Key takeaways from the inaugural Wellness Hospitality Conference

European Spa reports on the latest industry insights and intelligence from the event in Milan, Italy


By Mark Smith

05 December 2023

The first Wellness Hospitality Conference was held in Milan in November 2023.

The event, attended by over 500 delegate, featured insights from over 42 international speakers.

Providing delegates with an opportunity to connect, network and hear the latest wellness insights, the event was warmly received by attendees and brand sponsors.

speakers on stage at Wellness Hospitality Conference
Speakers on stage at Wellness Hospitality Conference

Focusing on the advancement of wellness hospitality in the industry, the day-long programme featured eminent speakers including Emlyn Brown, senior vice president of wellbeing, strategy, design, development at Accor; Kent Richards, corporate director of operations, Six Senses; and Alberto Apostoli, founder of Studio Apostoli.

Delegates also heard insights from Massimo Caputi, president of Federterme; Julanda Marais, senor lead spa and wellness at Explora Journeys ;and corporate happiness coach Erica D’Angelo.

man wearing blue suit and white shirt smiling at camera

"The success of this event testifies to and confirms the strong interest of hospitality operators in development projects concerning the global wellness industry. Today, a luxury investment cannot be separated from an investment in wellness.”

Mauro Santinato

President, Teamwork Hospitality

The event was organised by Teamwork Hospitality, which has many years’ experience promoting the growth in the tourism and hospitality sector.

The patron partner for the event was Lemi Group and it wass supported by Inspatime.

Thought-provoking takeaways at Wellness Hospitality Conference 

European Spa highlights the key thoughts and opinions from spa and wellness leaders at the Wellness Hospitality Conference. These focus on the trends and the direction the wellness industry is taking, as well as what they feel is missing in spa right now.

people at a spa conference
Attendees at Wellness Hospitality Conference
man speaking on stage at the wellness hospitality conference
Alberto Apostoli addresses delegates

#1 Louise Moore: social connection and rest

The director spa development and operations Europe at Hilton said rest and social connection were two trends to watch in the coming years.

“We were all really surprised by how quickly travel came back. The pandemic fundamentally changed things – especially the drive for what consumers want to see and what wellness meant for them,” she said.

“There is a new conversation about what wellness is today. It focuses on mental health and immune health – and how in the future these can be supported and made stronger. There are more conversations about longevity, prevention and recovery.

“People also want to reconnect and be social. I think it’s important to harness these in the programmes we develop – especially how wellness travels beyond the spa to the whole hotel. Moving well, eating well, sleeping well, if we think about being well – that is what we should be thinking about.

Wellness opens up

“There has been a significant increase in the demand for thermal bathing. If we take the authentic method of Roman bathing, for example and apply modern design to see what that looks like – what we can do is unlock that desire that customers are demanding and then create revenue and profit flow through.

“The growing definition of what wellness means incudes sleep, nutrition, movement and recovery. Our properties have had to reconsider this to evolve their offer. In London we are  developing a wellness experience – created in the meeting room floor – in a room of fully immersive wellness experience – thermal bathing, new treatments and modalities.

“The Hilton 2024 Trends report really looked across generations – to really understand what means most to them in travel and it’s to recharge and rest with an increased emphasis on sleep. We must look to technologies that promote relaxation and hence sleep by training the brain to help improve a state of relaxation.”

woman with microphone speaking at a conference
Louise Moore from Hilton at the Wellness Hospitality Conference

#2 Andrew Gibson: creating a niche and the future of technology

The advisor and consultant for the hospitality, wellness and real estate industry opened the discussion highlighting why guests visit a spa in Italy. He said it was because they want an immersive Italian experience in the country of destination. He noted that unless you are the likes of Lefay or Palazzo Fiuggi, selling wellness to this market is not the number one priority. It’s almost impossible, he said, especially to American guests. What he suggested was do what you do and do it well and to position your brand in a premium position, network in wellness circles and build your brand so that it becomes talked about in the wellness industry.

“What is your special niche? What do you do well? That makes it a story for the magazines to write about for the wellness industry to sit up and listen? Awards are important to this.” He also warned against ignoring the local domestic wellness market. As well as central and eastern Europe.

He discussed the difference between wellness and wellbeing before highlighting that hotel spa industry is going through a transition.

“We’ve got data now that shows the benefits of all the things that we’ve been doing [in wellness] now to a position where we are going through another evolutionary change in the hotel industry and that is moving out of the spa into wellness,” said Gibson.

