of health and longevity, like the Wellness Moonshot for a world free of preventable disease. Despite the multi-trillion-dollar wellness market, the World Health Organization reports that in 2022, 74 per cent of all premature deaths globally are the result of non-communicable diseases. It also reports that obesity, diabetes and hypertension rates have more than doubled in the last two decades.

First launched at the 2017 GWS, the Wellness Moonshot is a mission to eradicate preventable, chronic diseases, and this year, it received a boost from a partnership by Fountain Life, a fast-growing company with a preventative healthcare model to identify and treat illnesses at their earliest stages.

Fountain Life’s co-founders, Dr Peter Diamandis and Dr Bill Kapp, spoke to delegates at summit to about the mission, while high-profile co-founder and philanthropist Tony Robbins sent a pre-recorded video message.

Kapp said: “This is the seminal issue of our time. We want to help people become the CEO of their own health,” while Diamandis explained further: “Technologies are converging to give us insight into the molecular biology of ageing – we’re in the middle of this revolution,” he said. This includes senolytic medicine and stem cell and gene therapies.

In a separate session, Dr Richard Carmona, chief of health innovation at Canyon Ranch and 17th Surgeon General of the US, discussed the epigenetics of wellness and asked delegates to think of genes as embedded software systems: “If you give them good input, these genes act in a positive way,” he explained. “Your whole life you get to recode your genes by the actions you take.”

Naveen Jain, CEO of Viome, a company that offers gut microbiome testing, echoed that sentiment. “Your genes are not your destiny,” he said. “How you express your genes is your destiny.” A holistic view of wellness should include a focus on nutrition, stress reduction, exercise, sleep and mindset, he said. “The body is all connected and that’s how you have to look at wellness,” he explained.

Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, who spoke at the 2018 summit in Italy, was back to talk about longevity and wellness and what he’s found based on the research into the healthiest communities around the world. With a new cookbook out, Buettner focused his talk on the role nutrition plays in longevity and health. “The runway to health is through our mouth,” he said.

Each of the Blue Zones has different diets – sourdough bread in Sardinia, purple sweet potatoes in Okinawa – but they are all 90-100 per cent whole food and plant-based, with meat less than five times a month and beans are the cornerstone of every Blue Zones diet in the world. Most Americans don’t eat anywhere near this and Buettner said that the standard American diet will kill 680,000 Americans prematurely this year. “This is the Number 1 enemy to wellbeing worldwide,” he said. “Our environment has changed, and if we really want to promote wellness we need to shift our focus to our homes, our neighbourhoods and our nations, so the healthy choice is not only the easy choice, but the unavoidable choice.”

INCLUSIVE & EVERYDAY WELLNESS
The idea of making wellness easy and accessible was echoed throughout the summit and it’s no wonder; if there’s one thing that we’ve learned during the pandemic years, it’s how interconnected we all are when it comes to health and wellness, but how disproportionate our healthcare and access to wellness is.

Denise Bober, SVP of human resources for The Breakers, detailed the Florida resort’s recent partnership with Dr Nicola Finley to create a pilot programme on health equity for team members of colour, which has shown promising real results. “We wanted to make sure our team members feel seen, heard and cared for,” said Bober.

In a panel on wellness real estate, Amy McDonald, CEO of Under a Tree Health & Wellness Consulting, said that many of her projects are moving from spa and wellness to mixed use and residential, with developers interested in bringing wellness into every aspect of the design. Ricky Burdett, director of LSE Cities and professor of urban studies at London School of Economics, outlined the development of the east London neighbourhood of Stratford, which has built wellbeing into the design, saying: “You can design cities to either make people healthy and well, or you can do the opposite.”

Even the GWI’s research this year focuses on wellness policy, in an effort to bring wellness to more people. “The wellness economy is going to leave behind people who don’t have the money to spend on it,” said Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior research fellow and co-author of the study. “We have reached a turning point and we need to act now.”

Katherine Johnston, also co-author and senior research fellow with the GWI, explained how micro-level policies, such as warning labels on food, can nudge our behaviour towards wellness, meso-level infrastructure at the community level such as schools, or parks can help even further, but that on the macro level, things such as poverty or the environment often feel out of our control and need help from government policies. “Wellness shouldn’t be a luxury,” said Johnston. And importantly, she said, “wellness policy is not the same as health policy; it needs to cut across all different government domains.” And wellness policy can have real results; she estimates that for every dollar invested in health prevention and promotion, there’s an ROI of US$4 to $14, and wellness spending is correlated with both happiness and life expectancy. On p104 we give a more in-depth analysis of their research

FAITH & WELLNESS
Faith can also play a part in both happiness and life expectancy, but it is a subject the GWS only dabbled in briefly back in 2019, when religious scholar Martin Palmer spoke at the summit. Palmer questioned why faith and spirituality were not part of the wellness conversation, and the GWS took that to heart, using the setting of Israel – with its long and complicated religious history – as the perfect time to explore the subject further.

