A recent report by Silicon Valley-based SRI International (SRI) for the European spa industry entitled, “Spas and the Global Wellness Market,” forecasts a worldwide wellness industry “poised to cross the $2 trillion mark.” SRI describes a booming wellness industry and urges spa leaders to “seize the day” – to jump on the bandwagon. Wellness is termed “an integrated industry cluster with nine core segments.
To what extend do these core segments of what SRE sees as the spa industry’s “integrated cluster” comport with, reflect or otherwise encompass what those of us who favor a quality of life-oriented form of wellness call REAL wellness. Does it fit with a philosophy of wellness that is founded on reason, exuberance, athleticism and liberty – the REAL in quality of life wellness?
Let’s look at the report more closely. Let’s start with a bright side perspective and grant that most of SRI’s core segments at least resemble what wellness promoters might consider adaptable to a REAL wellness approach.
As visitors to this site know, the term wellness is currently applied so broadly, in Europe and American and elsewhere, that it cannot be a surprise that SRI would include disparate markets under the single category. For wellness promoters, there are many reasons to being enthusiastic about this internal spa industry document. Overall, it offers a golden opportunity to channel openness to wellness along what can be REAL wellness directions.
To appreciate why this is the case, look more closely at the content of the “Spas and the Global Wellness Market” reports. Begin with the trends identified
as driving the growth of the wellness market. Four that caught my attention are:
1. An aging world population.
2. The failure of conventional medical systems. Consumer, healthcare providers and governments want more cost-effective, prevention-like alternatives to the Western “sickness” model that relies too much on trying to treat medical problems and too little on preventing them.
3. Increased globalization, with consumers more aware of alternative health approaches via the Internet.
4. The influence of celebrities who address health topics.
These are trends justified by the data and trends that support greater attention and acceptance of what wellness promoters have to offer – education in how to manage a high quality life physically and mentally. Tragically, I was not mentioned as one of those celebrities described in the fourth trend! That’s bad enough but, Holy Horrors – SRI mentioned Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey and Jamie Oliver. There is no justice, it seems.
Of course, this simply shows how important it is to promote a closer look at what wellness is and to define the concept in rational, evidence-based terms that relate to advanced quality of life.
The report claimed that there are “289 million active wellness consumers in the world’s top 30 industrialized nations alone.” The SRI authors acknowledge that “wellness has proved exceptionally resistant to definition,” which might explain how Oprah, Deepak and Jamie got to be leaders of the movement. They acknowledge that the wellness market has not been well researched and little or no consensus exists on key definitions and benchmarks.
For wellness promoters in Europe, this absence is fortuitous. If definitions and benchmarks had been applied to the undisciplined mix of all that is considered “wellness” by one odd group or another, the final report might not have been such an enthusiastic endorsement of this market’s potential.
To better understand how SRI came up with a figure of nearly 300 million “active” wellness consumers (who, pray, are the “inactive” or “passive” wellness consumers?), consider the categories of activity SRI placed under the wellness banner.
1. All multidimensional and holistic activities that integrate physical, mental, spiritual and social approaches.
2. All complementary and proactive treatments and modalities.
3. All approaches that seek to prevent sickness and improve overall quality of life.
4. All consumer driven initiatives that are choices, rather than medical necessities.
Interestingly, the beauty, anti-aging and fitness markets are still seen as separate and distinct from the amorphous wellness spa market. One official at the Istanbul Global Spa Summit, where the SRI report was unveiled last month, declared, “consumers already associate spas with wellness. Increasingly modern spas are expanding far beyond traditional pampering. They are integrating fitness, complementary/alternative medicines, preventive health, advanced beauty/anti-aging, and weight loss/nutrition. They are becoming key players in medical and wellness tourism.”
People want to live healthier lifestyles – but they need help to understand not so much how to do it (the facts of exercise and nutrition and the rest) but rather how to sustain good intentions to do so. SRI found, for example, that:
* 81% of consumers are more than just mildly interested in improving their personal wellness – this very much interests them.
* 82% of people who have visited spas did make changes, at least in the short term.
* Those spas that invested in new wellness initiatives profited from doing so.
* Medical tourism has proven lucrative for spas (estimated $50 billion market); wellness tourism represents a market more than twice as large ($106 billion).
It may be time for wellness promoters in Europe and elsewhere to assist spa leaders to separate the proverbial apples and oranges for spa wellness purposes. Let’s assist the industry help their clientele to appreciate the nature of REAL wellness. No harm in offering all manner of activity and programming in all the rest, but the industry might benefit from becoming the leader in the next generation of wellness education – spa visits that enhance the quality of life. Spas can do more than offer stress relief, weight loss, facial beauty enhancement, imaginary anti-aging and a pleasurable experience and a good time – though all of these are well and good. Spas can offer an environment and educational programming that leads to an outcome that, until now with the advent of the SRI report and the growth of a wellness marketplace, has never be imagined, dreamed or spoken of – helping visitors to become better human beings. That and nothing less is the promise of the highest form of wellness envisioned so far – REAL wellness.
Offering REAL wellness will be a nice complement to the anything goes mish-mash of activities under the current wellness banner and the nine core segments described by SRI. Doing so would, in my view, be more profitable for spas and more consequential to the spa-going public.
In summary, the fact that the spa industry has been encouraged and even directed to promote wellness is a good thing. The likelihood that doing so will prove highly rewarding for the industry is also a good and welcome development. The SRI report is a broad endorsement for wellness. Now the challenge is to help spa leaders understand that wellness can be all that SRI says it is – and a great deal more.