A chat with ISPA Chairman Patrick Huey

ISPA Chairman, Patrick Huey

Newly elected ISPA Chairman, Patrick Huey, spoke with Spa Executive about the future of the wellness industry and the power of community.

Patrick Huey is the Vice President, Spa and Retail, for Montage International, and the newly elected Chairman of the International Spa Association (ISPA). 

He steps into the role of Chairman after four years as an ISPA board member. He is deeply familiar with the ways in which ISPA seeks to serve its members, according to a media release. And, he has enthusiastically lent his voice to a number of industry events and initiatives designed to support businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He is an outspoken advocate for the power of community and connection. 

Mr. Huey has served as Group Director of Spas – Asia for MSpa at Minor Hotels International; Corporate Director of Spa, Fitness and Tennis for Sandals Resorts International; and Corporate Spa Director for Viceroy Hotel Group. 

Spa Executive spoke with Patrick Huey about his new appointment, how the industry can benefit from working together, and what the future has in store.

Congratulations on your election as ISPA Chair. What does this mean for you?

This is such a unique and unusual time in the spa industry. As the world shifts and changes and faces turmoil, so does our business. Being elected Chairman means working with our incredible volunteer board to ensure stability and optimism to the industry as we navigate these extraordinary times. 

How are you feeling about the current situation in spa and wellness? Are you optimistic? Is this a good time to be coming into this role?

I do feel optimistic. With all that is happening around us, it is quite easy to give in to pessimism, but we must fight that urge. This is the life we have today. We still have to live it and make the most of it – even in the face of daunting circumstances. If you look at the great moments in history, the story is made in the struggle: WWII, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement. So, yes, it is a good time to be part of this amazing ISPA Board and I am humbled and honored to be Chairman.

What will you do as ISPA Chairman? What is your first order of business?

Right now, the board is focused on continuing to build and expand the virtual content for ISPA. It is critical that we continue to communicate with the ISPA Membership and the global spa community. We have seen firsthand how impactful our Town Halls and Chats with Product Pros have been. We are giving our members real world, useful information to run their businesses and inspiration along the way. We are also planning our ISPA Conference and Expo for May of 2021 as well as our membership renewal process. These are large areas of focus and necessary ones. We are a human-to-human industry and nothing can replace or substitute for that. The act of coming together and communicating is necessary.

You’ve talked about the importance of community. Why is this important and how?

Spa has always been an industry that fosters close connections between those of us who are lucky enough to be in it. This time of COVID-19 has only heightened that sense of togetherness, mainly because in the beginning of the pandemic we all had more time on our hands to actually talk to one another. I connected with people I had not spoken to in years. It is that sense of community and working cooperatively that will get us through this time. That and the optimism we talked about earlier.

How can the industry benefit from working together?

When ISPA put out its Reopening Toolkit (and the subsequent upgrades), that was the result of many great spa professionals coming together to create a document that we could present to the world as a pathway to reopening safely. Without the cooperative spirit between ISPA, volunteer task forces and some of the best minds in the industry, the document would not have come together as quickly and effectively as it did. With more than 180,000 views, it is the gold standard for reopening and operating a spa safely today. 

What have you learned over the past 6 months?

I have learned to live life for today. In the toughest moments (and I’m sure we have all had them), I have just focused day-to-day, sometimes minute-to-minute. I have also learned to get back to what is essential. Pre-COVID life felt like a blur. Now it feels very present to me.

How have things changed at Montage International?

We, like all companies, are learning how to operate in this time. What is great is that we are still focused on opening two hotels this year – Montage Healdsburg and Pendry West Hollywood. So, while we remain very much rooted in the present, the optimism and building for the future is there as well.

In the Book4Time webinar, you said that hospitality has traditionally been afraid of moving forward in big ways – referring, I think, to technology – and that we’re now doing that. What roles will technology play in the future?

Technology will be our friend. We are all learning how to work in social media channels and build content that can exist virtually. Having options like online booking, “emailable” receipts, touchless payment options, QR Coded menus (a great way to reduce paper usage and costs for printing) are all here to stay. And the great thing about these technological enhancements is that they allow us to keep our focus squarely on the guests and what they experience when they come into our spas, because that experience is the heart of the matter.

What do you think are the biggest challenges the industry will face over the next year?

Patience. Patience. Patience. I keep hearing people say, “I’m ready for this to be over,” or “I’m ready to go back to the way it was before.” That longing for something that is not present creates a lot of stress and anxiety. We are in a situation where the only way out is through. So let’s be optimistic about the future, and let’s also live through each day on its own terms.

How is leadership changing and what will leaders need to do more of going forward?

Adaptability will be a key component of leadership, and being comfortable with the rapid pace of change. We can be walking in one direction today, and the next day the city issues an ordinance and we are going in a completely new direction the following day. Making that shift gracefully and effectively and thoughtfully is what leadership looks like today. 

What developments are you excited about?

My colleagues and I on the ISPA board are excited about planning for the ISPA Conference and Expo for May 2021. We as an industry need to be able to come together and celebrate life and what we have been able to accomplish through this extraordinary time. We are all excited about that celebration in the truest meaning of that word. I’m also excited about our ISPA series Heart of the Matter. We are engaging in thoughtful conversations with some pretty interesting  people about their work and their lives as a way to highlight topics and conversations that will be beneficial for our members’ lives as professionals, but also who they are in their lives outside of work.


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.