Medical Wellness Congress report

This year’s congress offered networking, insight and inspiration into the world of medical wellness in Europe and beyond


By Mark Smith

16 May 2023

This year’s Medical Wellness Congress, held at St Martins Lodge and Spa in Austria, offered insight and inspiration from the world of medical wellness in Europe and beyond.

The unique networking event brought together industry colleagues and suppliers to share knowledge and information and was deemed a success by attendees.

Generation Forever Young

In his keynote speech, Nils Behrens, managing director and chief marketing officer at Lanserhof, gave a fascinating overview of the concept of ‘Generation Forever Young’.

Providing a detailed explanation of the Lanserhof business, which is focused on medical wellness in the UK, Germany and Austria, he explained the role of advanced technology and touch in helping people to live healthier lives for longer.

The award-winning concept at Lanserhof is impressive, especially its commitment to personalisation in the field of integrative wellness.

Behrens spent some time explaining the brand’s latest project at Sylt in northern Germany and the significant investment made there. With 591 staff across at Lanserhof Group, 43 of whom are doctors and 146 are therapists, Behrens celebrated the fact that 65% of the team are women.

man speaking at a conference on stage
Nils Behrens, managing director and chief marketing officer at Lanserhof

Shifting from pampering to prevention

Susanne Kraus-Winkler,  Austrian state secretary for tourism, spoke about the future of wellness and its parameters. She said that change is the new normal and that adapting quickly will help every business to be more flexible in the future.

Kraus-Winkler noted that problems in the labour market were vast and that there is no easy answer due to people seeking a better life/work balance.

From a tourism perspective, she said that wellness tourism, shifting from pampering to prevention, is a great opportunity for all spas and medi-spa clinics. Loneliness, blue wellness, sleep and spirituality were all topics to be aware of in the next 12 months.

Beata Aleksandrowicz, an expert on massage, healing and women’s wellness, presented a heartfelt discussion around the human experience and therapist training. Her call to invest in the education and empowerment of therapists was inspiring and received great feedback from delegates.

Simon Saunders, vice-president of strategic health and wellness advisory at RLA Global, presented a data-driven talk on wellness real estate. Looking at performance indicators and market overview, it was a fascinating insight into how businesses are performing and what’s driving the market today.

two women smiling gat camera
Anna Bjurstam, wellness pioneer at Six Senses with Vladi Kovanic, organiser, Medical Wellness Congress 2023

The importance of tech

Technology was a central theme in many presentations, including an engaging talk from Sammy Gharieni and Alina Hernandez from Gharieni Group. They explored how combining integrative wellness and medical wellness with holistic approaches and layered treatments can elevate the guest experience.

Anjana Nicolas, strategic partnerships manager at HydraFacial EMEA, talked about skin health and innovative technology to transform business.

In an engaging panel discussion, Tammy Pahel, vice-president of spa and wellness at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort; Dakota Girard, national sales manager, Biocharger; Nicolas Pietz, head of operations, Relounge Wave Mat; and Karl Chen, CEO, Prism Light Pod took a deep dive into how wellness technology can expand businesses in the new age of wellness.

Spa consultant Laszlo Puczko also offered a masterclass to explain his thoughts on the ‘wellnessification’ of the guest journey.

person under a red LED light having facial
HydraFacial demonstrating its latest technology

Day two at the Medical Wellness Congress

On day two of the event international wellness and hospitality specialist Andrew Gibson chaired a panel discussion with Emlyn Brown, global vice-president of Well-Being, Accor; Anna Bjurstam, senior strategic advisor, Six Senses, Hotels and Resorts; and Keith Pollard, editor in chief, International Medical Travel Journal.

Addressing the question, What is medi-wellness?, the panel covered the importance of standards and how these might be introduced, as well as risk factors, insurance, how the younger generation is driving demand and how businesses can meet this demand.

At Six Senses, medical services are provided by third-party partners at two locations – Ibiza and Kaplankaya. Six Senses is looking at how it could potentially take medical services in house. At Accor, Brown described how the soon-to-launch Raffles at the OWO is partnering with Harley Street Medical and collaborating with other external businesses to offer these medi-wellness services. Looking to the future, Pollard suggested that genomic testing will be central to service delivery. Bjurstam said that sleeps services were here to stay.

panel discussion of four people on a conference stage
International wellness and hospitality specialist Andrew Gibson chaired a panel discussion with Emlyn Brown, global vice-president of Well-Being, Accor; Anna Bjurstam, senior strategic advisor, Six Senses, Hotels and Resorts; and Keith Pollard, editor in chief, International Medical Travel Journal

Medical wellness in action

Kateřina Smíšková, head of the Spiral Spinal Stabilisation Method Centre talked about idiopatic scoliosis and her innovative ways to treat back pain. Sven Huckenbeck, spa director at Hotel König Ludwig then shared his learnings from the business., introducing the concept of salutogenisis and the integration of his Bio-Balance Concept, which includes manual and energetic treatments and a muscle hygiene as a daily three-minute homework.

Dr Boris Banovsky, group medical director at Ensana Health Spa Resorts Group, gave a fascinating presentation about the Ensana Group, its origins and growth. The business has 26 hotels across eight destinations in five countries, based around the healing benefits of thermal waters. His talk addressed how healthcare is paid for by guests privately and how the state covers health issues paid by insurance.

man with hands against an energy machine
Patrick Huey, chair, International Spa Association, experiences the Biocharger system

That’s a wrap

To conclude the main-stage speaker programme, Patrick Huey, chairman of the International Spa Association, explored the business of spa and wellness in a post-pandemic world. He offered some interesting statistics: 200 million people will visit spas in the USA this year and wellness tourism is growing 20%.

international wellness and hospitality specialist, interspersed his discussion with a deep dive into his current work at We Care Spa, near Palm Springs in California. His philosophy is that facts aren’t good enough to get people to change behaviour and that as an industry we must speak to them in a different way. Looking to the future, loneliness and burnout are the two major issues facing our guests and he said spa and wellness centres must be ready for this.

Various sponsors and product partners had the chance to run workshops during the afternoon sessions, including Art of Cryo, HydraFacial, Vinoble Cosmetics, Olivier Claire, Biologique Recherche, CeGat and Andorra Health Destination.

The date and location of next year’s event is due to be announced soon.

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