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Sue Harmsworth: “I’m starting to hate the word wellness”
By Megan Whitby 12 May 2021
Industry influencer and founder of ESPA Sue Harmsworth has spent five decades shaping the spa, global wellness and beauty industries, having designed 500+ spas in 65 countries
In the Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) latest Q&A, spa and wellness icon Sue Harmsworth spoke to VP of research and forecasting Beth McGroarty about the trends and challenges facing the spa and wellness industry.

“I’m starting to hate the word wellness because it’s become so generic it’s utterly confusing the consumer,” she began.

In her opinion, the industry should begin differentiating between light wellness and serious wellness.

“As the spa industry took off, the word and concept of wellness became confusing, and it has to do with what the US means by it, versus the rest of the world.

“In the US, every beauty salon, or every two treatment rooms by a pool, suddenly became a spa. When the spa movement became powerful in the 90s, stress was the overwhelming focus and most spas were built for relaxation – from massages to meditation. What I would call light wellness – with no negative connotations.

“But now, we have a much more complex set of modalities and advanced practitioners at wellness destinations. Plus, we also have more medical or ‘serious’ wellness.

“So, you have light wellness, which spas and hospitality destinations have excelled at and you have medical or serious wellness, but it’s different this time around. It’s preventative, functional medicine and diagnostics.”

Ultimately, she believes the word wellness alone is too imprecise to mean anything and that spa businesses have got to focus on what their consumers want and be clear about what they’re delivering.

Integrative wellness is the future
According to Harmsworth, an integrative approach to wellness will become standard practice due to the prevalence of so many lifestyle diseases in today’s society.

“Mental and cognitive health will be huge coming out of the pandemic, with depression and anxiety having risen exponentially since COVID and now affecting a third of the population globally.

“I’m working on properties now that bring everything together: functional medicine and diagnostics, an aesthetics clinic, and all the traditional wellness, from complementary medicine to fitness to serious meditation,” she added.

In her opinion, functional medicine and diagnostics will be a huge part of this trend and are important because they provide people with tangible results.

“It seems crazy, but you really can significantly impact your blood pressure or cholesterol in one week. What I want to do is to be able to programme individuals on a personalised plan with a very full set of stats so they can see their results over time.”

Growing interest for wellness real-estate
McGroarty next touched on how the pandemic has given wellness real estate new momentum and asked Harmsworth for her thoughts on this.

“COVID has obviously woken all of us up to working from home, and this ongoing reality will drive real growth in wellness real estate and communities. Plus, lots of people are spending a lot or all of their time in their second homes.

“As a consequence, more people will choose a wellness community as their primary (or near-primary) residence.”

Harmsworth believes this demand will naturally drive more projects to be conceptualised with more affordable options.

She illustrated this by drawing on one of her current wellness real estate projects, where the most expensive villa costs US$1mn (€825,000, £708,000) while artisan homes sit at US$300,000 (€248,000, £212,300).

"Now that’s relatively affordable," she said, "it's going to be an interesting community where everything will be grown themselves and have its own Waldorf school for the kids."

She firmly champions that the way forward will be affordable and multigenerational wellness communities encompassing an entire lifestyle of wellbeing.

The need for more intensive therapist training
Harmsworth believes the spas that will thrive in future will be underpinned by exceptional flow, therapists, treatments, design and thermal areas, as well as great hardware, air quality and infection control.

However, she urged that spa therapists and practitioners are going to have to be much better trained with deeper skills because the majority of consumers that walk in now will have some kind of contraindication.

“Therapists need a much broader knowledge set to be able to deal with all the things increasingly coming their way. They’re already being bombarded with more serious issues such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression and grief.

“This is why I’m so strong on what we’re doing in the UK with the training ruling bodies, putting modules together so that well-qualified therapists can keep adding extra modules (whether cancer or nutrition training) so they can deliver more 'wellness' than just massages or facials; be empowered to deal with the day-to-day realities they see and be set on a career path of constant skill-upgrading.

“The spas that will take it to the next level will focus on training in a much more intensive way.”

To read the whole interview and hear Harmsworth’s views on why integrative wellness resorts will require a whole new kind of operator, visit the official GWI website later this week.