Spiritual leader Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, president of the Divine Shakti Foundation, set the tone after the opening night cocktails, with an hour-long fire ceremony. Saraswati also spoke during the summit, highlighting a study on heart attacks that found participants were 25 per cent less likely to die during the study if they regularly attended a religious place of worship. “Ultimately, the problem is in a broken connection between ourselves and the divine and ourselves and our self,” she said.

A panel featuring Jean Sung, head of JP Morgan Private Bank’s Philanthropy Centre, in conversation with Brian Grim, founding president of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Judith Richter, founder and CEO of Medinol, addressed the question: ‘Does faith drive business and lead inclusion?’

“There’s an urgent need for values-driven business and faith in our work,” said Sung. With 86 per cent of people in the world subscribing to a faith, making people feel comfortable about it is important, said Grim. “When you let people bring their whole self to work, it starts to feel like family,” he explained.

Feeling like family is part of what the GWS does; in that spirit, familiar faces from the industry were invited to give short ‘Passion Stories’ about things that matter to them. While not specifically about faith, Amy McDonald tackled the difficult subject of dying well, telling the story of her ageing parents and a caregiver and how even in the midst of death, there can be beauty and peace.

ART, MUSIC & COLOUR
And beauty and peace are very much a part of wellness. This year’s summit reflected that through an exploration of the role that art, music and colour can play in our wellbeing.

Tal Danai, founder and CEO of Artlink, discussed his company’s culturally sensitive, narrative-based approach to providing art in the hospitality industry. “There are many ways to tell stories with art, to inspire, to uplift,” he said.

Simon Shelley, VP of BBC Programme Partnerships, showcased a series BBC Storyworks produced for the GWI called In Pursuit of Wellness: The Art & Science of Living Well. This included a segment on music for neurodiversity and a look at young Kenyans who are finding appreciation for the benefits of Africa’s healing plants. “Wellness is ubiquitous, but it’s often misunderstood,” said Shelley.

Ari Peralta, neuroscientist and sensory designer for myCocoon, led a fascinating session on the power of colour to affect mood. “What we perceive is what we feel – sensation, perception and attention are all intricately linked,” he said. “Perception is key to wellbeing and the senses can influence each other and shift perception, offering new opportunities to promote wellness outcomes.”

Peralta detailed some of the work he’s done with Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal involving colour and synesthesia. In one example, he altered the way wine tasted just by changing the colour in the room. “Colour is a brain computation and doesn’t exist outside your brain,” he explained. “When we use colour in an abstract way, we remove the meaning from colour and our brain is searching for meaning.”

The way our brain processes music is equally complex, as illustrated by a live musical performance by music savant Derek Paravicini, who is both autistic and blind. Paravicini is able to play almost any piece of music on the piano after hearing it just once and wowed the audience with live, real-time requests.

Freddie Moross, managing director of Myndstream, a provider of music for health and wellbeing, brought Paravicini to the summit to illustrate the incredible power of music for wellbeing. Moross was later awarded the Debra Simon Award for Leader in Furthering Mental Wellness for his work using music as a tool for healing and a bridge to help people feel included and respected and particularly for his impact on neurodiverse communities.

Moross also brought the musical duo of Charlie Laubacher and Skooby Laposky, known as Palm Reading, who presented their unique musical talents. Palm Reading captures biodata from plants, which is then translated into notes that create musical compositions. Laubacher and Laposky found their inspiration by a quest to listen more closely to nature, and have recorded plants in Malibu, California and Joshua Tree National Park. But at the GWS, they unveiled a short video in which they had captured music from plants in both Israeli and Palestinian territories during the summit, showing that nature knows no political boundaries.

NATURE & WELLNESS
The power of nature to heal has always been a strong theme in the spa and wellness industry, but never more so than in the years since COVID, when people have looked to the natural world as a way to recover from years of lockdown and uncertainty.

Global economist Thierry Malleret, co-founder and managing partner of the Monthly Barometer, asked us to start thinking about nature as a form of capital, as half of the world’s GDP is reliant on nature. “Nature is a perfect antidote to today’s ills,” he explained. Because of this, there’s been a recent “explosion of start-ups that provide nature-based solutions,” he said.

“You have to look at things from a holistic perspective and ensure that we don’t just achieve individual wellbeing, but the wellbeing of society and our planet.”

Robbie Hammond, who brought The Highline to New York City and who’s recently joined Therme Group US as president and chief strategy officer, explored the idea of nature in cities and its ability to create community. Hammond came up with the concept of The Highline as a way to bring nature, art, entertainment, play, wellness and community together in a disused rail line, with events such as the Mile-Long Opera inspiring a new, younger generation to explore the arts and the outdoors at the same time. “The way people want to consume leisure or culture has changed,” said Hammond. “People want to do things together and they want to have an experience.” It’s that sentiment that has brought Hammond to Therme Group, which provides an accessible thermal experience in cities through a volume business model – its Bucharest location can handle 10,000 people at a time and Hammond reports that only 10 per cent of them are going alone.

