Lisa Starr, spa consultant

For most people, hearing the words “South Africa” conjures images of vast plains filled with roaming wildlife, Nelson Mandela, the 2010 World Cup, and the infamous rugby team from the movie Invincible. And while these images are indeed accurate, there is a lot more to the country of South Africa. There are also bustling cities, beautiful beaches and 5-star hospitality destinations. The city of Johannesburg, with a population of approximately 20 million— the largest on the African continent—is an international destination for visitors from all over the world, and is the acknowledged business capital of Africa. Capetown is renowned for its natural beauty and wine culture, and third-largest city Durban mixes both urban and beach environments on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

South Africa is also home to a vibrant spa culture and, unlike many countries outside the U.S., home to a high number of day spas as well as hotel, resort and destination spas. Also, unique to the region, you can visit an array of “safari spas”, located in bush areas with abundant wildlife walking by in plain view of spa treatments-in-progress.

The South African edition of spa trade magazine Les Nouvelles Esthetique organizes a two-day spa business conference each year, hosted by the magazine’s editor/publisher and president of the South African Spa Association, Dr. Nadine de Freitas. I’ve just returned from attending the conference, and also facilitating a two-day spa management course for local spa leaders. While the economy in South Africa is still climbing out of the global recession, most reported that business is picking up again and they are eager to continue to evolve their spa operations to be on par with international standards.

The conference offered presentations on topics relevant to spa management, including “Influencing Employee Behavior” by behavioral economist Erik Vermeulen, “Building the New Spa Culture” by Carina Franck, and an excellent panel on human resources-related legal issues currently in place in the country. We also enjoyed an afternoon of demonstrations of new spa therapies, such as one on using locally sourced wooden implements and even gourds to augment massage services; the role of nutrition in the spa; and a fascinating percussive body relaxation treatment developed by a musician. During the conference, the annual Spa Awards nominees and winners are celebrated at a gala dinner, which this year featured an Indian theme, including cuisine and dancing.
—Lisa Starr

Award winners and categories were as follows:

Spa Recognition Awards, given to individuals by their peers, were received by:

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