News
1 to 12 of 7993 news stories
02 Dec 2021
Raffles Hotels and Resorts has opened a new resort in Dubai with a comprehensive 23-treatment-room spa to reflect the city’s lavish character. Offering panoramic sea views and vistas of Dubai’s iconic skyline, the 389-room resort ... More
01 Dec 2021
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) and BBC Storyworks have struck up a partnership to create a digital film series exploring the true meaning of wellness. BBC Storyworks is the commercial creative arm of BBC Global ... More
01 Dec 2021
The global wellness economy will grow by 9.9 per cent annually and reach US$7trn by 2025, according to new research by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI). Named The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond Covid, the ... More
30 Nov 2021
The recently-transformed Bamford Wellness Spa in Gloucestershire has been recognised as the UK’s Best New Spa at the sixth annual Good Spa Guide Awards ceremony. Decided by internal judging by The Good Spa Guide’s Spa ... More
29 Nov 2021
Georgia-based wellness community Serenbe is set to gain a brand new wellness community dedicated to play, said co-founder Steve Nygren, speaking to Spa Business. Named Spela – which means play in Swedish, the new community ... More
26 Nov 2021
Exercise has been found to increase levels of endocannabinoids – cannabis-like substances produced by the human body – which in turn helps reduce inflammation and could potentially treat conditions such as arthritis, cancer and heart ... More
26 Nov 2021
People suffering from mild depression should be offered exercise, mindfulness, therapy or meditation before medication, such as antidepressants. New draft guidance, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that a ... More
25 Nov 2021
The City of Madrid could become one of the healthiest in the world if plans by the council come to fruition. The local government has revealed plans to develop wellbeing infrastructure for the next generation, ... More
24 Nov 2021
A new trans-awareness course, certified by Habia, has been launched for the spa sector to help teach spa staff how to accommodate, attract and support transgender clients. Named Trans Awareness for Spas, the programme includes ... More
23 Nov 2021
A sustainable hot springs retreat is set to open in Fingal on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, drawing on the healing benefits of water, immersion in nature and sleek minimalist design. Set within 15 hectares of ... More
23 Nov 2021
Nuffield Health has reopened the historic Barbican health club in London, as part of ambitious plans to establish its first wellness "health campus" in the UK. Nuffield Health Barbican – the 114th health club in ... More
22 Nov 2021
Marriott’s luxury city hotel brand Westin Hotels & Resorts has opened a new location and branded Heavenly Spa by Westin urban wellness retreat in London, UK. The new spa at Westin London City marks Heavenly ... More
     
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Art of Cryo
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NEWS
Sue Harmsworth: “I’m starting to hate the word wellness”
POSTED 12 May 2021 . BY Megan Whitby
Industry influencer and founder of ESPA Sue Harmsworth has spent five decades shaping the spa, global wellness and beauty industries, having designed 500+ spas in 65 countries
In the Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) latest Q&A, spa and wellness icon Sue Harmsworth spoke to VP of research and forecasting Beth McGroarty about the trends and challenges facing the spa and wellness industry.

“I’m starting to hate the word wellness because it’s become so generic it’s utterly confusing the consumer,” she began.

In her opinion, the industry should begin differentiating between light wellness and serious wellness.

“As the spa industry took off, the word and concept of wellness became confusing, and it has to do with what the US means by it, versus the rest of the world.

“In the US, every beauty salon, or every two treatment rooms by a pool, suddenly became a spa. When the spa movement became powerful in the 90s, stress was the overwhelming focus and most spas were built for relaxation – from massages to meditation. What I would call light wellness – with no negative connotations.

“But now, we have a much more complex set of modalities and advanced practitioners at wellness destinations. Plus, we also have more medical or ‘serious’ wellness.

“So, you have light wellness, which spas and hospitality destinations have excelled at and you have medical or serious wellness, but it’s different this time around. It’s preventative, functional medicine and diagnostics.”

Ultimately, she believes the word wellness alone is too imprecise to mean anything and that spa businesses have got to focus on what their consumers want and be clear about what they’re delivering.

Integrative wellness is the future
According to Harmsworth, an integrative approach to wellness will become standard practice due to the prevalence of so many lifestyle diseases in today’s society.

“Mental and cognitive health will be huge coming out of the pandemic, with depression and anxiety having risen exponentially since COVID and now affecting a third of the population globally.

“I’m working on properties now that bring everything together: functional medicine and diagnostics, an aesthetics clinic, and all the traditional wellness, from complementary medicine to fitness to serious meditation,” she added.

In her opinion, functional medicine and diagnostics will be a huge part of this trend and are important because they provide people with tangible results.

