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Event report
Hotting it up

Thermal water aficionados from around the world gather at Murrieta Hot Springs to learn and connect. Jane Kitchen reports from California


Samuel del Sol, the owner of Termas del Sol hot springs in Chile, is looking to develop his facility into one of the most preeminent thermal spas globally. But, he admits, “living in an area as remote as Patagonia, we are distanced from what other hot springs around the world are doing”.

Looking for inspiration and perspectives, he attended the fifth annual Hot Springs Connection for hot spring operators worldwide.

The largest event yet, this year’s gathering attracted 170 participants at Murrieta Hot Springs in California, USA. Held on 8-11 January, it offered a mix of speakers, a trade show and trips to local thermal spa icons such as Glen Ivy and the freshly unveiled Spa at Séc-he.

Exhibitors made up 10 per cent of the attendees and included Book4Time, Gharieni, Tara Spa Therapy and Universal Companies, while spa consultants such as Lynn Curry of Curry Spa Consulting and Karen Golden of Dwell Concepts for Belgravia Group also came to learn and network. Although American participants dominate the event, five other countries were represented with Gold waving the flag for Australia and del Sol for Chile.

Murrieta sneak peek
A conference highlight was a hardhat tour of Murrieta and its 50-plus geothermal pools and extensive facilities which opened to the public a month later.

“We spent 18 months creating the framework of our wellness offerings,” said David Dronet, owner of Olympus Real Estate Group, the parent company of Murrieta. He revealed that standout features include a contrast bathing circuit, a panoramic rooftop sauna and a terra thermal mud loft. “We wanted to think about how we can impact wellness as a complement to the waters,” he added.

Outlining the opportunities and challenges of restoring the historic property is something that resonated with many attendees. Usually, hot springs sites in the US are small family-owned businesses without spa and wellness facilities. Seeing what Murrieta had planned provided much inspiration.

Helping to navigate issues
Perhaps more importantly, the Hot Springs Association, which runs the conference, also helps these small businesses navigate industry-specific issues.

Damian Albright, project manager for Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort in Montana, for example, explained how precipitated silica, which is common in many natural thermal sources, can corrode copper pipes and cause misreading in temperature valves.

Meanwhile, Richard Nash, CEO of Nash Construction Company, detailed how 3D imaging for things like mechanical rooms is now a reality, helping with construction challenges. “Hot mineral water is not like any other water,” he explained, noting that many who work in the space are pool designers rather than hot springs designers. “Hot springs require specialised equipment, piping, pumps, filtration, chemical treatment, water quality control and water collection, storage and discharge systems.”

Geothermal energy consultant Jeff Birkby outlined concerns about current standards in natural flow through, a process by which thermal water flows in and out of the pools every few hours so that chlorine is not needed. These standards vary immensely from state to state (and country to country). New research Birkby is conducting aims to create a national standard for flow-through rates based on evidence of what the minimum replacement rate should be for hygiene – a welcome development for many hot springs owners.

“It’s important for the hot springs resorts to have a united front in addressing the hodgepodge of regulatory, legal, insurance and construction challenges they face,” said David Wickline, founder of Alchemy Resorts, who has worked in the sector since the 80s. “Hot springs resorts are typically owned and operated as independent small businesses that can ill afford the high costs of diverse regulatory and legal challenges. The Hot Springs Association can consolidate expert sources of information and lobbying efforts to help reduce the costs facing individual properties, but that are common challenges to all of them.”

Positive energy
In the evenings, conference delegates had further opportunities to connect and discuss business while they soaked in the thermal baths, with contrast therapy circuits guided by Dr Marcus Coplin, medical director at Murrieta, on offer.

“What makes this event so powerful is the strong relationships that come out of our time together,” said Jessica Meath, executive director of the Hot Springs Association. “We learn from each other and take care of each other – and that shows in the enthusiasm and positive energy that occurs during and after the conference.”

• There are more than 50 hot springs projects in development in the US: see www.spabusiness.com/thermalusa

• Investment in thermal spa facilities in Australia and New Zealand totals AU$550 million in recent years: see www.spabusiness.com/thermalaunz

Host venue Murrieta Hot Springs was in its pre-opening stages Credit: photo: Murietta Hot Springs, CA
David Dronet’s talk on restoring hot springs resonated with many attendees Credit: photo: Jane Kitchen
Field trips included a visit to the nearby Spa at Séc-he Credit: photo: visitgreaterpalmsprings.com
Hot Springs Association’s Vicky Nash (third from left) with attendees from Chile and Australia Credit: photo: Jane Kitchen
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Event report
Hotting it up

Thermal water aficionados from around the world gather at Murrieta Hot Springs to learn and connect. Jane Kitchen reports from California


Samuel del Sol, the owner of Termas del Sol hot springs in Chile, is looking to develop his facility into one of the most preeminent thermal spas globally. But, he admits, “living in an area as remote as Patagonia, we are distanced from what other hot springs around the world are doing”.

