Global Wellness Summit 2017

Global Wellness Summit 2017 The Breakers Miami

A three-day event held at The Breakers Palm Beach in Miami, this year’s Global Wellness Summit features an impressive line-up of 50 speakers, looking at the concept of “Living a We’ll Life” and why wellness is changing the way business is

Destination Deluxe caught up with Susie Ellis, chairman and CEO of the Global Wellness Summit, to talk about the future of wellness.

Susie Ellis Global Wellness Summit - Destination Deluxe


We are very excited about our theme “Living a Well Life”, because in addition to highlighting the most cutting-edge trends for our industry, we will do so by focusing on the individual. And in order to do that, we’re committed that each delegate has a lot of different experiences that will be extremely meaningful personally and for our collective businesses.

This theme gives us the opportunity to craft an agenda that speaks to every aspect of wellness (beauty, travel, spa, fitness, nutrition, medicine, the environment, etc.) and its impact on each of us “personally”. Wellness is becoming less an external “amenity”, and more something that affects every aspect of an individual’s life: from the air we breathe, to where and how we work and live, to how we feel mentally and emotionally, to what we eat, to how we connect with each…and what all of it means to our lives. With this theme, we are empowered to look “inward” and to focus on how new wellness concepts will increasingly transform every single aspect of human life.

Because the theme places the individual at the center of the wellness conversation, attendees will not only hear from experts about the latest breakthroughs, they will be able to tangibly participate in them – from personal biomarker testing to how virtual reality is being applied to wellness.

Key topics at the 2017 Summit will include:

Wellness and Technology: This year we return to the United States, and from the beginning we knew we wanted to tap into the country’s expertise and innovation in technology. Thus, there will be quite a few interesting glimpses into how wellness and technology will intersect in the future. So many things to discuss, from virtual reality to artificial intelligence to DNA or biomarker testing to sleep analysis technology.

One topic that will be front-and-center is the new personal biomarker and DNA testing that is springing up all over the globe. In fact, in order to have a more meaningful conversation and debate about this topic, we are encouraging each of our delegates to experience a DNA or other biomarker test before they come to the Summit – to make discussions more robust and personal.

The opportunities for wellness and integrative medicine to contribute to solving the problem of increasing healthcare costs that are happening all over the world – most that are preventable through lifestyle changes. We’re going to bring a uniquely new discussion to this topic by exploring marketing opportunities to galvanize interest and participation in prevention. To help us with that, we will have keynotes from some of the most successful medical professionals who have used the media in powerful ways to help people make changes. It really is a historic line-up of integrative medical leaders, including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Michael Roizen (Cleveland Clinic), Dr. Dean Ornish (Professor of Medicine, UCSF), Dr. Richard Carmona (former U.S. Surgeon General and now with Canyon Ranch Institute), Dr. Paul Limburg (Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic) and Dr. Kenneth Pelletier (Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona and UCSF).

Workplace Wellbeing: Workplace well-being will be another major thread, not only because The Breakers Palm Beach has an award-winning and eye-opening workplace well-being program, but also because the program they have embraced more than 12 years ago was launched at Lake Nona, Florida. (The Breakers workplace program is second to none and we will experience the results of a company that has invested in a culture of wellbeing for their 2,000-person team for over a decade.) It was called the Core Performance Health Center and was purchased by Johnson and Johnson, and we will have one of the founders with us as a key speaker. Topics to be explored: the extraordinary impact that a fast-changing work environment will have on human wellness, to the latest research on how people prefer to work, to the “ergonomics of wellbeing”.

Mental Wellbeing: The world is experiencing a mental wellness crisis, with so much more stress, anxiety and depression – certainly with 24/7 digital connectedness, the erosion of a work-life divide, and so much geopolitical uncertainty, as key culprits. So, mental wellness has emerged as a topic of extreme interest from consumers. We will be tackling that issue from a variety of vantage points where our industry has a lot of opportunity to contribute: mindfulness, meditation, music, dance, art and beauty.

