Academics & Research

Cougars profit from relaxation

Starting next spring, students in the spa management program will be learning how to turn wellness into profit.

The program is a specialized area students can study at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. In the new course, “Wellness trends within hospitality,” participants will learn how to manage and flourish in the wellness industry.

“There really hasn’t been a course to look at the business side of this industry,” said Su Gibson, who lectures in the department. “But wellness is impacting every part of hospitality.”

The spa management emphasis is relatively new to UH, but students say it has already managed to change their perspective of the industry. One student, who is currently traveling the country, credits the program for her present opportunities. Another said the program helped her fulfill a teenage dream.

Kate Sornson, a hotel and restaurant management senior, had the unique opportunity to stop by Glen Ivy Hot Springs in Corona, Calif., last week and help promote “Hula-Rama”, an event highlighting the health spa experience. Participants at the event hoped to set a new record for the most people hula-hooping at one time, she said.

“I’m currently traveling the country promoting health and wellness,” Sornson said.

Her travel experiences will count as her program’s capstone, which provides an opportunity to learn with hands-on experience.

She was offered the opportunity after meeting with her contact, Carol Boger, at a Spa industry networking event in Austin.

Upon completion of her degree, Sornson said she plans to open a destination spa that can bring healing to clients suffering from addictions.

“It’s such a new industry, and there’s so much you can do,” she said.

Sornson says she is still exploring and defining wellness for herself each day and suggested that each person should define wellness in his or her own way.

“For me, it’s a lot about balance and moderation — not taking things to the extreme,” she said. “But I can’t define wellness for anyone else.”

Spas and wellness mesh easily because of the variety in spas, Gibson said. Some spas are housed in the back of small salons, while others are full-scale spa parlors, she explained. Many types of businesses can combine and be associated with spas, she said.

“The more you get into spas, the wider it gets. It’s not just about massages. It’s the food, the experience,” Gibson said.

Another hotel and restaurant management senior, Dorothy Rich, said the program has broadened her understanding of the spa industry and given her an experience in leadership.

“Before taking the class, I knew the basics of what a spa was,” she said. “But after taking it, I got a better understanding of the organizational structure, services and products used, plus the various types of Spas present around the world. I’ve actually had an interest in the spa industry since I started getting highlights as a young teenager. I just felt like I fit in that environment because I love everything from the atmosphere to the ability to heal people without medicine.”

Rich is currently the president of Houston Spa Association Student Chapter; it is her last semester before graduation. If it wasn’t, she said she would sign up for the “Wellness trends within hospitality” course, which will be taught by Gibson.

“I think it’s great that Mrs. Gibson is expanding the spa program at our college — first with the start of the Houston Spa Association Student Chapter, and now she has taken it to another level by creating additional classes,” Rich said.

Topics for possible discussion in the new course include the definition of wellness, history of spas, food, beverages, lodging, home care and health, destination spas, medical tourism, energy healing, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, eco-resorts and many more.

Students interested in learning more about spa management and the new wellness industry course are invited to attend the “Wellness trends within hospitality” think-tank session during Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management’s Hall of Honor festivities from 10-11 a.m. on Oct. 19. Email [email protected] for more information.

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