A visit to the spa was once a luxury reserved for special occasions or for people with money to burn. But as the spa and wellness industry has grown in recent years, getting a massage or a facial has become nearly as routine as picking up the occasional dry cleaning.

In fact, “Here in the Philippines, the pampering market is already too crowded,” says Cathy Turvill, president of the Philippine Wellness and Spa Association (PhilWell). “It became really saturated the past five years—it started with destination spas, followed by day spas, the mom-and-pops, the home massage, the P200 massage, etc. While that may be good in itself, I feel it’s important we move forward and go beyond pampering.”

The Wellness Revolution

If you look at the bigger picture, the world’s population is changing. “There is a crisis among developed countries wherein they have aging populations and a medical system that’s unable to cope with the healthcare demand,” says Turvill. “Here in the Philippines, we have a young and extensive population of qualified doctors, nurses Aand therapists. The way I see it, one man’s problem is another man’s opportunity.”

For Turvill, a spa owner herself, the strategic decision was to go into wellness. Medical tourism is booming across Asia and is becoming one of the primary growth drivers of the wellness industry. “We have a lot of good services here, but we have to move up and enhance the systems and processes of spa and wellness centers the same way hospitals are going into international accreditation,” shares Turvill.

Naturally, benchmarking on higher international standards would entail a lot of investment; which is exactly what Turvill has done with her privately-owned Nurture Spa, one of the pioneering spas in the Philippines. “When my husband Mike and I decided strategically to get into wellness, it required a major overhaul not only of our processes, but of our facilities as well,” she shares. “It was a major investment. We had to renovate our facilities to make it more primed and ready for the international market.”

The Makings of a MediSpa

When the Turvills positioned Nurture Spa in the wellness market, it was not a process that happened overnight. Primarily opened with the objective of being a quiet place for guests to find tranquility and be pampered, Nurture Spa had no expertise in wellness. “We had to find strategic partners in terms of talent. We felt it was important to work with doctors because now we were not just talking about pampering anymore. When a client wants a wellness treatment, we presuppose that it’s a medical issue so we’re already talking about life and death,” shares Turvill.

Some of the new medical-related services incorporated in Nurture Spa was hiring therapists and nurses from the Institute of Natural Healing (INH), as well as investing in a software called the Digital Meridian Scan (DNS). “When a patient comes to us, the first thing we do is we give him a computerized health scan—the DMS—whereby we find out what’s good or what’s wrong about the patient’s current health,” says Turvill.

Developed by the cosmonauts, the DMS monitors all the organs of the body and identifies the current health of the patient. “From there, we can see if there’s a problem or a potential problem with the respiratory system, immune system, etc.,” she shares. “Based on the results, our wellness team sends the info to our partner Dr. Sam Dizon, who comes up with the program or itinerary for the patient. Everything is very customized—from the type of treatment to even the Apatient’s dietary requirements.”

Back to Basic

The whole philosophy of Nurture Spa’s wellness program is maximizing the body’s amazing capacity to heal itself. “We’re really facilitators of healing,” shares Turvill.

Nurture Spa’s wellness services are geared towards complementing a patient’s doctor-prescribed medical treatment. A cancer patient, for example, can avail of the medispa’s acupuncture service, which helps in pain management when undergoing chemotherapy. “Another approach would be coming to us prior to radiation so we can strengthen their immune system, enabling the body to bounce back quicker,” says Turvill. “We’re not here to compete with conventional medicine.

Conventional medicine is an absolute requirement especially in critical cases. We’re just asking people to give natural medicine a chance. If we can advocate prevention so people don’t get sick, or integrative medicine wherein we work with conventional medicine, then that’s what we’re all about.”

This article was published in the Business Agenda section of the Manila Bulletin, September 19, 2010