Looking for inspiration and perspectives, he attended the fifth annual Hot Springs Connection for hot spring operators worldwide.

The largest event yet, this year’s gathering attracted 170 participants at Murrieta Hot Springs in California, USA. Held on 8-11 January, it offered a mix of speakers, a trade show and trips to local thermal spa icons such as Glen Ivy and the freshly unveiled Spa at Séc-he.

Exhibitors made up 10 per cent of the attendees and included Book4Time, Gharieni, Tara Spa Therapy and Universal Companies, while spa consultants such as Lynn Curry of Curry Spa Consulting and Karen Golden of Dwell Concepts for Belgravia Group also came to learn and network. Although American participants dominate the event, five other countries were represented with Gold waving the flag for Australia and del Sol for Chile.

Murrieta sneak peek
A conference highlight was a hardhat tour of Murrieta and its 50-plus geothermal pools and extensive facilities which opened to the public a month later.

“We spent 18 months creating the framework of our wellness offerings,” said David Dronet, owner of Olympus Real Estate Group, the parent company of Murrieta. He revealed that standout features include a contrast bathing circuit, a panoramic rooftop sauna and a terra thermal mud loft. “We wanted to think about how we can impact wellness as a complement to the waters,” he added.

Outlining the opportunities and challenges of restoring the historic property is something that resonated with many attendees. Usually, hot springs sites in the US are small family-owned businesses without spa and wellness facilities. Seeing what Murrieta had planned provided much inspiration.

Helping to navigate issues
Perhaps more importantly, the Hot Springs Association, which runs the conference, also helps these small businesses navigate industry-specific issues.

Damian Albright, project manager for Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort in Montana, for example, explained how precipitated silica, which is common in many natural thermal sources, can corrode copper pipes and cause misreading in temperature valves.

Meanwhile, Richard Nash, CEO of Nash Construction Company, detailed how 3D imaging for things like mechanical rooms is now a reality, helping with construction challenges. “Hot mineral water is not like any other water,” he explained, noting that many who work in the space are pool designers rather than hot springs designers. “Hot springs require specialised equipment, piping, pumps, filtration, chemical treatment, water quality control and water collection, storage and discharge systems.”

Geothermal energy consultant Jeff Birkby outlined concerns about current standards in natural flow through, a process by which thermal water flows in and out of the pools every few hours so that chlorine is not needed. These standards vary immensely from state to state (and country to country). New research Birkby is conducting aims to create a national standard for flow-through rates based on evidence of what the minimum replacement rate should be for hygiene – a welcome development for many hot springs owners.

“It’s important for the hot springs resorts to have a united front in addressing the hodgepodge of regulatory, legal, insurance and construction challenges they face,” said David Wickline, founder of Alchemy Resorts, who has worked in the sector since the 80s. “Hot springs resorts are typically owned and operated as independent small businesses that can ill afford the high costs of diverse regulatory and legal challenges. The Hot Springs Association can consolidate expert sources of information and lobbying efforts to help reduce the costs facing individual properties, but that are common challenges to all of them.”

Positive energy
In the evenings, conference delegates had further opportunities to connect and discuss business while they soaked in the thermal baths, with contrast therapy circuits guided by Dr Marcus Coplin, medical director at Murrieta, on offer.

“What makes this event so powerful is the strong relationships that come out of our time together,” said Jessica Meath, executive director of the Hot Springs Association. “We learn from each other and take care of each other – and that shows in the enthusiasm and positive energy that occurs during and after the conference.”

• There are more than 50 hot springs projects in development in the US: see www.spabusiness.com/thermalusa

• Investment in thermal spa facilities in Australia and New Zealand totals AU$550 million in recent years: see www.spabusiness.com/thermalaunz

Host venue Murrieta Hot Springs was in its pre-opening stages Credit: photo: Murietta Hot Springs, CA
David Dronet’s talk on restoring hot springs resonated with many attendees Credit: photo: Jane Kitchen
Field trips included a visit to the nearby Spa at Séc-he Credit: photo: visitgreaterpalmsprings.com
Hot Springs Association’s Vicky Nash (third from left) with attendees from Chile and Australia Credit: photo: Jane Kitchen
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©Cybertrek 2024

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