At this point GWS programming kicked into high gear, with three different options available for much of the day. The main Ideas stage featured a lineup of stellar speakers, each limited to an 18-minute impactful presentation; the Collaboration venue offered a circular seating option for about 200, with roundtable speakers seated in the center; and the more intimate Salon provided for panel discussions. Many of the prominent speakers and thought-leaders presenting at the GWS have written books, which were available for sale in a pop-up bookstore, with book signing opportunities for many of the authors.
The day’s first speaker, Andrew Weil, MD, discussed making healthy food accessible to everyone in his presentation, “How To Really Help People Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices.”
Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona hosted a panel discussion entitled “Making a Difference: Social Impact and Why It’s More Important Than Ever,” with participants including Global Wellness Day (GWD) founder Belgin Aksoy Berkin, Wellness for Cancer founder Julie Bach, and LivUnLtd president Wendy Bosalavage. Carmona set the stage: Globally, 2 billion people are living on less than $1 per day without access to clean water or food, so businesses and organizations are trying to find ways to connect with these communities in need. Panelists shared what each of their companies was doing to contribute in their communities; much of the discussion centered around the logistics of forming a 501(c)3, and the responsibilities of both private and public board members.
Sallie Fraenkel, president of Mind Body Spirit Network, moderated a roundtable with a dozen experts called “Future Focus: The Next Frontier in Spas, Hospitality and Travel.” Fraenkel asked the experts to share what they see as current disruptors in their markets, with some interesting answers:
- Single service category killers, such as Drybar, European Wax Center, etc.
- Sharing economy providers that cut out the middleman, such as Zeel or Soothe
- Microfranchising: businesses that set up a physical space but use on-demand employees, avoiding payroll
- Combining spa with other options, such as dining
- Individualized personalization for retreats
- The continued trend of personal disconnection
- The rise of wellness retreats hosted by social media influencers
- Employees who only want to work 25 or 30 hours per week
The “Business Opportunities in Wellness Communities & Lifestyle Real Estate” talk, hosted by Jared Weiner, featured a dozen experts on the subject, including representatives from Canyon Ranch, Serenbe and Margaritaville Holdings, who weighed in on this growing trend. They observed that just building wellness real estate doesn’t make it a community; Mayo Clinic medical director Paul Limburg defined wellness communities as “places that provide physical, social, spiritual, environmental and other accompanying resources to allow people to reach their full potential.”
Later, Cleveland Clinic chief wellness officer Michael Roizen, MD, gave an impassioned talk, hypothesizing that if people could better adhere to five healthy behaviors (including blood pressure control, nutrition, and alcohol and tobacco avoidance), they could live to 160! Then, Berkin shared an inspiring video with clips of this past June’s GWD activities from around the world, and the day’s programming closed with a lecture by the “Iceman” Wim Hof, who trained his mind to control his body in extreme conditions; he holds the world record for a soak in ice water, hence his name.
The evening activity was an amazing gala dinner, with the entire delegation gathering in a completely transformed ballroom, courtesy of Debra Dunier and her company Eco Chic. With clear glass globes containing candles hanging from the ceiling, walls draped with black fabric and glowing stars, and beautiful sprays of white orchids on the tables, it was a magical experience to say the least. Dinner was accompanied by an auction to raise money for the GWI’s research, followed by dancing.
—by Lisa Starr