The social component of thermal bathing was explored further in a panel featuring Tina Newman, from Castle Hot Springs in Arizona; Stelian Iacob, COO and senior VP of Therme Group and Bharat Mitra, co-owner of Peninsula Hot Springs in Australia. “Where there is community, there is wellness,” said Iacob, whose Bucharest Therme welcomes 1.4 million visitors each year. He revealed more about the company to Spa Business in early 2021 (see www.spabusiness.com/stelianiacob).

Mitra agreed with Iacob and revealed the plans for additional hot springs resorts he’s developing in Australia. “Our goal is to create immersive experiences for people to relax in nature, connect with themselves, each other and the inner world of their being,” he said. “It’s all about community – we’re trying to make it accessible to as many people as possible.”

But perhaps the most striking look at the natural world was a presentation from Oded Rahav of the Dead Sea Guardians, who reported that every day, we lose half a centimetre of water from the Dead Sea, in large part due to man-made activities. This has led to a series of sinkholes – now numbering more than 7,000 – and if left unprotected, it’s possible that the Dead Sea will vanish in our lifetime. Rahav has dedicated his life to saving the Dead Sea and remains optimistic that it’s possible.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Noam Gabison, industry manager for digital health at Meta Israel, had us looking at a very different kind of future – one that involves meeting up in the metaverse. Deepak Chopra is one of the first in our industry to make the leap into this virtual world (see p16) but many are still trying to wrap their heads around what it is. Gabison said: “Health and wellbeing is the third pillar gaining traction in the metaverse.” Part of this is because how we approach healthcare has changed, he said; we’ve moved from a personal model to a social model with a holistic focus including diet, exercise, traditional medicine, mental health, alternative medicine and more. And importantly, “metaverse experiences are social first,” he said.

Cathy Feliciano-Chon, founder and MD of CatchOn, looked at how the pandemic has changed the nature of travel. “The future of wellness travel will depend on understanding changing consumer behaviours towards wellness, building sustainability into tourism growth and preparing for the ‘renewed’ outbound Chinese travel segment,” she said.

Feliciano-Chon said that wellness pursuits continue to gain traction, with the ‘soft adventure’ category – things like walking, hiking and biking – dominating the list of consumer interests. “Being on foot in nature or urban settings is the single most preferred wellness activity,” she said. “The single most profound expression of being well is being able to move.”

With Chinese travellers soon beginning to look outside their borders, Feliciano-Chon said it’s important to look at what a ‘woke’ Chinese traveller looks like. While 12 per cent of mainland China holds a passport, 30 per cent of those passport holders are under 30, she said. And while fear of COVID still looms large, importantly, “the Chinese have prioritised wellness and wellness is shifting to mental wellness.”

Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs, the profile interview for Spa Business last issue (see www.spabusiness.com/neiljacobs), spoke about the future of hospitality, highlighting themes of community and connection, regenerative travel and transformative travel. “People have changed,” said Jacobs. “They want a takeaway from properties – they want properties with personalities and a very strong story – there needs to be more to their stay.”

And Sue Harmsworth, founder of ESPA, spoke about what she thinks is important to our industry: teaching resilience, focusing on innovation, clearing up the confusion between spa and wellness, helping with anxiety, supporting the public health system and paying more than lip service to sustainability.

Harmsworth, a 50-year veteran of the industry, was later given the 2022 Leading Woman in Wellness award. In accepting the award, she said: “This industry has been a lifetime’s work for me. It gives me so much spirit and energy. If I think back to the early days of my career and how life evolves, I can see it goes in cycles and I believe the wellness industry is more important now than it ever has been…This tribe of people who are driving change across the wellness industry keeps developing and changing and becoming more effective and dynamic.”

To conclude the summit, members of the GWS team filled the stage as they announced next year’s location – again defying tradition by returning to the Middle East for a second year, this time in Qatar, with dates to be announced in the near future.

"The wellness arena in the Middle East is vast, both in needs and offerings" – Amir Alroy

"We can actually generate neurons... and build brain tissue like we build muscle" – Shai Efrati

"Babies that are born today will live at least 100 to 150 years. We need to bring them not just lifespan but healthspan" – Dr Tzipora Strauss

"Think of genes as embedded software systems: if you give them good input you can recode them" – Dr Richard Carmona

"The runway to health is through our mouth... The standard American diet will kill 680,000 Americans prematurely this year" – Dan Buettner

"Developers are interested in bringing wellness into every aspect of the design" – Amy McDonald

"Wellness is ubiquitous, but it’s often misunderstood" – Simon Shelley

"Music is a tool for healing and a bridge to help people feel included" – Freddie Moross

"There’s an explosion of start-ups that provide nature-based solutions" – Thierry Malleret

"It’s about community. We’re trying to make our hot springs as accessible as possible" – Bharat Mitra