“It seems crazy, but you really can significantly impact your blood pressure or cholesterol in one week. What I want to do is to be able to programme individuals on a personalised plan with a very full set of stats so they can see their results over time.”

Growing interest for wellness real-estate
McGroarty next touched on how the pandemic has given wellness real estate new momentum and asked Harmsworth for her thoughts on this.

“COVID has obviously woken all of us up to working from home, and this ongoing reality will drive real growth in wellness real estate and communities. Plus, lots of people are spending a lot or all of their time in their second homes.

“As a consequence, more people will choose a wellness community as their primary (or near-primary) residence.”

Harmsworth believes this demand will naturally drive more projects to be conceptualised with more affordable options.

She illustrated this by drawing on one of her current wellness real estate projects, where the most expensive villa costs US$1mn (€825,000, £708,000) while artisan homes sit at US$300,000 (€248,000, £212,300).

"Now that’s relatively affordable," she said, "it's going to be an interesting community where everything will be grown themselves and have its own Waldorf school for the kids."

She firmly champions that the way forward will be affordable and multigenerational wellness communities encompassing an entire lifestyle of wellbeing.

The need for more intensive therapist training
Harmsworth believes the spas that will thrive in future will be underpinned by exceptional flow, therapists, treatments, design and thermal areas, as well as great hardware, air quality and infection control.

However, she urged that spa therapists and practitioners are going to have to be much better trained with deeper skills because the majority of consumers that walk in now will have some kind of contraindication.

“Therapists need a much broader knowledge set to be able to deal with all the things increasingly coming their way. They’re already being bombarded with more serious issues such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression and grief.

“This is why I’m so strong on what we’re doing in the UK with the training ruling bodies, putting modules together so that well-qualified therapists can keep adding extra modules (whether cancer or nutrition training) so they can deliver more 'wellness' than just massages or facials; be empowered to deal with the day-to-day realities they see and be set on a career path of constant skill-upgrading.

“The spas that will take it to the next level will focus on training in a much more intensive way.”

To read the whole interview and hear Harmsworth’s views on why integrative wellness resorts will require a whole new kind of operator, visit the official GWI website later this week.
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SpaFest confirms Sue Harmsworth as keynote for 2021 in-person event


Spa and wellness industry event SpaFest has announced industry legend Sue Harmsworth MBE will keynote its 2021 conference, hosted at five-star eco-resort, Gwel an Mor in Cornwall, UK, from 12-14 October.
Over 220 spas register for new industry standard for cancer touch therapy, launched by Sue Harmsworth


Sue Harmsworth, industry influencer and founder of ESPA, has recently announced the launch of the Standards Authority for Touch in Cancer Care (SATCC).
Montara Hospitality invests US$209m into Thai wellness project specialising in cognitive health


Bangkok-based developer Montara Hospitality Group (MHG) is investing THB 6,600bn (US$209m, £165m) into Asia’s upcoming largest destination and most comprehensive wellness residential community, Tri Vananda, in Phuket, Thailand.
FEATURE: Spa people: Sue Harmsworth


Sue Harmsworth reveals UK-wide standards for cancer touch therapy
MORE NEWS
Raffles launches opulent five-star resort and Cinq Mondes spa on Dubai coastline
Raffles Hotels and Resorts has opened a new resort in Dubai with a comprehensive 23- treatment-room spa to reflect the city’s lavish character.
GWI and BBC to co-produce film series demystifying wellness
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) and BBC Storyworks have struck up a partnership to create a digital film series exploring the true meaning of wellness.
Global wellness economy will be worth US$7trn by 2025
The global wellness economy will grow by 9.9 per cent annually and reach nearly US$7trn by 2025, according to new research by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).
Bamford Wellness Spa scoops Good Spa Guide’s Best New UK Spa award
The recently-transformed Bamford Wellness Spa in Gloucestershire has been recognised as the UK’s Best New Spa at the sixth annual Good Spa Guide Awards ceremony.
Playfulness to inspire Serenbe’s new wellness community launching in 2023
Georgia-based wellness community Serenbe is set to gain a brand new wellness community dedicated to play, said co-founder Steve Nygren, speaking to Spa Business.
Naural ‘cannabis’ levels boosted by exercise
Exercise has been found to increase levels of endocannabinoids – cannabis-like substances produced by the human body – which in turn helps reduce inflammation and could potentially treat conditions such as arthritis, cancer and heart disease.
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