The value of associations
Mia Mackman, founder and president of the Arizona Spa & Wellness Association, discusses the role of industry organisations and the impact they can have  
The growing social and economic focus on health and wellness and the resulting growth of the spa and wellness market has given birth to a rising number of industry associations around the world. While it is the spas that deliver the services within our dynamic sector, the role of the associations is to promote and nurture businesses; to build relationships, provide networking opportunities, oversee education and facilitate information sharing in order to support the growth of the industry. 
With a vast number of associations worldwide, choosing which one to join can be a daunting task, especially as participation usually comes at a price – with nearly all organisations requiring membership dues in exchange for the networking, information, and services provided. To help you decide, remember that the association(s) you join should align with the goals and outlook of your business, your company values and the interests most relevant to your region. By determining your professional priorities, you will discover the type of organisation that will best serve you and foster the success of your business.
When considering your involvement, it is important to take into account the value the association provides to its members and the ways in which it supports the growth of businesses. Moreover, an association is only as strong as its members.  A group of focused and engaged participants can have a dramatic impact within areas such as regional market performance and staff engagement. 
mandara spa
Image courtesy of Mandara Spa 
Knowledge and collaboration 
Building new relationships is an essential component of business growth, and associations directly support this by providing forums where members can collaborate and share best practices and methodologies.  For those unaccustomed to sharing strategic information, it may seem counter-intuitive to reveal management secrets. However, by addressing individual goals and challenges, associations facilitate opportunities for the entire sector to learn and thrive, through participation and engagement.  
This type of collaboration eliminates the barriers imposed by an overly competitive business environment and serves to elevate the performance of the industry as a whole. As technology continues to grow in importance, staying well informed is becoming increasingly essential for individual and collective success. These days, what you don’t know will eventually hurt you and impact on the reputation of your business and on your bottom line. When associations disseminate key industry information, they therefore fulfil an important function by enabling members to forecast trends, anticipate demand and effectively plan for the future.  
Both global and regional industry associations have a role to play. Global associations unite people and concepts from around the world, while regional organisations retain the flexibility to focus on critical local issues and address challenges that are unique to that particular market. 
Atlantis the Palm
Above: ShuiQi Spa and Fitness at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai 
Making a difference 
It requires a considerable investment of time and energy to thoroughly research and keep apace with the market; to investigate emerging modalities, keep up-to-date with new products and fine-tune effective operating and marketing tools. By consolidating such and other vital industry information and sharing it with their members, associations can advance concepts and processes with great efficiency – via platforms that include industry events, networking lunches, conferences, newsletters and webinars.
This means that associations are ideally positioned to provide leadership for the spa and wellness sector, to keep our eye on what lays ahead for the industry and to identify and resolve what may be holding us back. It is our role to enhance the visibility of the issues we face and to help resolve them – paving the road for a brighter future, increased growth and greater market security. 
Spa and wellness associations around the world have the potential to unite and inspire the industry and the more we share and learn together, the better placed we are to make a meaningful contribution to the industry and to help people live better lives.