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The future of medical spas explored

EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (SSTH) hosted the first Swiss Medical Spa & Hospitality Think Tank.

During EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality event: Swiss Medical Spa & Hospitality Think Tank, leading industry experts, academics and students came together to compile the status quo, reflect on examples of best practice and identify areas of potential for the future when combining new medical and spa trends in the hospitality industry.

With self-care and well-being becoming increasingly high-profile topics, the demand for medical services in the hospitality and tourism sectors is growing. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is expected to see average annual growth of 7.5% through 2022 – and with wellness accounting for a considerable 58% share of global health expenditures, this market certainly warrants attention. Whether it be preventive approaches in the interests of general health, such as diet and fitness, life coaching or stress management, or providing an environment that is conducive to a speedy recovery from a specific ailment, today’s guests expect a well-rounded package.

“Growth in the global medical spa market is driven by the increasing number of aesthetic medicine and cosmetic treatment options for beauty enhancement, and by the growth in wellness trends among developed nations. The rise in medical tourism in developing economies like India, China and Brazil is also expected to be a driver of growth.” explained CV Wijeratne, Head of Spa & Wellness Management Major at SSTH.

Delving deeper, the Think Tank speakers revealed that the demand for hospitality expertise and talent is also felt in the provision of traditional medical treatments.

As Dr Peter Yesawich of Brown Legacy Group explained, it is the orientation towards the guest experience inherent in hospitality – or indeed the patient experience in this case – that lies behind the “Mother Standard®” of care practiced at Cancer Treatment Centers of America®.

This same holistic approach, striving to optimize the guest experience at each touchpoint, has enabled Lisa Clarke of the Destination Medical Center’s Economic Development Agency to overhaul the infrastructure surrounding Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The clinic itself had an outstanding reputation but lacked hoteliers to provide a safe haven between treatments and an accessible, engaging environment to detract from the physical and emotional burden of undergoing treatment.

Forming a panel, the below speakers then discussed the key forces driving change and opportunities in the global health, spa and wellness, medical and hospitality industry, as well as potential components of a corresponding curriculum.

  • Radesh Palikurthi of the University of Memphis: Outbound Health and Wellness Tourism Destination Choice by U.S. Consumers: A Trade-off Analysis of the Significant Decision Factors
  • Ali Poorani of the University of Delaware: Hospitality Associates for Research & Training: “Marketing & Sensory Evaluations”
  • Dr Frederick J. De Micco of the University of Delaware and CV Wijeratne of SSTH: Presentation of Research and Expert Panel “Bridging Healthcare to Hospitality (H2H)”

SSTH Managing Director Michael Hartmann has developed a Swiss Professional Degree program with an option to major in Spa & Wellness Management that not only conveys functional management expertise, but also strengthens soft skills.

“People want an experience. People want all of their senses to be stimulated. People want us to build on their childhood imprints. This is particularly relevant for health and wellbeing tourism, where guests have very specific expectations and needs. The medical and hospitality fields are connecting their expertise to provide patients and guests with a higher quality experience on all aspects.”

The affective sciences approach to SSTH's teaching method ensures students meet these expectations: practising self-reflection, gaining independence, developing self-assurance, honing their empathy and embodying professionalism before assuming their role as metaphorical stage directors in this new landscape.