Press Releases

SpaFinder Presents Sixth Annual Visionary Award to Deborah Szekely

NEW YORK, NY (October 14, 2008) − SpaFinder Inc., the global spa resource, has announced that it will award its sixth annual Visionary Award to Deborah Szekely, Owner/Founder of the celebrated Golden Door and Rancho La Puerta spa resorts. Ms. Szekely will be honored for nearly seven decades of extraordinary contributions to the spa and wellness industry. As the virtual inventor of the destination fitness spa concept, she also established multiple cornerstones of the modern wellness movement: launching the ‘Fitness Revolution,’ pioneering mainstream acceptance of low-fat diets, and promoting organic, environmentally-friendly living, to name just a few.

The Visionary Award will be formally presented by SpaFinder CEO, Pete Ellis, and President, Susie Ellis, at an invitation-only gala at the brand new Spa by Guerlain® in the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York, on October 14th, 2008.

When Deborah Szekely (along with her husband), co-founded Rancho La Puerta in Mexico nearly 70 years ago, the modern-day fitness and spa vacation experience was born. From its early years as a bring-your-own tent encampment, with no electricity or running water, it has evolved into the global paradigm for a health/wellness vacation and a 21st-century fitness-spa showcase. (It recently received SpaFinder’s 2008 Crystal Award, for being voted ‘Favorite Spa in North America.’) In 1958, Szekely again pioneered new directions for the industry by creating the Golden Door: the first luxury-focused fitness resort. Under Szekely’s firm direction for over half a century, both of these award-winning resorts have continued to set the bar for the global spa industry, which has since grown into a $60 billion market.

“It’s impossible to even conceive of the modern spa experience without the contributions of Deborah Szekely, or to begin to summarize how profound and prophetic her ideas have been,” said Susie Ellis. “Green’ and ‘wellness’ may be two of the most powerful ideas in our culture today, but Deborah was preaching the importance of total wellness (exercise, low-fat/vegetarian diets, organic food), and a ‘green’ lifestyle decades before people even had names for them. From aerobics, to cross training, to introducing yoga into spas, to ‘spa cuisine,’ her inventions are simply too numerous to list.”

Szekely has also served as a lifelong philanthropist: funding, and creating non-profit organizations, in education, health and the environment. At age 86, she maintains a busy work schedule, lecturing on topics like wellness and the egregious prevalence of industrialized foods in the modern diet. Just this month her cookbook, Cooking With the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta, celebrating fresh, local seasonal ingredients, hit the bookstores.

The SpaFinder Visionary Award is presented annually to an outstanding contributor to the spa industry. Previous honorees include Canyon Ranch founders Enid and Mel Zuckerman, for their development of one of the first wellness programs and spa residence communities; Juva Medi-Spa founder Bruce E. Katz, M.D., for his pioneering work in developing the medical spa concept; Deepak Chopra, M.D., for his role in bridging Eastern and Western medicine in the spa environment; Dr. Howard Murad, the anti-aging skincare pioneer; and Dr. Stephen and Lyn Krant, co-founders of the SK Sanctuary, for raising awareness of melanoma and providing support and free spa nights for cancer patients and survivors.

To learn more about SpaFinder’s Visionary Awards or industry pioneer, Deborah Szekely -– or to speak with SpaFinder Inc. president Susie Ellis, contact: Betsy Isroelit @ RBI, (213) 300-0108,

About SpaFinder, Inc.:

The world’s largest spa media, marketing and gifting company, SpaFinder, Inc. connects millions of wellness-focused consumers with thousands of spas worldwide. SpaFinder’s media properties include the award-winning, Luxury SpaFinder Interactive, and the worldwide spa directory, Global SpaFinder. Spa Finder Gift Certificates and its new gift division, Spa & Salon Wish, offer spa gift certificates and cards that are redeemable at a combined network of over 5,000+ spas and salons worldwide and available at thousands of retail outlets. The company’s software division innovates new solutions that help spas build and streamline their businesses, including the popular SpaBooker online booking system. SpaFinder Europe and SpaFinder Japan offer regional spa marketing and gifting programs, including localized, native-language websites. Founded in 1986, the privately held company is headquartered in Manhattan.

Media Contact:

RBI Communications
Betsy Isroelit, (213) 300-0108,

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If you're with the media, please contact:

Betsy Isroelit 
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