"If left unprotected, it’s possible that the Dead Sea will vanish in our lifetime" – Oded Rahav

"We need to prepare for the ‘renewed’ outbound Chinese travel segment" – Cathy Feliciano-Chon

The ever-insightful Omer Isvan co-chaired this year’s GWS with Amir Alroy
What’s happening in the industry is astonishing, said GWS chair Susie Ellis
Louie Schwartzberg’s new film, Gratitude Revealed set the tone for the conference
The game-changing science of hyperbaric medicine was highlighted Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic
Naveen Jain spoke about microbiome testing
“We’re entering a great age to reboot,” said the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr Roizen
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati led a spiritual ceremony
Yeung, Ellis and Johnston present the latest GWI research
Eighty-six per cent of people globally subscribe to some form of faith, delegates heard Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Sunti
Does faith drive business and lead to inclusion? asked a panel
The man behind New York’s Highline spoke about nature in cities Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Mia2you
Music savant Derek Paravicini wowed delegates with a session on how the brain processes music
Spa Business’ Jane Kitchen, Astrid Ros and Liz Terry Credit: Photo: Jane Kitchen
Susie Ellis, Nancy Davis and Omer Isvan presented the Leading Woman in Wellness award to Susan Harmsworth
Being on foot in nature dominates consumer interest, said Chon Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Griguol
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Event Report
Global Wellness Summit

The 16th annual Global Wellness Summit convened in Tel Aviv to discuss the biggest issues in wellness following the pandemic. Jane Kitchen reports on the highlights


After three years, the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) finally made it to Israel. The summit was originally set to take place in Tel Aviv back in 2020, before the pandemic hit, then was postponed again in 2021 due to unrest in the area. But this year, the 16th annual GWS brought upwards of 400 delegates representing 39 countries to convene in Israel’s commercial capital to discuss themes of technology and healthcare, longevity, inclusive wellness, faith’s role in wellbeing, nutrition, art and music and the natural world.

As has become tradition, filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg opened the summit with a preview of Gratitude Revealed, a film which set the tone for the three days ahead, reminding delegates of the power of being grateful for both our physical and mental wellbeing. GWS chair Susie Ellis then reminded us of all we have to be grateful for as an industry: the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is predicting that the wellness market has surpassed 2019, pre-pandemic levels and is valued at more than US$5tn (£4.1tn, €4.8tn) this year and that it will grow at an impressive 10 per cent annually through to 2025. And wellness travel is set to grow a stunning 21 per cent a year from 2020 through to 2025 – from a US$720bn (£587bn, €684bn) market to over US$1tn (£815bn, €950bn) in 2025.

“What’s happening in the industry is in a way, astonishing,” she said. “People are demanding that wellness sits at the centre of almost everything they do. From where and how they live, to where and how they work, to how they travel and what they want to experience while travelling, to how they track their health, hack their biology and be the best they can be, physically and mentally. Whether this is a reaction to pandemic times, or simply a new consciousness about the importance of both healthcare and self-care, all of it adds up to increased opportunities for our industry.”

Co-chairs Amir Alroy, co-founder of Welltech Ventures in Israel, and Omer Isvan, president of Servotel in Turkey, delivered a packed three-day programme put together by GWS chief creative officer Nancy Davis. The theme ‘Open Minds. Open Hearts. Open for Business’, was designed to recognise the importance of embracing an open attitude as the world reels from years of challenges. They brought some of the top minds from Israel and around the world in medicine and technology to speak to delegates, alongside familiar faces from the spa and wellness industry.

Alroy explained that wellness innovation in Israel is on the rise, with more than 500 wellness startups and 2,000 health tech companies in the country. “The wellness arena in the Middle East is vast, both in needs and offerings,” he said. Isvan said that while hospitality has been important in integrating wellness into life, he thinks we’re graduating out of that space now. “We’re seeing a change, moving from the hands of the wellness industry provider to the hands of the individual,” he explained. “Knowledge and self-adoption of wellness regimes have integrated into daily life. We need to be so much more mindful of the sophistication of the individual.”

HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & LONGEVITY
Technology is one reason for the increasing sophistication of the individual when it comes to wellness – and its ability to both inform and connect means that people are increasingly taking greater control of their own wellness and discovering new ways to track and boost their health.

Dr Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer for the Cleveland Clinic, reminded us that society has expanded life expectancy by about two and a half years every 10 years since 1890. “We are entering a great age reboot,” he said, where you can control your genetic inheritance and how you function epigenetically by your actions, so that we can live not just longer, but better.

Roizen, who was summit co-chair in 2021, was joined on stage by Dr Tzipora Strauss, head of neonatology at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel and head of the hospital’s upcoming Longevity Centre. She spoke about technology’s role in longevity medicine, where AI is increasingly important, as well as the need to motivate people to maintain their performance as long as possible. “Babies that are born today will live at least 100 to 150 years,” she said. “We need to bring those babies not just lifespan, but healthspan.”

