DAYSPA blogs from the 8th Annual Global Spa & Wellness Summit in Morocco: Day 1 continues

Paul PricePaul Price

Paul Price

The Global Spa & Wellness Summit official program kicked off this morning, after early-morning yoga and jogging and a healthy breakfast around the pool. As pictures communicate better than words, our first treat was a video montage by Louie Schwartzberg depicting typical Moroccan scenes, providing a lovely sense of our surrounding environment.

Pete and Susie Ellis, along with conference co-chairs, Six Senses’ Neil Jacobs and Anna Bjurstam, gave welcoming remarks and some history of the event, and discussed how far it has come in just eight years. But the most effective sense of place came from the opening keynote speaker, Magatte Wade, CEO & Founder of luxury Senegalese product line Tiossan. Magatte was, however, not here to talk about products and science, but about the fact that Africa is the “last frontier” and needs to be recognized for that. And by last frontier she means a destination to be celebrated and mined for the experiences it provides; the traditional healing, the indigenous ingredients, a rich bounty that just needs better packaging and branding. Wade loves her continent all the more for having a global perspective—she has lived in Europe and the U.S.—and wants to see Africa take its rightful place in the panoply of spa treatments, rather than seeing Swedish massage on the menu at African spa properties.

Moroccan Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad and Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development Chairman Imad Barrakad both provided welcoming remarks, and an overview of the current initiative to double wellness tourism to the country by the year 2020.

CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg moderated a panel of tourism officials from Spain, Morocco, Thailand and New Zealand, and they discussed the current focus of the various governments as they relate to wellness tourism and the opportunity presented. All participants agreed that wellness tourism is on the rise their countries, and specific programs were underway to support its continued growth, including working with airlines to ease access. Each country has native health practices that can be showcased in spas, and health and wellness tourism growth has an immediate and measurable impact on the local economies.

To make sure we are moving forward and keeping the bulging demographic of millennials front and center, Alexis Jones, entrepreneur and author, was introduced as the program emcee. Jones then introduced the next keynote speaker, Paul Price, CEO of innovation management firm Creative Realities (@paulnprice on Twitter). Price hosted “The Future of Retail: Disruptive Technologies, Curveballs, Dangerous Assumptions and Making It All Work”, in which he described this current time of disruption in which we live as the “second industrial revolution”, and talked about how we are just getting started. Every company is now a technology company, or at minimum needs to embrace technology to deliver its products and services better, smaller, faster and cheaper.

The main trends broken into three categories are:

Internet of Things—now that devices can communicate with each other, what does that mean for retail? Soon your car windshield will notify you when you are near a Starbucks or your favorite spa, much the way your browser zeroes in on your preferences now. Electronic payment methods such as Softcard (formerly Isis), Jumio and FeliCa, among others, will make customer transactions even quicker and easier. The coming development of wireless power transmission will make possible massive innovation of the retail store experience.

Artificial Intelligence—Biometric technologies such as iris and fingerprint identifications, as well as virtual communication tools like Siri and Docomo Concierge, will also speed up transactions, and in some instances will eliminate the need for human interaction. Digital sales assistants can be armed with deep knowledge of each client.

Curveballs—A wide variety of components including:

Robotics—One of Starwood’s Aloft properties already has robots that can deliver your forgotten toothbrush to your room and provide a novelty factor. (Hopefully no robots will be delivering spa treatments!)
Lighting—More scientific proof exists regarding how lighting affects mood, and the manipulation of rays can be used to create feelings and emotions. This will become an increasingly important component of retail environments.
3D Printing—No need to warehouse products if they can be printed on-demand in the store, in the chosen size and color!
Mega-Regions—Price highlighted 10 metro areas in the U.S. that contain 80% of the population; marketing becomes more regional and less city-focused.
Mobile Commerce—2015 will reach $30bn in volume; all businesses MUST have a digital strategy.
Social Marketing—The example Price used was Beyoncé, who released her latest album via an Instagram post and sold more than 300,000 copies the first day! No single, no press tour.

What do we need to do to be prepared? Three simple steps:
1. Move technology into the marketing department and make sure they are communicating
2. Have a plan to use the technology, but don’t let it rule you; don’t be seduced by shiny objects
3. Use technology to drive loyalty and retention, that’s what it’s best at, rather than marketing

All in all, a great morning, and all of this before lunch! Tune back in later for the afternoon report.—Lisa Starr.

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