hot springs initiative Members

The Hot Springs Initiative is an international wellness ThinkTank dedicated to exploring the diverse values of geothermal waters for health, recreation, tourism and community. We seek to connect the global communities involved with geothermal water and to provide network events and conferences to help grow consumer and political awareness of this unique segment of recreation, health and tourism markets (industry). Our intention is to connect the global community of hot springs and geothermal resources by raising awareness of this unique and distinct segment of global recreation, health and tourism industry (community). Our task force members include:

Iztok Altbauer2.jpg


Managing Director, Slovenian Spa Association, Slovenia

Iztok was appointed to the position to the manager at the Slovenian Spas Association nine years ago, after he spent most of his career in the tourism business. Before this position he was the CEO of Globtour, one of the most important Tour Operators at that time. In his years of work in the Association, Iztok established strong connections to the Health, Spa and Wellness industry in the region of Central Europe. One of the most important projects he is leading and running is “SPA-CE”. The Slovenian Spas Association is also the Founding Member of the Balkan Spa Institute, where Iztok took the role of developing the Balkan Spa Award.

Thomas Bauer

COO, VAMED Vitality World, Austria

Tom J. Bauer celebrates more than 25 years in the international hotel industry, with six years as chief operating officer for market leader VAMED Vitality World. Tom’s daily responsibilities include working with over 1,600 colleagues in nine properties in Austria and Hungary to drive health awareness and deliver medical and hot springs wellness to create and stimulate happiness.

Professor Marc Cohen, MBBS (Hons), PhD, B MEd Sc (Hons)

Professor of Health Sciences, RMIT University and Chair, Australasian Wellness Association, Australia

Professor Cohen is one of Australia’s pioneers of integrative and holistic medicine. He is currently chair of the Australasian Wellness Association and a professor at RMIT University where he leads postgraduate wellness programs and supervises research in nutrition, herbal medicine, yoga, lifestyle, and the health impact of pesticides, organic food and detoxification. 

Charles Davidson

CEO, Founder & Owner, Peninsula Hot Springs, Australia

Charles Davidson drives the creative and strategic development of Peninsula Hot Springs (PHS), a natural thermal mineral spring and day spa one hour south of Melbourne, Australia, hosting 450,000 annual visitors and employing over 250 staff. A passion for global thermal mineral springs and wellbeing practices has resulted in PHS being the most demanded spa in Australia. Davidson is in the fourth year of research into global best practices in the hot springs industry and is consulting to international hot springs developments.



Owner & Director, Spa Cultures, United States

Dr. J. Paul de Vierville is Professor of History and Humanities at Alamo Colleges, St. Philip’s College, and is a Jungian Psychotherapist/Analytical Consultant. He has been associated with the Balneotherapy Association of North America and the International Association for Study of Dreams. He owns the Alamo Plaza Spa at the historic Menger Hotel in San Antonio,Texas and runs a Spa-Waters: Dreams and Cultures seminar. 

wendi gelfound

Principal, Chief Creative Officer, Big W, Inc., United States

Wendi Gelfound is an internationally recognized expert and innovator in developing brand positioning, marketing and communication strategies for the health and wellness, spa and tourism sectors. With over 30 years experience, Gelfound has successfully led global marketing initiatives for several New Mexico-based resorts, most notably Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe and sister property Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. Both properties have recently been recognized as #3 and #4 Best Destination Spas in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure. Wendi is passionate about wellness travel and has been a member of the Hot Springs Initiative for the Global Wellness Institute for 3 years.

dr nelia jonker

Dr. Environmental Science UNISA, South Africa

Dr Nelia Jonker recently completed her PhD entitled Balneological classification of South African thermal springs at University of South Africa focusing on balneo-climatology in cure of various diseases. Nelia has more than 10 years’ experience in the environmental sector. She has a passion for community development and the use of remedies of place to embrace health and wellness. 


Chief Researcher & Manager at the Research Institute, Mitsui Knowledge Industry Co., Ltd., Japan

Tomonori Maruyama is dedicated to global research on current issues such as spa services, quality standards of therapists, labor markets, industry structures, regulations and overseas recruitment systems. As chief researcher of Mistui Knowledge Industry, he and his team undertake studies for the spa industry commissioned by the government. Currently, he is engaged in co-innovation projects with major companies.


Managing Director, Xellum Management Consulting, Hungary

Managing director of Xellum Management Consulting and president of the Association of Tourism Consultants, Puczkó is an expert on health and wellness tourism, and has authored numerous books on the subject, including the co-authored Health, Tourism and Hospitality, which will be released at the Global Wellness Tourism Congress. László graduated in 1993 as an economist specialized in tourism and logistics at Budapest University of Economics. Since 2006 he has been the president of the Association of Tourism Consultants, and founded The Tourism Observatory for Health, Wellness and Spa (2012).


CEO and Co-Owner, Toskanaworld GMBH, Germany

Marion Schneider is CEO and co-owner of Toskanaworld, Klinikzentrum Bad Sulza, Hotel an der Therme Bad Sulza and Bad Orb, Hotel Resort Schloss Auerstedt and Toskana Therme Bad Sulza, Bad Orb and Bad Schandau, all in Germany. She is president of the non-profit Ourchild and on the advisory board of several organizations. She is the author of several books and holds an MA in History as well as in German language and literature.


Hot Springs Research and Development, James D White Ltd, New Zealand

James White is an experienced research and development consultant to the hot springs bathing and spa industries. He is currently engaged to document global best practices in the hot springs industry, which will identify sustainable growth opportunities for public and private businesses in New Zealand and Australia. He holds an MBA degree, and his thesis topic was commercial bathing and spa development concepts.