Shai Efrati, a professor at the Sackler School of Medicine & Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University and director of the Sago Center for Hyperbaric Medicine & Research at Shamir Medical Centre in Israel, spoke about one way to do that: through the game-changing science of hyperbaric medicine. Efrati detailed how hyperbaric chambers, which have been successfully used for wound healing for decades, can help with brain health and function as well, effectively reversing ageing by improving cognitive function, memory, attention and executive function. “We are actually taking the biology back in time,” he said. “We can reverse many things in the past that we thought were not reversible. We can actually generate neurons. We can build brain tissue like we build muscle.”

It’s these kinds of medical advances that have the wellness industry inspired to take on bigger issues of health and longevity, like the Wellness Moonshot for a world free of preventable disease. Despite the multi-trillion-dollar wellness market, the World Health Organization reports that in 2022, 74 per cent of all premature deaths globally are the result of non-communicable diseases. It also reports that obesity, diabetes and hypertension rates have more than doubled in the last two decades.

First launched at the 2017 GWS, the Wellness Moonshot is a mission to eradicate preventable, chronic diseases, and this year, it received a boost from a partnership by Fountain Life, a fast-growing company with a preventative healthcare model to identify and treat illnesses at their earliest stages.

Fountain Life’s co-founders, Dr Peter Diamandis and Dr Bill Kapp, spoke to delegates at summit to about the mission, while high-profile co-founder and philanthropist Tony Robbins sent a pre-recorded video message.

Kapp said: “This is the seminal issue of our time. We want to help people become the CEO of their own health,” while Diamandis explained further: “Technologies are converging to give us insight into the molecular biology of ageing – we’re in the middle of this revolution,” he said. This includes senolytic medicine and stem cell and gene therapies.

In a separate session, Dr Richard Carmona, chief of health innovation at Canyon Ranch and 17th Surgeon General of the US, discussed the epigenetics of wellness and asked delegates to think of genes as embedded software systems: “If you give them good input, these genes act in a positive way,” he explained. “Your whole life you get to recode your genes by the actions you take.”

Naveen Jain, CEO of Viome, a company that offers gut microbiome testing, echoed that sentiment. “Your genes are not your destiny,” he said. “How you express your genes is your destiny.” A holistic view of wellness should include a focus on nutrition, stress reduction, exercise, sleep and mindset, he said. “The body is all connected and that’s how you have to look at wellness,” he explained.

Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, who spoke at the 2018 summit in Italy, was back to talk about longevity and wellness and what he’s found based on the research into the healthiest communities around the world. With a new cookbook out, Buettner focused his talk on the role nutrition plays in longevity and health. “The runway to health is through our mouth,” he said.

Each of the Blue Zones has different diets – sourdough bread in Sardinia, purple sweet potatoes in Okinawa – but they are all 90-100 per cent whole food and plant-based, with meat less than five times a month and beans are the cornerstone of every Blue Zones diet in the world. Most Americans don’t eat anywhere near this and Buettner said that the standard American diet will kill 680,000 Americans prematurely this year. “This is the Number 1 enemy to wellbeing worldwide,” he said. “Our environment has changed, and if we really want to promote wellness we need to shift our focus to our homes, our neighbourhoods and our nations, so the healthy choice is not only the easy choice, but the unavoidable choice.”

INCLUSIVE & EVERYDAY WELLNESS
The idea of making wellness easy and accessible was echoed throughout the summit and it’s no wonder; if there’s one thing that we’ve learned during the pandemic years, it’s how interconnected we all are when it comes to health and wellness, but how disproportionate our healthcare and access to wellness is.

Denise Bober, SVP of human resources for The Breakers, detailed the Florida resort’s recent partnership with Dr Nicola Finley to create a pilot programme on health equity for team members of colour, which has shown promising real results. “We wanted to make sure our team members feel seen, heard and cared for,” said Bober.

In a panel on wellness real estate, Amy McDonald, CEO of Under a Tree Health & Wellness Consulting, said that many of her projects are moving from spa and wellness to mixed use and residential, with developers interested in bringing wellness into every aspect of the design. Ricky Burdett, director of LSE Cities and professor of urban studies at London School of Economics, outlined the development of the east London neighbourhood of Stratford, which has built wellbeing into the design, saying: “You can design cities to either make people healthy and well, or you can do the opposite.”

Even the GWI’s research this year focuses on wellness policy, in an effort to bring wellness to more people. “The wellness economy is going to leave behind people who don’t have the money to spend on it,” said Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior research fellow and co-author of the study. “We have reached a turning point and we need to act now.”