“There’s absolutely no question that technology is going to play a role in spas in the future. It’s not something you can ignore. One is that data can improve my operation or the technology we’re using combined with data help us in terms of how we deliver our services.”

man speaking at a conference into a microphone
Andrew Gibson, advisor and consultant for the hospitality, wellness and real estate industry

#3 Michael Newcombe: the importance of nurturing talent

In conversation with Sarah Camilleri, editorial director, European Spa magazine, Newcombe, the vice-president, wellness at Four Seasons discussed how to value teams and why they are crucial to the predicted growth of the spa and wellness market.

“I recognise that the behaviour of our [spa] technicians is very different. They operate from the heart, they operate with a soul and a passion and a connection on personal care. If we’re not careful, they burn out and we have to put provisions in to help manage this,” said Newcombe.

“We’re a brand believes in the three P’s of people, products, and then profit – and essentially, we look after our people. If we create the best products, we believe profit will come. So this is the reason that people are first in our mantra, and we try and deliver that and continue that excellence through every new opening that we do.”

Exponential growth

“The nature of this disruptive talk today is what do we owe to this industry? What are the risks when we see this exponential growth?” Newcombe continued.

“I am constantly trying to find people, trying to find the best candidates I can in some of the most prestigious jobs in the world. And I think the risk from now when I look at it in 2023 to $5.6 trillion business to 2027 and beyond is the people factor and I believe we have to invest in people development academies pipeline of talent.

“So how do we create the pipeline of talent to peak to peak not just us, but the industry with that rapid growth?

“When we look at growing our business. We need to really make sure that we have the resources.

“There’s got to be a team. There’s got to be a wonderful, dedicated, passionate team who work from the heart. So that’s my focus at the moment as a strategy. Constantly looking at academy partnerships, development of people, relating the core vision of Four Seasons back to people.”

two people interviewed on a stage
Sarah Camilleri, editorial director, European Spa interviews Michael Newcombe, the vice-president, wellness at Four Seasons

#4 László Puczkó on the wellnessification of hospitality

The founder of HTWWLife discussed the elements of hospitality drawing references to the latin terms: hospitum and hospes and how they relate to the wellness hospitality industry.

He addressed trends and fads and sought to differentiate what clients are looking for – what they buy (services) and what they pay for (which are the values and benefits). Much of his talk sought to ask the audience probing questions about what they are delivering and how that serves the benefit of the client.

In highlighting wellness trends he questioned how well rooms in hotels can actually be. A lot of his address was getting spas to look at what they do and what it delivers for guests.

He said: “Focus on what is being offered and what it does – what’s the physical and emotional experience.”

Beware of ‘Columbusing’

He tackled some ideas of wellness that seek to take an element of cultural significance in another culture and present it as something new. This idea of ‘Columbusing’ is when you “discover” something that’s existed forever. It’s an interesting angle and is present in a lot of wellness trends forecasts.

He also introduced the ideas of hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing. This usually contrasts the self-fulfilment of eudemonic wellness with the hedonism of maximising pleasure. For hedonic wellbeing, he highlighted how pleasure and decreased pain leads to happiness.  With eudaimonic wellbeing – people feel happy if they experience life purpose, challenges and growth.

Man Speaking on Stage
László Puczkó, founder of HTWWLife

#5 Adam Mogelonsky: the future of technology and AI

The founder of Hotel Mogel Consulting looked at how hotel spas can incorporate the latest tech into their offering, focusing on the integration and emergence of tech into the spa hotel.

He said that spas should be “designing experiences to support the people that we already have.” For this – you need to know and understand your guests and technology can support this.

Automatic for the people

“Automating the back end of a business, especially with the emergence of AI tools can help us to automate and predict behaviour and trends,” said Mogelonsky. “This could include the use of chatbots and conversational AI for guest inquiries and reservations. The introduction of flexible payment schemes like Google Pay, user-friendly, automated pre-stay reservations and prearrival, in-app and room tablet upselling. The technology is here and available and will have the biggest impact on the future of bookings and the pre-arrival process.”

Mogelonsky also focused on how tech is influencing wellness and medi-wellness with data driven meal plans, detox and weight loss programmes, tailored supplements and IV drips, nutrigenomics, microbiome analysis. In movements there are 3D body scans and posture analysis to massage devices and compression wraps to holographic displays for trainers and physiotherapists.

man speaking at a conference at the Wellness Hospitality Conference
Adam Mogelonsky speaks at the Wellness Hospitality Conference

The next Wellness Hospitality Conference will take place on November 21, 2024.

Click here for more information.

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