Insider's Guide to Spas


An Unprecedented Action: Spas Get Political

In a first, the spa, wellness, and hospitality community sent an open letter calling on President Trump to condemn bigotry and fascism. The initiative was part of a national outcry against the violence in Charlottesville, that included many Fortune 500 CEOS.

A joint Congressional resolution on Charlottesville that handily passed both houses was eventually signed by the president last month after massive public pressure.

In an unprecedented action for the industry, leading members of the wellness, spa, and hospitality field had called for industry colleagues to boycott Trump properties until the president renounced the hateful violence in Charlottesville. With the signing of the bill, that call to boycott Trump properties has been withdrawn.

“We should have been the first to speak out on this, but we will not be the last . . .”

“With the full support of our board of directors, I signed the petition to demonstrate that ‘responsible travel’ includes behaving responsibly,” said Martha Honey, executive director of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST), a DC-based nonprofit focused on sustainable tourism.

Said Honey, “As a hotel owner, President Trump has profited handsomely from tourism . . . So until that behavior changed, we saw no reason for people, companies, and other nonprofits of good conscience to support the Trump brand.”

The calls on Trump to renounce Neo-Nazi violence came from both sides of the political spectrum and from Fortune 500 CEOs, but the protest from hotel executives and spa owners was especially notable since Trump is first hotel owner and first spa owner to hold the presidency.

The U.S. president’s Trump Organization manages or owns seven namesake hotels in the U.S., the hotel companies Scion and An American Idea, as well as Trump-branded wellness spas, golf courses, and the private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Chip Conley, hospitality entrepreneur and former CEO, a signer, noted, “Travel and tourism is one of the largest sectors in the world’s economy. It brings people together. We in the hospitality field will continue to do everything in our power to unite Americans not divide them—especially by race or religious background.”

In an open letter published on, hotel and spa executives requested that President Trump directly renounce white supremacy and Nazism. The signatories pledged not to hold hotel, spa, or wellness industry events or galas at Trump properties, either in DC, or elsewhere, until the president made his position clear.

Last month, Trump signed a bipartisan Congressional resolution that had passed both houses unanimously, condemning the Neo-Nazi violence at the Charlottesville rally. Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and a co-sponsor declared: “we must call evil by its name.”

“As American hospitality executives, we should have been the first to speak out on this. But I assure you, we will not be the last,” stated Deborah Szekely, founder of the Golden Door and co-founder of Rancho La Puerta, two award-winning spas. Szekely noted,“The Fortune 500 have taken a stand, now it’s our turn,” adding that the industry leadership would continue to stay engaged going forward.

The open letter was drafted by the founders of the Washington Spa Alliance, Mary Bemis, Mary Gendron, and Mary-Elizabeth Gifford.

Mary Bemis, a longtime spa journalist and industry watchdog, observed: “The spa industry reacted with good conscience at this defining moment. For an industry based on healing and wellness, this augurs well for the future.”

Mary-Elizabeth Gifford, an industry activist, said the initiative sparked hotel and wellness spa “owners and workers alike to link arms, and join together for unity and tolerance. We who work in fields dedicated to healing and hospitality have a responsibility to clearly speak up against race hatred and division.”