I’m very proud to report that spa history was made in Washington, DC, when the Washington Spa Alliance (WSPA) gathered for its 5th Annual Symposium at the National Press Club on March 17th.
We had much to celebrate! As a co-founder of WSPA and the Symposium Chair, I’d been hard at work on an initiative—a real spa first! My hope was to bring together all of the regional spa leadership in the States once and for all—in one room in our Nation’s capital.
On March 17th, these leaders answered the call and came together in a historic first at WSPA’s 5th Annual Symposium:
•Mia Mackman, Founder, Arizona Spa & Wellness Association
•Ilana Moses, Founder, Florida Spa Association
•Lenny Lacour, Founder, Great Lakes Spa Alliance
•Darryll Leiman, President, Hawaii Spa Association
•Jennifer Lynn, Chair, Las Vegas Spa Association
•Christine Mathes, Founder, New England Spa Association
•Professor Mary Huddleston Tabacchi, Founder, New York Spa Alliance
•Ada Polla, Co-Founder & Treasurer, Washington Spa Alliance
In addition, we were joined by Michael Tompkins, Chair, International Spa Association (ISPA) and CEO, Hilton Head Health; Professor Jonathan Paul de Vierville, Co-Founder, Balneology Association of North America (BANA) and owner of the Alamo Plaza Spa; and Paul Schmidt, Executive Director, Green Spa Network (GSN).
Every single regional spa leader enthusiastically embraced the invitation to gather together for this historic first to determine how we can work together and really put some muscle behind spa awareness.
As a longtime spa journalist and as an advocate for spa—I began dreaming of this national, grassroots approach to community building in 2003. Back then, regional groups were just beginning to take form: the Las Vegas Spa Association, one of the first, had launched in 2002. The New York Spa Alliance followed in 2004 . . .
We launched WSPA in 2010, in the thick of the Great Recession, when spa was in a state of real retrenchment. Spas were closing and the industry appeared trivial at best and frivolous at worst, at a time when so many were worrying about their livelihoods. Consumers and industry leaders alike were distancing themselves from the very word “spa.”
But now the time has come for us to recognize that spa is neither trivial nor frivolous—and indeed, finally, spa has come of age!
I’m happy to report that every single regional spa leader enthusiastically embraced the invitation to gather together for this historic first to determine how we can work together and really put some muscle behind spa awareness. Now, more than ever, we need to join forces—not only to raise spa awareness in our country—but to affect policy.
“We, each one of us, came to the work of spa because it is everyone’s right to breathe fully, sleep deeply, and live with strength—and that means going beyond the walls of our spas to be more fully engaged in activism, advocacy, and public policy,” said Mary-Elizabeth Gifford, WSPA Co-Founder and Vice Chair, who asked those gathered who was willing to go to the Hill the next day.
First thing, the following morning on March 18th, another historic first: Over two dozen spa founders and regional leaders stood on the Capitol steps and sang, “America the Beautiful,” before heading out to Congressional and Senate offices to share a new legislative agenda.