Media Contact: Beth McGroarty
[email protected] • +1.213.300.0107


Global Wellness Summit Will Explore the Fascinating History of Central European Spa-Bathing Culture – along with Future Trends in the Thermal Spa Market


Miami, FL – August 30, 2016 – With the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) headed to Europe, where “taking the waters” has been a way of life for centuries, the conference program will take a deep dive into the extraordinary past – and packed-with-potential future – of the European and global thermal spa culture and market. At the conference in Kitzbühel, Austria (October 17-19) renowned historian David Clay Large will keynote on the eye-opening history of the “grand spa towns” of Austria and Central Europe, which, in their glorious heyday from the late 18th- to the early 20th-centuries, functioned not only as hotbeds of healing, but of incredible artistic creation, politicking and intrigue. And Tom Bauer, COO of VAMED Vitality World, operating eight of Austria’s top thermal spa resorts, will present on the future of thermal bathing destinations, and innovations now unfolding to meet the needs of the modern traveler.

In addition, the Global Wellness Institute, as part of its major research update on the global wellness economy, will present fresh data on the worldwide, regional and national thermal/mineral springs markets. Currently, 16 of the top 20 hot springs markets in the world are in Europe, with Austria’s roughly $1 billion annual industry ranking 6th worldwide. And the Global Hot Springs Initiative will meet in a special forum entitled, “Soaking up History: Steaming into the Hot Springs ‘R’ Evolution.”

Delegates can also opt for pre- and post-Summit trips to Austria’s most storied and super-modern thermal spas: Professor Large will lead a tour of the nation’s most historic destinations, while an outing to Tom Bauer-operated Vamed Vitality World’s vast, modern Aquadome is also on offer.

“This programming reflects the power of our 2016 theme, “Back to the Future” – with historians and entrepreneurs connecting the past, present and future of thermal bathing. David Clay Large’s keynote on the surprising role that Central Europe’s magnificent spa-bathing towns played in civilization, as places of profound creativity and social connection, opens up thought-provoking directions for future development, even though this history remains unknown to people currently investing in the industry. And Tom Bauer’s future-focused talk will provide fascinating insight into new models and key trends in thermal bathing destinations,” noted Susie Ellis, GWS chairman and CEO. “Thermal/mineral springs have huge, growing interest with consumers, investors and governments right now, with so many new (and upgraded) properties underway all over the world, from Eastern Europe revitalizing its historic facilities, to new builds from China to Costa Rica. The Summit is unique in bringing the experts together to strategize the future of this often-overlooked, but very profitable, $50 billion industry.”

Keynote: David Clay Large
Large is a distinguished historian and professor, and currently Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley. The author of 11 books on modern European history (with a focus on Austria and Germany), he recently released “The Grand Spas of Central Europe: A History of Intrigue, Politics, Art, and Healing”, research forming the springboard for his keynote. Large will analyze the complex social, cultural and artistic history of the grand spa towns of Central Europe, opulent destinations like Baden-Baden, Bad Ems, Bad Gastein, Bad Ischl and Marienbad, which reached their pinnacle of popularity and prestige between the French Revolution and World War II – a pinnacle unmatched in “spa history” before or since. Attracting aristocrats, statesmen, imperial families and even the middle-class, the connection between the “spa cure” and “creativity” was strong: literary giants, composers and thinkers like Beethoven, Chopin, Freud, Goethe, Mozart, Nietzsche, Twain, Tolstoy, Turgenev (and even Marx) flocked to these spa towns; books and operas were written there; performances were given; and music and theater were a centerpiece of the spa experience. This window into the phenomenal impact of historic Austrian and European spa resorts should open interesting windows into potential future strategies.

Keynote: Tom Bauer
Bauer is COO of VAMED Vitality World, an extremely successful network of nine thermal bathing/spa resorts across Austria and Hungary, spanning 3,000 hotel beds, 25,000 square meters of water surface, 100 saunas, 150 treatment rooms, employing 2,000 people, and attracting 3.1 million visitors a year. His keynote will analyze key trends in, and creative new concepts for, thermal bathing properties. For instance, with (increasingly urban) humans now starved for both time and space, and most Europeans unable to afford the traditional two-week “spa cure,” he will explore how much shorter (even one-day) holiday offerings, that densely pack in a whole lot of stress-reduction, are appearing – enabled by everything from new design to online booking technology. He will further examine how the winning spa-bathing properties of the future will “democratize” the experience (so all can access and afford), embrace local authenticity in all they do, forge strong partnerships between the property and the community, and devise transportation solutions that help both aging and young (often car-less) guests get to the property seamlessly.

Record Number of Pre- and Post-Summit Trips:
For 2016, the Summit offers delegates an unprecedented number of trips (7), arranged by wellness travel expert, Sallie Fraenkel, of Mind Body Spirit Network. And two are dedicated to exploring Austria’s world-famous spa-bathing destinations. After the Summit (Oct. 19-22), “Healing in the Hills: The Thermal Waters and Grand Spas of Austria” (led by David Clay Large), visits three of Austria’s most historic spas: Bad Gastein, Bad Hofgastein, and Bad Ischl. View the itinerary here.

A Pre-Summit trip (Oct. 15) to Aqua Dome, the largest, most modern thermal spa hotel in Tyrol, will immerse delegates in a wonderland of pools, saunas and spa treatments. View the experience, which includes a special Sauna Aufguss event (a fun, fast-growing thermal bathing trend), here.

The Global Wellness Summit attracts leaders from every sector of the wellness industry: tourism, spa, education, beauty, fitness, nutrition, finance, environment, medicine, architecture, workplace wellness, wellness communities and technology.

To learn more about the 2016 GWS, visit:

To speak to experts David Clay Large or Tom Bauer, contact Beth McGroarty: [email protected].

About the Global Wellness Summit: The Global Wellness Summit (GWS) is an invitation-only international gathering that brings together leaders and visionaries to positively shape the future of the $3.4 trillion global wellness industry. Held in a different location each year, the Summit attracts delegates from all over the world. Summits have taken place in the U.S., Switzerland, Turkey, Bali, India, Morocco and Mexico City. The 2016 Summit will be held in Kitzbühel, Tyrol, Austria from October 17-19


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