Industry collaboration: the UKSA spring networking event

Top takeaways from the UK Spa Association’s first in-person event of the year


By Wendy Golledge

13 June 2023

The sun shone on the spa industry last week, as industry leaders gathered at the Nici in Bournemouth for the UK Spa Association’s (UKSA) first networking event of the year.

Attended by more than 100 spa and wellness leaders, the event offered operators and suppliers a chance to connect with colleagues, network with new contacts and collaborate in a unique location.

Three people smiling at the camera
From left: Jessica Grant Sloyan from Lucknam Park, Jamie Pagan from Mandarin Oriental and UKSA general manager Yvonne Ebdon

Spa industry challenges

Many discussions, as is often the case, centred around the challenges operators face with recruitment and retention, which was addressed in a session by Armonia Training’s Diane Hey.

Other key themes to emerge from the event included personal wellness for industry professionals and finding ways to attract, retain and increase the number of people we welcome into the industry.

European Spa asked attendees for their top takeaways from the event:

Takeaway #1

Luke Sheriff, founder of Proverb Skincare

“Wellness in 2023 needs to be more than spa, it’s not just about facilities anymore. People in the modern world find relaxing difficult so we need to include more activity in the spa offering.

“In a stressed world, just a facial or a massage won’t cut it – our treatment offering needs to include stretches and movement, and give the client something to take away – wellness strategies, tips, advice they can integrate into real life.”

Three people in black from Proverb skiin
Luke Sheriff (left) and Kirsty Allen (front) founders of Proven Skin, with head of spa Jennifer Buron

Takeaway #2

Yvonne Ebdon, UKSA general manager

“Memberships will be one of the UKSA’s two main focuses in the coming year, ensuring we are offering the most useful and commercially beneficial membership benefits that we can, to as wide an audience as possible.

“We want to increase the size of our membership while understanding there is still work to be done to really perfect and communicate who we are and why people should be a member.

“Our second focus will be to find more ways to attract, retain and increase the number of people we welcome into our industry. Whether this be through supporting recruitment through schools and colleges or ensuring we are doing everything we can to recognise the uniqueness of those already in our industry so we don’t lose them.”

A woman in a blue dress and a women in a white shirt
From left: UKSA general manager Yvonne Ebdon with new chairperson Abi Selby from

Takeaway #3

Abi Selby, founder of Spabreaks and UKSA chairperson

“There was a really lovely buzz from the minute the event started. Clearly the sun and the location played a part, but I do think there was a real sense of optimism and excitement around being together.

“In my opinion the UKSA events are unique. They are a concentrated and focussed few hours that enable people to network without taking too much time out of their businesses. It’s a formula we will look to continue as we go through the rest of this year and into 2024.

“With regards to the strategic future of the UKSA board, we need to continue the fantastic work started by much-loved names in the industry over the last 10 years, while looking to evolve and develop the board’s identity in sync with an ever-changing industry.

“The sector is in many ways unrecognisable compared to pre-Covid and we need to make sure we are listening and learning to do to best support our members moving forwards.”

Takeaway #4

Diane Hey, founder, Armonia Training Academy

“Recruitment. It’s the challenge we’re all fed up of hearing about, but the future is in your hands.

“Yes, there is a skill shortage in our sector but there is a solution. Take the opportunity to grow your own with apprenticeships. The mechanisms are in place and it doesn’t cost you to try.

“There is an opening here for change and I urge operators to take it.”

Four women in the sunshine
From left: Diane Hey of Armonia Training Academy with Sarah Johnson and Emma Sorby from Rudding Park and Ashley Ashton from Rockliffe Hall

Takeaway #5

Eleanor Jeffrey, spa manager at Montcalm East and new UKSA board member

“Today’s setting has been a revelation. I’ve noticed people have come in, ambled to the terrace, taken in the view and visibly relaxed.

“The UK Spa Association chose the newly refurbished Nici as the venue for our event to showcase the new spa to our attendees. It’s a stark reminder that we, who work in an industry that focusses on promoting wellbeing, need to take time, too.

“We so often forget as leaders in this sector to take time to prioritise ourselves, to reconnect and grow. You cannot fill from an empty cup.”

To read more about the Nici click here.

An outdoor pool on a sunny day
The Nici reopened its spa earlier this summer, following a £20m investment in the property's refurbishment

Takeaway #6

Richie Norton, mind and movement mentor

“Simple tools are often the most useful, if you access them on a daily basis. Share this with your clients, take it on board yourself, ideally do both.

“It’s time to start noticing. Sitting with your thoughts. Breathing.

“You’re in the business of providing care and support for others. That has to begin with you being in a good place yourself.

Richie Norton, mind and movement mentor

“Have time offline, it’s fundamental and the foundation of being a healthy human being. Learn to breathe in a way that helps you. Take time in nature. Move.

“Whatever you want to give, has to first be there for you to share.”

Norton shared a series of quick-fire breathing exercises with delegates. For more info visit The Strength Temple.


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