Katherine Johnston, also co-author and senior research fellow with the GWI, explained how micro-level policies, such as warning labels on food, can nudge our behaviour towards wellness, meso-level infrastructure at the community level such as schools, or parks can help even further, but that on the macro level, things such as poverty or the environment often feel out of our control and need help from government policies. “Wellness shouldn’t be a luxury,” said Johnston. And importantly, she said, “wellness policy is not the same as health policy; it needs to cut across all different government domains.” And wellness policy can have real results; she estimates that for every dollar invested in health prevention and promotion, there’s an ROI of US$4 to $14, and wellness spending is correlated with both happiness and life expectancy. On p104 we give a more in-depth analysis of their research

FAITH & WELLNESS
Faith can also play a part in both happiness and life expectancy, but it is a subject the GWS only dabbled in briefly back in 2019, when religious scholar Martin Palmer spoke at the summit. Palmer questioned why faith and spirituality were not part of the wellness conversation, and the GWS took that to heart, using the setting of Israel – with its long and complicated religious history – as the perfect time to explore the subject further.

Spiritual leader Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, president of the Divine Shakti Foundation, set the tone after the opening night cocktails, with an hour-long fire ceremony. Saraswati also spoke during the summit, highlighting a study on heart attacks that found participants were 25 per cent less likely to die during the study if they regularly attended a religious place of worship. “Ultimately, the problem is in a broken connection between ourselves and the divine and ourselves and our self,” she said.

A panel featuring Jean Sung, head of JP Morgan Private Bank’s Philanthropy Centre, in conversation with Brian Grim, founding president of Religious Freedom & Business Foundation and Judith Richter, founder and CEO of Medinol, addressed the question: ‘Does faith drive business and lead inclusion?’

“There’s an urgent need for values-driven business and faith in our work,” said Sung. With 86 per cent of people in the world subscribing to a faith, making people feel comfortable about it is important, said Grim. “When you let people bring their whole self to work, it starts to feel like family,” he explained.

Feeling like family is part of what the GWS does; in that spirit, familiar faces from the industry were invited to give short ‘Passion Stories’ about things that matter to them. While not specifically about faith, Amy McDonald tackled the difficult subject of dying well, telling the story of her ageing parents and a caregiver and how even in the midst of death, there can be beauty and peace.

ART, MUSIC & COLOUR
And beauty and peace are very much a part of wellness. This year’s summit reflected that through an exploration of the role that art, music and colour can play in our wellbeing.

Tal Danai, founder and CEO of Artlink, discussed his company’s culturally sensitive, narrative-based approach to providing art in the hospitality industry. “There are many ways to tell stories with art, to inspire, to uplift,” he said.

Simon Shelley, VP of BBC Programme Partnerships, showcased a series BBC Storyworks produced for the GWI called In Pursuit of Wellness: The Art & Science of Living Well. This included a segment on music for neurodiversity and a look at young Kenyans who are finding appreciation for the benefits of Africa’s healing plants. “Wellness is ubiquitous, but it’s often misunderstood,” said Shelley.

Ari Peralta, neuroscientist and sensory designer for myCocoon, led a fascinating session on the power of colour to affect mood. “What we perceive is what we feel – sensation, perception and attention are all intricately linked,” he said. “Perception is key to wellbeing and the senses can influence each other and shift perception, offering new opportunities to promote wellness outcomes.”

Peralta detailed some of the work he’s done with Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal involving colour and synesthesia. In one example, he altered the way wine tasted just by changing the colour in the room. “Colour is a brain computation and doesn’t exist outside your brain,” he explained. “When we use colour in an abstract way, we remove the meaning from colour and our brain is searching for meaning.”

The way our brain processes music is equally complex, as illustrated by a live musical performance by music savant Derek Paravicini, who is both autistic and blind. Paravicini is able to play almost any piece of music on the piano after hearing it just once and wowed the audience with live, real-time requests.

Freddie Moross, managing director of Myndstream, a provider of music for health and wellbeing, brought Paravicini to the summit to illustrate the incredible power of music for wellbeing. Moross was later awarded the Debra Simon Award for Leader in Furthering Mental Wellness for his work using music as a tool for healing and a bridge to help people feel included and respected and particularly for his impact on neurodiverse communities.

Moross also brought the musical duo of Charlie Laubacher and Skooby Laposky, known as Palm Reading, who presented their unique musical talents. Palm Reading captures biodata from plants, which is then translated into notes that create musical compositions. Laubacher and Laposky found their inspiration by a quest to listen more closely to nature, and have recorded plants in Malibu, California and Joshua Tree National Park. But at the GWS, they unveiled a short video in which they had captured music from plants in both Israeli and Palestinian territories during the summit, showing that nature knows no political boundaries.

NATURE & WELLNESS
The power of nature to heal has always been a strong theme in the spa and wellness industry, but never more so than in the years since COVID, when people have looked to the natural world as a way to recover from years of lockdown and uncertainty.

Global economist Thierry Malleret, co-founder and managing partner of the Monthly Barometer, asked us to start thinking about nature as a form of capital, as half of the world’s GDP is reliant on nature. “Nature is a perfect antidote to today’s ills,” he explained. Because of this, there’s been a recent “explosion of start-ups that provide nature-based solutions,” he said.

