Organised by the Healing Hotels of the World, the Healing Summit’s mission is to provide content and inspiration to help build a global healing business community.
The event looks at what role businesses can play in finding new awareness, understanding and tools that can help benefit humanity. Speakers from across the spa and wellness industry, and beyond, looked at ways in which we can help create not just healing spaces, but healing environments, from the top down.
“The world has changed in ways we didn’t think possible, but there’s still work for all of us to do,” said Anne Biging, founder and CEO of Healing Hotels of the World, as she opened the conference. “Business and doing good can actually live side-by-side – it’s not either/or.”
Samantha Foster, director at Bangkok-based Destination Spa Management, highlighted ways that spa and wellness centres can stand out in the healing sector. “You can be better, be different, or change the playing field,” she explained. Foster said spas can be better by providing exemplary service, such as a wellness advisory team, which can offer support on the whole spectrum of wellness, or through offering personalisation of services, including diagnostic testing. “From the inside out or the outside in, technology is helping us produce better results for our guests,” said Foster. “It’s happening whether we like it or not, so we have to decide to what extent we engage.”
Being different might include offering the same services, but in a new way or location, such as ‘heli-yoga’ on a remote mountain top, or entertainment-based group exercise, such as drumming, said Foster. “Look at the culture of where you are and how you can package that for wellness,” she suggested.
Corporate social responsibility
Asa Siegel, holistic health counselor and founder of US-based Stamba Superfoods, which produces nutritional supplements, spoke about successfully integrating doing good into a business model.
“When you learn something positive about what a company is doing, and you have the opportunity to give your business to that company or to a competitor, which one do you choose?” Siegel asked. “The easiest way of understanding this shift in paradigm is to think about how simple that decision is.”
Siegel also said that socially responsible investing is now the fastest growing segment of the investor community, and that companies such as How Good, a New York-based organisation that monitors and rates food on the grounds of its sustainability – and makes that information available to consumers through an app – are “set up to grow, expand and completely change the way the business world works.”
Rupert Schmid, president of skincare brand Biologique Recherche, said that having a corporate social responsibility report is crucial for a company. “State what you’ve done and what you will do,” he said. “We have to link what we’re doing here with the real world. If you invest in CSR, if you take care of the stakeholders, if you invest in the long-term, then you’ll be more profitable in the long run.”
A shifting sense of connection
Neuroscientist Dr Marjorie Woollacott looked at how meditation increases a sense of connection with the world around us. “We’re moving from individualism to a sense of interconnectedness, which fosters compassion,” she explained. “Activity-dependent neuroplasticity means that our brain is constantly being shaped by what we’re doing and what we think, and much of the time this happens unwittingly. We need to make a conscious shift in what’s coming into our brains.”
Consumers are feeling that change as well, and are increasingly looking for ways to connect and learn, said Stella Photi, founder and MD of Wellbeing Escapes, a travel company specialising in healthy holidays. “In 2007, people were looking for something that would make them look good,” she said. “Now, people are asking, ‘How can I be better and feel better?’”
Trends popular with her wellness clients include therapeutic rest, digital detox, tailor-made fitness and emotional healing. “People want to mend their hearts,” Photi said. “There are emotional traumas that happen and they manifest in our bodies – and finally people are realising this.”
Dr Mariela Silveira, co-owner and medical director at Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa in Brazil, spoke about the science of wellness and the role spas can play in emotional healing. “Even adults who have been through childhood trauma can be positively stimulated through different opportunities and feelings,” she said. “The human brain has the amazing ability to change throughout life, regardless of the age people are.”
Dr Silveira looked at how a search for happiness has changed us culturally and biologically, with dopamine training us to look for the easy reward pathway of pleasure, distracting us from other, deeper emotions. “Happiness does not exist in the way our community and culture have tried to define it,” she explained. “We have this pressure to be happy all the time – we’ve never had this issue before. We’re searching for happiness, and we get distracted with pleasures.”