2014 GSWS kicks off in Morocco

Above: Magatte Wade

The spa and wellness market in Africa, spa education initiatives and the latest wellness tourism economy figures were some of the topics on the agenda on day one of the 2014 Global Spa & Wellness Summit in Marrakech, Morocco.

Senegal-born Magatte Wade, chief executive and founder of skincare brand Tiossan, delivered the opening keynote address on the topic of How the 21st Century African Renaissance Will Redefine the Cutting Edge of Spa and Wellness.

Wade’s impassioned presentation emphasised the importance of not trying to impose international wellness models that bypass African culture and indigenous wellbeing traditions on the continent.

She said: “Don’t come to Africa and try to push their own wellness traditions aside, and give them Ayurvedic or Swedish massage.” Wade also highlighted the role the “labour-intensive” spa and wellness industry can play in creating employment opportunities on the continent.

The discussion on the African market continued with the Brimming with Opportunity: The Spa and Wellness Scene in Africa panel discussion later in the day.

Panel members included Dzigbordi K Doso, founder and chief executive of Allure Africa Group in Ghana, Elaine Okeke-Martin, president of the Spa & Wellness Association of Africa, Denzil Phillips, director of African Medicinal Plant Standards in Mauritius and Saida el Idrissi, president of the Moroccan Spa Industry Association.

The panel discussed some of the challenges facing the industry across the continent, including clients’ preference for treatments and therapists imported from other parts of the world and the issue of standards – particularly in spas not linked to a hotel.

Day one of the summit also included a series of wellness tourism talks, including the latest data updates from research firm SRI International. Figures from the soon-to-be-published update on the 2013 Global Wellness Tourism Economy report reveals that wellness tourism is now a US$494billion a year industry, up from US$439bn in 2013.

While wellness tourism still represents a relatively small segment of overall tourism, 6.2% of all global trips, the high spending of the affluent wellness tourism traveller means the segment accounts for 14.6% of global tourism expenditure.

Katherine Johnston, senior economist at SRI International, also revealed that wellness tourism has a 1.5 trillion impact on the global economy, creating 14.5 million jobs around the world. The vast majority, 84% of wellness trips are domestic, with these trips generating 68% of wellness tourism spending.

The first day of the summit also saw a series of breakout forums on different topics, including the Spa Education Forum, at which a global spa manager mentorship programme was announced.

The programme is overseen by the Global Spa Management Education Initiative, whose members include Anna Bjurstam, managing director of spa consultancy Raison d'Etre and vice president of spas and wellness at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, and Jean-Guy de Gabriac, owner of spa consultancy Tip Touch International. 

The pilot scheme for the mentorship programme, which launches this month, will see 16 senior spa industry professionals from around the world take on two mentees each. Mentees must have at least two years’ industry experience, while mentors must have five years’ experience, in addition to meeting other criteria.

The pilot scheme will run for three months, with the first programme taking place between January and March next year, and the second between April and June.