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European wellness industry gathers in Paris for the 14th Forum HOTel&SPA

10 Jun 2022
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the 14th annual HOTel&SPA event returned last week, bringing together top hospitality and spa executives from across Europe and beyond for a day of talks and networking.

The one-day event took place at the Four Seasons George V Hotel in Paris, and included participants from France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Morocco, Portugal, Hungary, Luxembourg, Great Britain and the US.

Forum HOTel&SPA is organised by Vladi Kovanic, and this year’s theme was ‘Thinking Outside the Box.’ Keynote speeches were from Roger Allen, CEO of Resources for Leisure Assets; Cornelia Kausch, managing director and leadership coach at CK Hospitality Advisors; Jean-Luc Pleuvry, director of Relais Thalasso; and Franz Linser, CEO of Linser Hospitality.

Allen explored what it means to think ‘outside of the box,’ saying, “If outside the box is where success lies, then inside of the box is safe, familiar – we’re in control. Thinking outside the box is unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unknown, which is why so few people do it.”

Kausch explored the value of people in hospitality, and the importance of having a service mindset as a leader as a way to think outside the box. She pointed to statistics that show staff turnover in hospitality is nearly double that of other industries, and that we have the highest number of open positions of any industry after COVID.

“The industry hardest hit by the Great Resignation is hospitality,” she said. “We need a new people strategy in how we do business as a whole. After COVID, we are all craving connection – not just with friends and colleagues, but those moments when we encounter truly exceptional service. Our industry needs to focus once again on the fact that we are a people business, and people means not just customers, but employees too. For your guests to become your brand ambassadors, your employees need to be your evangelists.”

Linser spoke about a Blue Ocean Strategy merging with the world of wellness, asking the audience: “Isn’t there more to wellness than what we are doing right now?” He said that there is an opportunity for the wellness industry to go where there are no others, realise the full potential of wellness, understand new customer demand, and have the courage to pioneer. He suggested looking at sharing and happiness as wellness strategies. “For years, the question was ‘what more do I need?’” said Linser. “The answer today is: what can I get rid of to feel better?”

A panel of journalists included Jane Kitchen of Spa Business, who acted as moderator, as well as Sarah Camilleri of European Spa and spa & wellbeing vlogger and blogger Raffaella Dallardo.

Filip Boyen, CEO of the Forbes Travel Guide, spoke on a panel hosted by Sammy Gharieni, CEO of Gharieni Group. Boyen explained that 70 per cent of the Forbes standards are about emotions – how hotels, restaurants and spas make their customers feel. “The difference between a good and a great hotel is simple – it’s service,” he explained.

Pleuvry spoke about thalassotherapy, its importance in French culture, and how a new, younger clientele is discovering the wellness practice. “Twenty years ago the clientele was more 50+, but now it’s attracting more young people who come for shorter stays – four days rather than several weeks,” he said, revealing that the Thalasso Union Study showed that 75 per cent of 18 to 34 year-olds are ‘very interested’ in thalassotherapy.

The Forum HOTel&SPA has always sought to highlight the importance of thalassotherapy, and each year awards the Blue Diamond Award to someone within the thalassotherapy industry who has made a big contribution; this year, Marisa Melpignano, director and owner of The Masseria San Domenico in Italy, received the award.

The Black Diamond Award – which designates the best spa manager of the year, who by a simple action or lifetime career has earned the recognition of his or her peers – was given to Katia Dufon-Schaffhauser, Director of the Maison de la Beauté – Carita in Paris.

Next year's event will be held on 1 June, 2023.

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