Director of the Guerlain Spa in Toronto talks about the challenges and opportunities inherent in providing an exceptional spa experience
Spa Star: Jean-Guy de Gabriac
Wellness is more than just improving your mental and physical health. It is an act of influence to inspire others to become the best version of themselves – a belief held passionately by Jean-Guy de Gabriac, founder of World Wellness Weekend. Launched in 2017, as a global movement to increase awareness of healthy lifestyles, this year the event will be held September 18 and 19 in over 130 countries and 950 cities.
De Gabriac is a perpetual motion machine, whose experience and knowledge across the spa, wellness and hospitality spectrum is phenomenal. He is the CEO of Tip Touch International, an award-winning consultancy and education company specializing in the guest experience for the hospitality and spa industries. He holds a bachelor degree in marketing and communications and once worked at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.
What ignited your passion for wellness?
As a seven-year-old, I wondered why some people had such great energy, while others were simply plodding through life. After I had two motorcycle accidents, I was introduced to Reiki and it opened my eyes. I realized I wanted to work with energy flows and was lucky to meet dynamic people who introduced me to massage and the spa community. I’ve seen a growing number of therapists embracing ancient Eastern practices, studying reiki and shiatsu, and learning about unique energy practices.
I’m fascinated by physiology, meridians, pressure points and Vedic Akashic fields. I questioned how we might improve someone’s energy balance and help them be their best, beyond hands-on treatment. There are different techniques that can restart the energy, the vitality, and it’s something I wanted to share. As a symbol of our connection to each other, World Wellness Weekend can open the door to greater synchronicity and the universe. I encourage you to listen to your inner selves, to probe for these messages in your clients as you treat them.
Do spas have a responsibility as beacons of wellness?
When you see that well-being is ranked third out of the 17 most important sustainability goals identified by the United Nations, and you think about the suffering, the poverty, illness and stress that exist in the world today, you soon realize our profession does have a responsibility. There are so many opportunities for spas, fitness centres, hotels and resorts. Are we looking at our clients holistically using the five pillars of health as a lens, or are we missing out through complacency and an unwillingness to invest in the development of our therapists so they can help their clients, their communities and themselves become their best?
What effect has the pandemic had?
The pandemic has turned the world upside down. Social distancing has been particularly difficult and our clients are hungry for more meaningful interactions that help boost mindfulness, better nutrition, movement and vitality, improved sleep and a sense of purpose – the five pillars of wellness. Massage therapists, estheticians, fitness and nutrition counsellors, and wellness practitioners have an opportunity and an obligation to partner with the medical community and others to work toward better prevention and strengthening the immune system. I recently saw a photo of a surgeon and nurses and anesthetist, who were just about to go into the operating room, holding hands and doing Reiki together.
What are your hopes for World Wellness Weekend?
As we move through the pandemic, and have to learn to live as well as possible with the virus and its variants, let’s encourage people to switch to healthier lifestyles, and to feel the joy of being well. As we all adjust to a new normal, let’s make enthusiasm “safely contagious”. Let’s encourage guests to join classes, workshops, retreats during the year. Let’s build our client relationships, boost return visits, nurture employee moral and so much more. It’s not just an event in September – from sunrise in Fiji until sunset in Hawaii, it’s a planetary movement. It’s not just one weekend – I hope that wellness enthusiasts or “weekenders” will visit our website (wellmap.org) and be inspired all year long by Weekends of Wellness.
Why did you choose the timing of World Wellness Weekend to fall each year on the Autumn Equinox?
The Equinox symbolizes the harmony of work and life as it is a moment in the year where day and night hours are equal. It’s fall in the northern hemisphere, a time when people enjoy nature’s glorious colours.
It’s also a time when tourist numbers dwindle, and hotels and resorts look for ways to fill emptying rooms. Below the equator, it’s spring, a time to renew and refresh. September is a very strong month to get business back on track for fitness clubs promoting memberships and spas introducing new products and treatments. We also didn’t want to compete with Global Wellness Day in June.
What are some of the benefits of participating in this iconic weekend?
We showcase the participating venues on our website in 16 languages, and include in our international press releases the “wellness champions” who go above and beyond. The website is a great resource to attract wellness enthusiasts, with creative ideas for activities, marketing and communications materials, and social media. We strive to inspire wellness professionals worldwide so that in turn they can elevate their services and programs. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what your plans are and we’ll promote them on the website.
Today, you are jet-setting to destinations around the world. How do you maintain your own vitality?
The truth is, like anybody else, I need to take better care of myself. I travel a lot and by the time I adjust, I’ve depleted my sleep reservoirs. My wife quite wisely asked why I was taking care of the wellness of the world, when I should also take care of myself. When I’m home, I practice yoga, sometimes with my daughter’ westie, Snowy. Through mindfulness I enter a state of flow and creativity. I am driven by a strong sense of purpose – to help make a difference, as often as I can.