A well world

Belgin Aksoy is the owner of Turkish destination resort Richmond Nua Wellness-Spa and the founder of non-profit event Global Wellness Day (GWD), celebrated the second Saturday of June every year and this year held on June 13. She speaks to Professional Spa & Wellness about the concept behind the day, and why a global focus on health and wellbeing is so crucial

Where did the idea for Global Wellness Day come from?
I have dedicated my life to wellness and as a professional I have made serious investments into living well. However, these [measures] were simply not enough for me. I dreamt of a wellness project that could be transferred to future generations and that would change the world. It was from this that the seeds of Global Wellness Day were sown in 2012.

Could you give a brief overview of the history of Global Wellness Day?
Global Wellness Day is a not-for-profit event that was first celebrated in Turkey in 2012, at the Richmond Nua Wellness Spa. The day continues to be celebrated each year, with greater international involvement every year. It has attracted a great deal of attention from all four corners of the globe and [has become truly] global. In 2015, GWD was celebrated on five continents, in 71 countries and in more than 500 locations.

How would you recommend people to approach Global Wellness Day?
Although we come from the spa world where wellness is central, we encourage people to keep it simple and even start with the very basics on GWD – such as eating organic, drinking more water, taking a walk with family and not using plastic. What matters to me [most] is turning living well into a way of life for all. 

GWD is going form strength to strength. Why do you think it’s caught the industry’s and the public’s attention to such a great extent?

It seems to prove that the world is ready to start making smart choices about our own physical and mental health, the health of our neighbours and the planet we all share. Everyone needs to feel better and live a better life. According to research by the World Health Organization, the greatest threat to global wellbeing is depression, affecting more than 350 million people worldwide. Noticing that we were drifting rapidly towards this danger, I made it my mission to launch a different kind of project.

How involved are you personally in the different activities staged under the GWD banner? Obviously you can’t be in all places at once…
The structure of our organisation allows me to be aware of all different initiatives that take place as part of GWD around the world. This year I was personally in charge of the big celebration in Istanbul, though I wish I could join all the celebrations.

Could you give a few examples of some of the activities that took place as part of this year’s GWD?

A few examples are:

In Turkey: Over 5,000 people attended to the event in Istanbul’s Macka park. Yoga, pilates and Zumba were on offer, along with laughter workshops, health lectures and fitness classes. Wellness suppliers, operators and consultancies took part, offering free treatments, healthy snacks, workouts and the chance to experience the best the spa and wellness industry has to offer.

In France: A Royal Power Walk in the garden with staff from the Guerlain Spa at the Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and fitness in front of the Eiffel Tower, with the Peninsula Paris hotel

In Malaysia: TheBringing Wellness Communities Together event at the Mines Wellness Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The event was hosted in conjunction with the Malaysian Wellness Society and wellness centre The Laureate, a subsidiary of Beacon Hospital.

In USA: Events included one at the Sedona Farmers Community Market in Arizona.

In Italy: Comfort Zone offered back and neck massages and TechnoGym provided workouts with a personal trainer at the Expo Milano 2015.

In Thailand: A big Global Wellness Day celebration with workshops and seminars was organised, supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, Amarin Printing and Publishing, the World Spa & Well-being Convention and the Thai Spa Association.

Global Wellness Day now has spa and wellness industry ambassadors all over the world. What does this role entail?
There are 58 GWD ambassadors across the world, working to spread this movement in their countries. Thanks to the GWD Ambassadors, Global Wellness Day has taken an important step towards becoming a movement that goes beyond borders. The philosophy behind the day is to create lasting awareness of how to live well and our ambassadors are working to spread this awareness all over the world.

How are the GWD ambassadors appointed?
If there is not an ambassador appointed for their country already, [people who are interested in working on a volunteer basis] can apply to become an ambassador for their country. We evaluate the applications, asking them to tell us about the contribution they could make as a GWD ambassador. The main things we are looking for is motivation and dedication.

Which do you think are the greatest wellness challenges facing the world today?
The rapid development of technology has made us work quickly and eat quickly, while not exercising and not making time for yourselves; making us unhappy and lonely individuals. The hustle and bustle of modern life has made us tired and worn out and we are now faced with the first generation raised “together-alone”.

Technology today has developed to the point where children can be at home, together with their friends through a screen. In other words, they are “together-alone.” For me, this is a very scary picture. With Global Wellness Day, we invite people to stop and think, to slow down, to look for ways to live a better life, and to find ways to apply these changes – even if just for one day.

The world has never been at a point where the awareness of wellness has been more crucial. This negative [development] has brought us together under one positive umbrella. One day of little things is not overwhelming, and it could kick off changes that could become a habit, adding years to people’s lives. 

How large is the GWD team?
In addition to all our ambassadors and our international coordinator Jean-Guy de Gabriac [the founder of founder of spa consultancy Tip Touch International and the Professional Spa & Wellness Convention co-ordinator], the GWD team in Istanbul consists of four people, including myself.