Is wellness the next big thing?
The spa industry needs to understand and embrace the new wellness phenomenon
By Vivienne O’Keeffe, AAD, PEA, CIBTAC
Published in Spa Canada magazine’s March/April 2017 issue
As a designer of programs and business systems for spas for more than 20 years now, I’ve always tried to incorporate the multiple dimensions of wellness (physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental) into my planning for clients. Now, having just returned from the 2016 Global Wellness Summit in Kitzbühel, Austria, I’m more convinced than ever that the Wellness Wave will be hitting the spa industry like a sirocco on a snowbank, leaving the landscape unrecognizable in its wake.
For health-related businesses, the numbers are eye-opening. According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), while the world economy shrank by 3.6% from 2013 to 2015, the wellness industry grew by 10.6%. One category alone, preventative/personalized medicine and public health, was up 23.5%. Business dealing with fitness and mind-body programs rose 21.4%.
Revenues from premium-priced wellness real estate and communities in the US, Dubai, Thailand, China, Mexico, India, Costa Rica, the UK and Australia emphasizing holistic health, social connectivity and environmental consciousness are estimated to be $120 billion worldwide. Furthermore, $43 billion has been generated by workplace wellness. One example is the new WELL Certified™ TD Bank offices in downtown Toronto, which feature healthier lighting, enhanced water and air filtration, ergonomic chairs and desks and even something called a tranquility lounge.
The surging popularity of wellness stems partly from our huge need to eat and live better – evidenced by the alarming rise in such modern ailments as obesity, depression and diabetes. People around the world suffering from higher stress and chronic disease are turning to wellness to maintain and improve their health. Just as people have largely rejected smoking, consumers are increasingly spurning chemical additives, sugar, poor-quality sleep and other evils in favour of healthier physical and spiritual living.
Other megatrends behind the wellness boom are an emerging global middle class, a rapidly aging world population, the failure of the current medical model, and a growing subset of affluent, educated consumers seeking experiences rooted in meaning, purpose, authenticity and nature.
Recent stunning advances in science bring the utopia of universal wellness that much closer to reality. In his keynote speech at last year’s GWI summit in Mexico City, MD and prolific best-selling author Deepak Chopra talked about the incredible power of epigenetics: the ability of the body’s genes to adapt to external forces to strengthen against disease and degeneration. “We can prevent most chronic illnesses and even reverse a lot of diseases,” said Chopra.
In her book The Hunger Fix, American MD Pamela Peeke shows how epigenetics can produce powerful outcomes even before birth. Supplementing the diets of overweight, yellow-toned lab mice called agouti with healthy substances like vitamin B12 and folic acid caused the epigenetic controllers in the mice foetuses to create normal babies – lean, brown and disease-free. That’s because the histones – the special proteins that surround genes and tell them how to behave – can themselves be controlled through diet and other behaviours to deliver more beneficial instructions to the genes via a process called methylation.
In short, ditching bad habits for good habits can make permanent improvements. – meaning we are no longer prisoners of the genes we were born with. This and further, equally astounding discoveries are going to dramatically change the way societies deal with health issues.
Our industry can play a major role in addressing the aspects of wellness that depend on individual responsibility. Why not turn your spa into a wellness centre?
The need is huge. With wellness sectors generating $3.7 trillion worldwide in 2015, spas will require an additional 400,000 trained therapists and 70,000 experienced managers/directors by 2020, predicts Jean-Guy de Gabriac, Chairman of GWI’s Global Career Development initiative.
In a chaotic world, the growing number of customers yearning for inner peace, comfort and certainty will be looking for services and experiences far beyond traditional skin care and massage treatments. We can be the providers of these transformations if we find it within ourselves to do so.
Better get ready.
Vivienne O’Keeffe, AAD, PEA, CIBTAC, is President of Spa Profits Consulting Inc., and an expert in designing successful spa concepts. She is also an international consultant in developing product lines, treatment plans and training programs, a member of ISPA and Spa Industry Association of Canada (for which she won an Outstanding Industry Service Award in 2001, 2005 and 2012), and a member of International Management Consultants Inc.