Spa People

Marc Cohen

Our vision is to spread a culture of peace, love and understanding across the globe


Integrative medicine expert Marc Cohen has been fascinated by water since he can remember. At medical school, Cohen realised he learned best when relaxing in the bath so took to reading his textbooks while soaking in the tub.

The interest carried on into adulthood and most recently he’s been appointed medical director at the Peninsula Hot Springs Group (PHSG), a thermal spa operator based in Victoria, Australia. The new role will see him directing the medical, research, science and educational activities across the group’s three current properties and its two in the pipeline (see p14).

“This is my dream job,” exclaims Cohen. “I’m getting to live out my passion supported by an inspired executive team.” Their vision, he says, “is to create a culture of wellness that will spread peace, love and understanding across the globe.”

A long history
Cohen, who has a background as a medical doctor and a professor of health sciences and complementary medicine, has a long history with PHSG and its chair, founder and creative director Charles Davidson.

Davidson says: “He’s been a part of our story since we first met back in 2002 when I was running Mizu Spa.” The facility, says Davidson, was a test-bed for creating one of the first thermal facilities in the region.

It was an arduous, eight-year journey he recalls, but Peninsula Hot Springs finally launched in 2005. “Marc was a shining light of energy, enthusiasm, passion, intelligence, ideas and inspiration who helped keep our dream alive as he believed in it almost as much (possibly more) than we did.”

Davidson refers to his new team mate as a true pioneer of the global wellness sector, thanks to the fact Cohen was one of the founding board members of the Global Spa Summit (which has evolved into the Global Wellness Summit) and, for 16 years, was a professor of Complementary Medicine at RMIT university where he created the world’s first Master of Wellness Programme.

He’s also set up an Extreme Wellness retreat company based on the limits of hot and cold bathing and breathwork and launched wellness tonic and water filter products.

Davidson says: “While this director role is a new one for PHSG, we’ve been working in all the medical, science, research and education disciplines for many years – much of which has been together with Marc.”

Scouring the globe
As part of his role, Cohen will be instrumental in fulfilling the group’s expansion plans. He’s already advising on potential new hot springs sites including alpine, outback, riverside, lakeside, coastal, urban and historic locations – and possibly even mobile offerings.
Work is already underway on two sites in Australia: a desert destination called Cunnamulla Hot Springs in south-west Queensland and Phillip Island Hot Springs in Victoria – both of which are slated to open in mid-2023. There are also exciting plans for urban bathing facilities in Melbourne and a restoration project overseas.

Cohen will get inspiration for future projects by investigating unique wellness locations and offerings across the globe. His travels in the coming months will see him taking in hot spring sites in Israel, Italy, France and New Zealand.

“I’ll meet with hot springs owners and operators, academics, architects and geothermal engineers to explore how we can develop further products, experiences and locations,” he says.

Davidson adds: “Before a beautiful piece of art can emerge, the yarn needs to be collected. Marc is one of the colourful threads of our tapestry that tells the story of how to build beautiful hot spring-led wellness communities that can spread wellness around the world.”

To support the company’s growth, Davidson is also looking to appoint further people to new key positions in marketing, operations, wellness, culture, arts and development.

Multifaceted role
It’s fair to say Cohen’s new position is multifaceted. His workload spans guiding strategy, wellness experience design, staff education, programming, guest messaging, community outreach, health and safety and strategic collaborations to name just a few.

He’s already been tasked with assisting in the development of a curriculum for a Diploma of Health Wellness and Thermal Bathing Therapies with Melbourne’s Chisholm Institute to support career development in the industry. “This will not only help to develop career pathways within the industry and strengthen community outreach and messaging,” says Cohen, “but, it will allow the hot springs sector to become renowned as a trusted thought leader and nature-based experience provider in the wellness space.”

Another mission is to explore the potential of integration with existing health services.

Davidson says: “Marc brings passion, intelligence, fun and academic rigour to our team. He’s highly productive and focused on helping us deliver our purpose which is ‘creating a better life, naturally’.” The long-term goal is to co-create a meaningful wellness culture through relaxing experiences in nature.

Evidence-based wellness
A crucial part of Cohen’s work includes evaluating, designing, supervising and implementing scientific studies which build on his previous published research covering a myriad of topics – from how heat can treat viral infections such as COVID-19 and the mental health benefits of bathing to the clinical benefits of health retreats.

He and Davidson expect areas of interest for future research to include contrast bathing, the properties of different waters, the health effects of ingesting geothermal mineral water and developing international standards for best practice in hot springs design. There are also aspirations to explore the social, environmental and economic impact of hot springs and the development of intentional wellness communities.

“My involvement and passion for hot springs has been a long and wonderful journey driven by a focus on fun,” states Cohen. “The past decade has seen rapid growth of the global hot springs industry and I’m proud that Charles and I have been actively involved in this.”

Davidson concludes: “We created Marc’s role as it’s time... We’re growing rapidly and need to consolidate our collective energies to help make the push that will enable us to be the best conduit to worldwide wellness that we can be.”

Image Credit here if required

"Marc is one of the colourful threads of our tapestry that tells the story of how to build beautiful hot spring-led wellness communities," – PHSG chair, founder and creative director, Charles Davidson

PHSG PROPERTIES
Already opened

• Peninsula Hot Springs, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

• Maruia Hot Springs, Lewis Pass, New Zealand

• Metung Hot Springs, East Gippsland, Australia (opened October 2022)

In the works

• Cunnamulla Hot Springs, south-west Queensland, Australia (outback) (opening mid-2023)

• Phillip Island Hot Springs, Victoria, Australia (opening mid-2023)

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