“You have to look at things from a holistic perspective and ensure that we don’t just achieve individual wellbeing, but the wellbeing of society and our planet.”

Robbie Hammond, who brought The Highline to New York City and who’s recently joined Therme Group US as president and chief strategy officer, explored the idea of nature in cities and its ability to create community. Hammond came up with the concept of The Highline as a way to bring nature, art, entertainment, play, wellness and community together in a disused rail line, with events such as the Mile-Long Opera inspiring a new, younger generation to explore the arts and the outdoors at the same time. “The way people want to consume leisure or culture has changed,” said Hammond. “People want to do things together and they want to have an experience.” It’s that sentiment that has brought Hammond to Therme Group, which provides an accessible thermal experience in cities through a volume business model – its Bucharest location can handle 10,000 people at a time and Hammond reports that only 10 per cent of them are going alone.

The social component of thermal bathing was explored further in a panel featuring Tina Newman, from Castle Hot Springs in Arizona; Stelian Iacob, COO and senior VP of Therme Group and Bharat Mitra, co-owner of Peninsula Hot Springs in Australia. “Where there is community, there is wellness,” said Iacob, whose Bucharest Therme welcomes 1.4 million visitors each year. He revealed more about the company to Spa Business in early 2021 (see www.spabusiness.com/stelianiacob).

Mitra agreed with Iacob and revealed the plans for additional hot springs resorts he’s developing in Australia. “Our goal is to create immersive experiences for people to relax in nature, connect with themselves, each other and the inner world of their being,” he said. “It’s all about community – we’re trying to make it accessible to as many people as possible.”

But perhaps the most striking look at the natural world was a presentation from Oded Rahav of the Dead Sea Guardians, who reported that every day, we lose half a centimetre of water from the Dead Sea, in large part due to man-made activities. This has led to a series of sinkholes – now numbering more than 7,000 – and if left unprotected, it’s possible that the Dead Sea will vanish in our lifetime. Rahav has dedicated his life to saving the Dead Sea and remains optimistic that it’s possible.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Noam Gabison, industry manager for digital health at Meta Israel, had us looking at a very different kind of future – one that involves meeting up in the metaverse. Deepak Chopra is one of the first in our industry to make the leap into this virtual world (see p16) but many are still trying to wrap their heads around what it is. Gabison said: “Health and wellbeing is the third pillar gaining traction in the metaverse.” Part of this is because how we approach healthcare has changed, he said; we’ve moved from a personal model to a social model with a holistic focus including diet, exercise, traditional medicine, mental health, alternative medicine and more. And importantly, “metaverse experiences are social first,” he said.

Cathy Feliciano-Chon, founder and MD of CatchOn, looked at how the pandemic has changed the nature of travel. “The future of wellness travel will depend on understanding changing consumer behaviours towards wellness, building sustainability into tourism growth and preparing for the ‘renewed’ outbound Chinese travel segment,” she said.

Feliciano-Chon said that wellness pursuits continue to gain traction, with the ‘soft adventure’ category – things like walking, hiking and biking – dominating the list of consumer interests. “Being on foot in nature or urban settings is the single most preferred wellness activity,” she said. “The single most profound expression of being well is being able to move.”

With Chinese travellers soon beginning to look outside their borders, Feliciano-Chon said it’s important to look at what a ‘woke’ Chinese traveller looks like. While 12 per cent of mainland China holds a passport, 30 per cent of those passport holders are under 30, she said. And while fear of COVID still looms large, importantly, “the Chinese have prioritised wellness and wellness is shifting to mental wellness.”

Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs, the profile interview for Spa Business last issue (see www.spabusiness.com/neiljacobs), spoke about the future of hospitality, highlighting themes of community and connection, regenerative travel and transformative travel. “People have changed,” said Jacobs. “They want a takeaway from properties – they want properties with personalities and a very strong story – there needs to be more to their stay.”

And Sue Harmsworth, founder of ESPA, spoke about what she thinks is important to our industry: teaching resilience, focusing on innovation, clearing up the confusion between spa and wellness, helping with anxiety, supporting the public health system and paying more than lip service to sustainability.

Harmsworth, a 50-year veteran of the industry, was later given the 2022 Leading Woman in Wellness award. In accepting the award, she said: “This industry has been a lifetime’s work for me. It gives me so much spirit and energy. If I think back to the early days of my career and how life evolves, I can see it goes in cycles and I believe the wellness industry is more important now than it ever has been…This tribe of people who are driving change across the wellness industry keeps developing and changing and becoming more effective and dynamic.”

To conclude the summit, members of the GWS team filled the stage as they announced next year’s location – again defying tradition by returning to the Middle East for a second year, this time in Qatar, with dates to be announced in the near future.

