Insider's Guide to Spas
The lobby of Argentta Spa at The Watergate Hotel. The hotel will host the 2017 WSPA Symposium.


Join Thought Leaders at WSPA Symposium at The Watergate Hotel

Bernard Burt

Turning a glamorous spa into a forum for wellness, the Washington Spa Alliance is set for its 7th Annual Symposium at The Watergate Hotel on Monday, March 20, 2017. The interactive day-long event, whose audience will include local, regional, national and international leaders in spa and allied disciplines, is themed “Connect, Engage, Deliver: How Spa is Fostering America’s Wellbeing Today.”

Legendary spa founder and wellness activist Deborah Szekely will challenge industry leaders to integrate wellness and healthcare. Presenters from a cross-section of America’s wellness and fitness industries will discuss how to implement new programs.

Chaired by veteran spa manager Kate Mearns, of 5 Spa Consulting, the gathering of spa leadership continues a national conversation designed to inspire the spa community to advance a human agenda of health and wellbeing. Washington Spa Alliance is a knowledge center, connecting spa professionals in the nation’s greater Capital region and throughout the United States. The group works to promote the exchange of ideas, education, and innovation in the field, and to ensure the highest spa ideals are met through policy and interaction.

Legendary spa founder and wellness activist Deborah Szekely will challenge industry leaders to integrate wellness and healthcare.

WSPA directors under Penny Kriel, WTS International in Rockville, Maryland, assembled a strong list of industry leaders for the seventh annual symposium:

• Deborah Szekely, dubbed the “Godmother of Wellness” by the Huffington Post, will be fêted as she approaches her 95th birthday. Co-founder of Rancho La Puerta and founder of the Golden Door and Wellness Warrior, she will offer her insightful words of wisdom as she reflects on her work as a wellness pioneer.

• Samer Hamadeh, experienced entrepreneur, founder and CEO of, has created, led and advised successful tech startups for nearly 20 years. Hamadeh’s background and education offers the industry a new perspective on the role of technology.

• Les Sweeney, President of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), brings a wealth of knowledge, as well as data from recent studies on the state of the massage industry.

• Mia Kyricos, president and CEO of Kyricos & Co., with over 20 years of experience to share, has helped to develop, operate, and market wellness-related brands and facilities across more than 100 countries.

• Nancy Davis, the chief creative officer and executive director of the Global Wellness Institute, leads with the mission to “Empower Wellness Worldwide.”

• Ophelia Yeung, senior fellow researcher at the Global Wellness Institute, has extensive experience leading research and strategy development for business, nonprofit, multilateral, and government organizations in dozens of countries around the world.

The growing roster of presenters includes:

• Yael Alkalay, owner, red flower

• Amanda Al-Masri, vice president of spa services, Equinox

• Damon Cory-Watson, director of development, Wellness Warrior

• Maggie Dunphy, executive director of spa and wellness, Destination Hotels

• Frank Pitsikalis, founder and CEO, ResortSuite

• Kathleen Shea, chief marketing officer, Canyon Ranch

• Julia Sutton, chief operating officer, Exhale Enterprises

Registration and Sponsorship updates are online: log onto



Bernard Burt

Bernard Burt

Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book "Fodor's Healthy Escapes" for Random House. The co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World" (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Based in Washington, DC, Burt is chairman emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.