Professor Gerry Bodeker, PhD (professor at Oxford and Columbia Universities and the Chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Mental Wellness Initiative will share the latest research and we will hear from prominent medical professionals, including two psychiatrists, about how our wellness world and the modalities that we promote, such as healthy eating, exercise, stress reduction and looking our best, can help prevent mental health issues.

How Beauty Intersects with Wellness and What Neuroscience Teaches Us About Beauty: We have a focus this year on the new science of neuroaesthetics – exploring the relationship between beauty and the brain. There are some very interesting findings in this arena and an entire new universe to explore!

This will shine the spotlight on the beauty arena in a totally new way. Last year’s Global Wellness Institute research showed that beauty is the goliath US$1-trillion market within the US$3.7 trillion global wellness industry – a number that speaks volumes about people’s eternal quest to look attractive and youthful. And yet knowledge about beauty’s scientific and “brain” basis, and its emotional effects on individuals, is a just-emerging area of research. To tackle this fascinating new field of study, we will have three of the leading experts on the neuroscience of beauty keynoting. Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, MD, Elliott Professor of Neurology, The University of Pennsylvania and author of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art, will enlighten us about beauty from a neuroscience point of view and explore with us the opportunities (and his new research on) at the intersection of beauty and wellness. We also have Nancy Etcoff, PhD, Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard Medical School and author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. And Dr. Lisa Ishii, MD, Chief Quality Officer for Clinical Best Practices at Johns Hopkins Health System and a renowned plastic surgeon, whose research focus is on facial perception, and who will present the latest findings on how beauty impacts the brain, and how making the most of one’s looks can be life enhancing. These discussions should shake up fundamental perceptions about (and within) the beauty industry.

The Science of Happiness: We will have a historic line-up of experts on the ‘Science of Happiness’ keynoting at the summit. Leading thinkers – including Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, associate editor of the World Happiness Report; Mo Gawdat, Google [X] Chief Business Officer and author of Solve for Happy; Silvia Garcia, former director of Coca Cola’s Happiness Institute will analyze the latest discoveries from happiness science and what it means for businesses and individuals alike.

Economists have long equated GDP growth and economic prosperity with social progress, which became the end-goal of public policy. But in recent years, a new “science of happiness” has been galvanized by global research studies like the UN’s World Happiness Report and The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. This research takes a multidimensional approach to measuring total wellbeing for nations (yes, financial prosperity, but also crucial components like social/community connection, physical health, freedom, and shared purpose), and is fast proving a more accurate measure of national progress and true life satisfaction.

With a fast-growing interest in insights from happiness science, more governments are taking action. For example, Bhutan was the first nation to create a “Gross National Happiness Index” to drive policies around individual well-being, not GDP – and more recently, Dubai has made happiness a wide-ranging policy priority, appointing the first Minister of Happiness in 2016. Workplaces, grasping the high levels of employee unhappiness and their toll on productivity, are now executing on lessons learned from happiness science. The mental health industry, long focused on human failings/pathology, is embracing neuroscience to understand the mechanisms of happiness, hope, empathy, resilience and joy, along with approaches like positive psychology. We even see tourism destinations/programming starting to be designed around the pillars of happiness.

So, we are going to immerse delegates in the findings and applications of this new field of research – so important to all in the wellness and spa industry.

Wellness trends coming around the bend, generally: For instance, we will look at the hottest trends from the millennial point of view, including keynotes by Well + Good‘s Melisse Gelula and Alexis Brue, which I think will cause quite a buzz. 

Wellness Communities and Lifestyle Real Estate: Our 2017 Global Wellness Institute research is focused on this fast-growing new wellness market. It will be the first study ever done on this emerging sector and no doubt help propel forward the idea of people living in a community where health and wellness are a priority. The research study findings will be presented at the summit. And we are seeing a great deal of interest from developers and investors who see this as a crucial future trend. From the development of buildings and communities with wellness at their core, to their impact on residents, communities, and investment worldwide, it will be a hot topic.