"The wellness arena in the Middle East is vast, both in needs and offerings" – Amir Alroy

"We can actually generate neurons... and build brain tissue like we build muscle" – Shai Efrati

"Babies that are born today will live at least 100 to 150 years. We need to bring them not just lifespan but healthspan" – Dr Tzipora Strauss

"Think of genes as embedded software systems: if you give them good input you can recode them" – Dr Richard Carmona

"The runway to health is through our mouth... The standard American diet will kill 680,000 Americans prematurely this year" – Dan Buettner

"Developers are interested in bringing wellness into every aspect of the design" – Amy McDonald

"Wellness is ubiquitous, but it’s often misunderstood" – Simon Shelley

"Music is a tool for healing and a bridge to help people feel included" – Freddie Moross

"There’s an explosion of start-ups that provide nature-based solutions" – Thierry Malleret

"It’s about community. We’re trying to make our hot springs as accessible as possible" – Bharat Mitra

"If left unprotected, it’s possible that the Dead Sea will vanish in our lifetime" – Oded Rahav

"We need to prepare for the ‘renewed’ outbound Chinese travel segment" – Cathy Feliciano-Chon

The ever-insightful Omer Isvan co-chaired this year’s GWS with Amir Alroy
What’s happening in the industry is astonishing, said GWS chair Susie Ellis
Louie Schwartzberg’s new film, Gratitude Revealed set the tone for the conference
The game-changing science of hyperbaric medicine was highlighted Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Drazen Zigic
Naveen Jain spoke about microbiome testing
“We’re entering a great age to reboot,” said the Cleveland Clinic’s Dr Roizen
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati led a spiritual ceremony
Yeung, Ellis and Johnston present the latest GWI research
Eighty-six per cent of people globally subscribe to some form of faith, delegates heard Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Sunti
Does faith drive business and lead to inclusion? asked a panel
The man behind New York’s Highline spoke about nature in cities Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Mia2you
Music savant Derek Paravicini wowed delegates with a session on how the brain processes music
Spa Business’ Jane Kitchen, Astrid Ros and Liz Terry Credit: Photo: Jane Kitchen
Susie Ellis, Nancy Davis and Omer Isvan presented the Leading Woman in Wellness award to Susan Harmsworth
Being on foot in nature dominates consumer interest, said Chon Credit: Photo: Shutterstock/Griguol
LATEST NEWS
Wellness Access Institute launches to improve understanding of and accessibility to wellness
A new think tank called the Wellness Access Institute (WAI – pronounced why) has launched to help the industry address its biggest problems and drive research-based innovation.
Veronica Schreibeis Smith and Amir Alroy join GWS Advisory Board
The Global Wellness Summit (GWS) has announced the appointment of two international wellness thought leaders to its Advisory Board.
FaceGym heads down under with first Australian studio, partnered with Mecca
Facial fitness and skincare brand FaceGym has entered the Australian market with its first bricks and mortar studio in Sydney and a new deal with Australasian beauty retailer Mecca.
Emlyn Brown, Kent Richards and Sara Codner outline top priorities for spa and wellness leaders in 2023
Spa and wellness industry thought leaders gathered yesterday (26 January) at the Grow Well webinar – hosted by We Work Well – to share their plans, vision and strategies for 2023.
Elemis achieves B Corp Status
British skincare and spa brand Elemis has announced its new status as a Certified B Corp after almost two years of implementing changes to processes, and practices and launching new initiatives across the business.
Recovery-focused spa brand The Covery outlines 2023 expansion plans
Recovery wellness spa franchise The Covery will expand with 15 new US locations and new partnerships in 2023 – including a destination at Texas’ iconic Trellis Spa at The Houstonian.
Greek spa and wellness market ripe for investment, reports Global Wellness Economy
The Greek wellness economy was under the spotlight today at the inaugural Global Wellness Economy conference, hosted in Athens, Greece.
London to get its own "Garden in the sky", as Camden Highline gets green light
Planning approval has been granted for Camden Highline, a project to transform a section of disused railway into a new elevated urban park for London.
Augustinus Bader’s first bricks-and-mortar clinic lands in London, partnered with Lanserhof
Austrian wellness operator Lanserhof has collaborated with science-led beauty brand Augustinus Bader to open its flagship clinic The Skin Lab by Augustinus Bader.
Longevity club and digital platform launches with focus on reverse ageing. Neil King and Alister Rollins are founders
Longevity, a startup providing longevity products, services, education and advice to subscribers, has launched a digital platform and will open its first club in Milton Keynes on 1 February.
Amanda Al-Masri joins Hilton as vice-president of wellness
Spa industry veteran Amanda Al-Masri is heading up Hilton Hotels & Resorts’ wellness division as its new vice-president of wellness.
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz plans £12m renovation to reinforce position in European wellness market
Switzerland’s established wellbeing and medical health resort Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is preparing to conduct a comprehensive renovation of one of its two five-star hotels.
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DIARY

 

31 Jan - 02 Feb 2023

Spatex 2023

Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
05-06 Mar 2023

World Spa & Wellness Conference

Excel exhibition and conference centre , London, United Kingdom
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