By  on May 25, 2007

The first Global Spa Summit wrapped up at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan Wednesday afternoon with a press briefing by a panel of summit attendees who discussed what they learned during the three-day conference and which issues were imminent to the $40 billion industry.

Three topics stood out as most prescient: solving the labor shortage, defining and standardizing best practices and building a model to benchmark success.

Most pressing, they said, is defining what a spa is and keeping up the integrity of what a spa stands for.

"The industry is coming of age," said panel member Anne McCall Wilson, vice president, spas, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International Inc. "The industry needs to keep up its integrity, since spas offer more than services. It's the healthy-lifestyle business arena."

That a spa should be defined as a place for personal development, meeting the highest possible standards of health and wellness rather than a quick beauty fix, is what attendees are aiming for in terms of setting an industry standard.

"Spas are at the forefront of personal development. It is our nature to be able to do things for people, the globe and the earth," said Anne Bjurstram, managing director, Raison d'Etre, an upscale spa consultancy firm.

Another leading concern was the need for benchmarking growth, both to court the investor community, which is eager to pump money into the sector, and for the industry itself.

"We need to measure our success, but we also need to know what the benchmarks should be," said McCall Wilson. Spas would need something similar to what the retail industry has, they said, which measures productivity in revenue per square foot. However, the spa industry would need a model that could accommodate its highly fragmented nature.

"Benchmarking is necessary, but it has to be comparing apples to apples" since spas are so different from one another, said Susan Harmsworth the following day. Harmsworth is founder and chief executive officer of Espa, which conceptualizes spas for five-star hotels and resorts.

Panel member Richard Dusseau of Spa Strategy, a spa management company, sorted out where spas are in the life cycle of a typical industry.

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