It is heading to “wellness everywhere” – no longer just an amenity or experience at a spa, wellness is transforming every aspect of human life: what we eat, wear, where we live, how we work, how we travel, etc. Meaning it’s extraordinarily mainstream and of interest to everyone. That is very exciting.

It is no longer just something for the elite, rather we are all recognizing that true wellness necessitates that all people are healthy and have a sense of wellbeing. Almost every industry and so many businesses are thinking about wellness now; we see conversations regarding wellness architecture, wellness travel, workplace wellness, wellness for cancer, wellness in schools, wellness communities, wellness hotel rooms (these are some of the initiatives of the non-profit Global Wellness Institute). We even see it percolating in traditional retail and department stores: evidenced by the Wellery that just opened at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York a few weeks ago.

The future is wellness baked into every aspect of everyday life – not just an occasional purchase or amenity.


This will be our 11th summit. And clearly there have been many nuggets of wisdom that I have gleaned from each of the past 10. These are some of the highlights that stand out for me personally.

The launch of in Bali when the audience gave the medical doctors and me a standing ovation. Some people were actually in tears showing their appreciation for having created a way for industry professionals to access the medical data that provided the evidence of the efficacy of such modalities as massage, yoga, acupuncture, etc.

We’ve also had a few spiritual leaders who spoke at our events, and I recognized the value they add to each of our lives. Their many years of profound study and selfless dedication give them insights that are not so readily available to those of us (most of us) who have lives that are not dedicated almost solely to spiritual pursuits.

At the summit in Delhi, India, economist Thierry Malleret said something that shocked me, but I have come to see his prediction playing out. He said, “There will be a time when some countries will make wellness mandatory.” It’s happening.

One thing that impacted me personally in a major way was the research that the non-profit Global Wellness Institute did on The Future of Wellness at Work. I really “got it” that our work must contribute to our wellbeing, not hurt it. This is important for anyone who supervises others, runs or owns a company, and ultimately is an investment in each employee becoming more creative, innovative and ultimately much more productive.


We are aware that not everyone can attend our invitation-only summits. But we want very much for people everywhere to be able to benefit from the information and inspiration that takes place at our annual event. Some ways for people to gain some of the benefits of the summit are to view the videos or read the transcripts that we make available to the world after the summit. 

Signing up for the bi-weekly Global Wellness Brief, which is part of the non-profit Global Wellness Institute, is a good way to stay up to date on the latest studies, news and insights across the wellness world.

Becoming familiar with the research from the Global Wellness Institute can be extremely enlightening . It is also possible for people to get involved with one of the 20 Initiatives supported by the Global Wellness institute, that are more targeted in terms of what part of wellness they are focused on.


There needs to be more emphasis on the prevention of illness. With the vast majority of disease being a result of behaviors and lifestyles and entirely preventable, we have a great opportunity to affect the most meaningful change. Recognizing that making lifestyle changes is not easy – and especially difficult once someone is older, it is increasingly important that good lifestyle habits are learned and adopted at a young age. We need more emphasis on lifestyle change and also recognizing that, in the end, it is an individual’s responsibility to make the changes necessary to live a life of thriving. And to support them in that.

We need more wellness offerings beyond the 1%. In a world where rising inequality and a sense of “unfairness” is leading to a global, populist backlash – a wellness industry that’s become narrowly associated with wealthy elites (…the US$300 yoga pants and treatments) must, and will, change. You can feel the criticism of a wellness industry overly-preoccupied with serving rich elites start to ratchet up. So, we need more in the wellness industry to give back and “do something” to bring more wellness services to more people.

We’re seeing a proliferation of lower-cost wellness products and services, and that’s such good news: from a new spate of affordable healthy grocery stores to low-cost spa chains. But at the same time, a new focus on the wellbeing of the employees/practitioners that actually deliver all this “wellness.” So, lower prices, but a conversation about “fair price” and the state of wellness labor.

See also: 10 Wellness Trends for 2023

Global Wellness Summit 2017 The Breakers Palm Beach Miami