European Spa pays tribute to international spa consultant and author, John Harrington (1936-2023)

UK spa industry mourns the loss of an influential and much-loved figure who helped to shape spa businesses and standards


By European Spa

03 April 2023

It is with great sadness that we share the news that international spa consultant and writer John Harrington passed away on March 30 after a battle with prostate cancer.

John was a father of three children – Siobhan, Séan and Tara, who he shared with Patsy – and was the loving husband of Shirley and a beloved grandfather and great-grandfather.

Co-founder of HCB Associates, John contributed much to the UK spa industry’s evolution as an international spa consultant and a founding board member of the UK Spa Association.

John Harrington with his wife, Shirley

A former journalist and published author of spa operations and training materials, John also helped with the launch of European Spa magazine, as a friend and mentor to founding editor Sarah Camilleri, contributing many insightful articles and interviews to help spas thrive and prosper.

Wordsmith, yachtsman and spa visionary

John’s passion for spa and wellness travel knew no bounds. An accomplished newspaper journalist with the Irish Times, his love of writing and communication was a creative thread throughout his life. In the Sixties he interviewed many iconic figures, including The Beatles, and became a good friend of TV personality and radio legend Terry Wogan.

Aways an entrepreneur, in the Seventies John moved successfully into property development and pursued his passion for sailing with the purchase of Starchaser (Nicholson 45), competing at the highest levels of ocean racing worldwide.

John Harrington was an influential figure in the spa industry over many decades

In the Eighties he became an international spa consultant working on wellness tourism strategies and spa training. John successfully launched The Spa Book: The Official Guide to Spa Therapy, which he co-authored with Jane-Crebbin Bailey and John Harcup, supported by HABIA.

Championing industry standards

Out in industry, he played an influential role in formulating and promoting the highest standards as the spa industry took shape, creating the UK Spa Association together with UK spa leaders including Paul Simons, Don Camilleri, Michael Isaacs, Roisin Isaacs, Dorothy Purdew OBE, Suki Kalirai and Andrew Hammond, supported by the association’s founding secretary Catherine Lloyd.

Don Camilleri with his friend John Harrington. Both worked to raise the profile of the UK spa industry

Don Camilleri, a friend and former development director of Center Parcs, said: “John was not only a good friend but a true inspiration when dealing with the mammoth task of bringing the spa industry together and creating the framework and golden standards we rely on today.

“Always the mentor, he played a key role in supporting us to successfully start the first the UK Spa Association, which is thriving today in the hands of a new generation of spa leaders.”

“We worked, loved, laughed and lived side by side for so many years. I have lost my best friend, my partner and my dad but I will never forget his spirit lives within the best part of me.”

Séan Harrington

Co-founder and CEO, ELEMIS & executive director, L’Occitane International S.A.

Séan Harrington pays tribute

John was always hugely proud of his son, Séan Harrington, co-founder and CEO at ELEMIS and executive director at L’Occitane International S.A, who followed in his footsteps to champion the British spa and beauty industry and build a globally respected brand.

Séan told European Spa: “I am so proud and honoured to have been such a large part of my dad’s life, journey and career. We worked, loved, laughed and lived side by side for so many years. I have lost my best friend, my partner and my dad but I will never forget his spirit lives within the best part of me.

“The impact John made was immeasurable and I know he will be greatly missed by those who were lucky enough to know him professionally and personally.”

Noella Gabriel

Global president and co-founder, ELEMIS

“His legacy to our spa industry inspired so many but gave me everything in life and work. I love him, adore him and miss him! We will celebrate his life by living ours as best as we can! Thank you, Dad.”

Noella Gabriel, global president and co-founder, ELEMIS, added: “John was a true inspiration to me; I admired him greatly. His eloquent, kind-hearted spirit was second to none. He was a true entrepreneur and a real visionary for the spa industry.”

A consummate wordsmith

As a respected spa supplier, John successfully distributed French spa brands Phytomer and Ionithermie in the UK for many years. “John was a great British beauty entrepreneur and an inspiring leader,” said Oriele Frank, chief product and sustainability officer, and co-founder, ELEMIS. “He was passionate about quality service, sales and marketing. His love of words, inspired by his days as a journalist, showcased the power and importance of communication.”

"John was a great British beauty entrepreneur and an inspiring leader... His love of words, inspired by his days as a journalist, showcased the power and importance of communication.”

Oriele Frank

Chief product and sustainability officer and co-founder, ELEMIS

Spa designer Jean-Paul Blissett, director of Well Architecture & Design, added: “It is so sad to lose one of the forerunners of the spa industry as we know it today. I have fond memories of working together and his introduction to Steiner and then ELEMIS, which forged the birth of cruise ship spas and subsequently led to the creation of Chiva Som. Thank you John, and rest in peace.”

Also paying tribute, long-term friend and journalist Hellena Barnes said: “I will never forget John’s enormous support when I was launch editor for Spa Plus, the UK’s first ever spa business magazine. It was a monumental task at that time, when so many were saying ‘What UK spa industry?’

Co-Founder and CEO at Elemis & Executive Director at L’Occitane International S.A. with his late father John Harrington

“John not only inspired me with his vision and wisdom, but he was appreciated by many as an industry father. His immense kindness, power of presence and incredible knowledge and vision of our future industry was truly inspirational. He will be forever in our hearts.”

‘Skipper Harrington’

European Spa’s founding editor, Sarah Camilleri, said: “‘Skipper Harrington’, as we fondly called him, was a true captain of industry. His joie de vivre, generosity and a mischievous sense of humour were matched by his endless commitment to make things better for everyone working in spas. I was very lucky to meet him and have him as one of my great life friends.

John Harrington was an accomplished yachtsman and enjoyed ocean racing whenever he had the opportunity

“Ever the visionary, many will not know that John brought invaluable publicity to lesser-known spa destinations across Europe, helping regional tourist boards to create successful wellness tourism strategies. Two of my most cherished memories were exploring spas across Austria with John, as well as the experience of being on his spa industry crew when he skippered the Spirit of the Maracaibo, in the Isle of Wight’s famous Round the Island race.

“We will all miss John tremendously. All our thoughts and love are with Shirley, Séan and all his beloved family.”

Be informed...

To read the Spring 2023 issue of European Spa magazine, click below

Sign up to our digital edition

Sign Up Now

European Spa Magazine is published by Spa Publishing Ltd    |    Company registration number: 6293825

About    |    Contact Us    |    Privacy Policy    |    Terms & conditions    |    Disclaimer

© Copyright 2023 - Spa Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.