Wellness No Passing Fad: Global Market Estimated at Nearly $2 Trillion, According to Landmark Study Unveiled at Global Spa Summit

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SRI International Report Defines a Rapidly Expanding Wellness Industry Cluster with Nine Sub-Segments, from Fitness to Spa

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Governments, health professionals, and investors need to take consumer demand for wellness products and services very seriously

Wellness is often represented as a passing fad or niche market, but a major study conducted by SRI International (SRI), released at the 2010 Global Spa Summit (GSS) in Istanbul, Turkey, reveals that the yearly worldwide wellness industry is poised to cross the $2 trillion mark.

The report, titled “Spas and the Global Wellness Market,” represents one of the first analyses of the wellness industry and the consumer forces driving its growth. The study also for the first time presents wellness as an integrated industry cluster with nine core segments, adding definition to what has been an amorphous market.

Global Mega-Trends Drive Growth

Three mega-trends will ensure continued growth in wellness: (1) an aging world population; (2) failing conventional medical systems, with consumers, healthcare providers, and governments seeking more cost-effective, prevention-focused alternatives to a Western medical/”sickness” model focused on solving health problems rather than preventing them; (3) increased globalization, with consumers more aware of alternative health approaches via the Internet and the powerful reach of celebrity wellness advocates such as Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, and Jamie Oliver.

While the study finds that there are 289 million active wellness consumers in the world’s top 30 industrialized nations alone, wellness has proved exceptionally resistant to definition. SRI does not offer a single definition, but the report describes wellness as: (1) multidimensional and holistic, integrating physical, mental, spiritual, and social approaches; (2) complementary and proactive, not only treating illness, but more importantly, focused on preventing sickness and improving overall quality of life; (3) consumer driven, relying on consumer choice rather than patient necessity.

“Whether you find the term meaningful or not, wellness is a vast, mainstream, and very real industry, with an extraordinary global ancient and modern history. It’s interesting that this $2 trillion dollar market has received so little research and that there is not more consensus on key definitions and benchmarks,” said Katherine Johnston, senior economist with SRI. “Governments, health professionals, and investors need to take consumer demand for wellness products and services very seriously, because, with the shortcomings in the global healthcare system, a shift toward wellness and prevention not only will, but must, accelerate.” Johnston further noted that 81 percent of consumers surveyed have a strong interest in improving their personal wellness.

Implications for the Spa Industry

A focus of the report (prepared for the Global Spa Summit and sponsored by Murad Inc., a skin-care leader and operator of the Murad Inclusive SpaTM, was to provide the first rigorous investigation into how the spa industry fits into, and can capitalize on, the “wellness” consumer revolution. While the beauty, anti-aging, and fitness markets naturally boast larger valuations, the SRI study points out that the spa industry is one of the most logical sectors to take advantage of, and lead, the wellness industry.

According to Susie Ellis, Global Spa Summit board member, the reason for this is that spa touches on all the other niches in the wellness cluster and is a natural gateway for consumers to explore wellness. “Consumers already associate spas with wellness, and increasingly modern spas are expanding far beyond traditional pampering—integrating fitness, complementary/alternative medicines, preventive health, advanced beauty/anti-aging, and weight loss/nutrition—as well as becoming a key player in medical and wellness tourism.”

“Not only does this report analyze the current unique position of the spa industry within the huge wellness market, it provides a detailed roadmap for spas to tap into future consumers and markets, whether through forging creative partnerships with the medical industry, seizing the corporate health opportunity, or launching new consumer offerings like wellness life-coaching and memberships,” said Ellis. “There are so many practical things spas can start doing now, like gathering and building the scientific, evidence-based data that wellness approaches really work, so that physicians, insurers, public health officials, and corporations can get on board.”

Key SRI Study Findings:

  • 81% of consumers are “extremely” or “very interested” in improving their personal wellness
  • Top three things consumers are most likely to do to improve their wellness: (1) exercise, (2) eat better, (3) visit a spa
  • 82% of spa industry respondents report they’ve already made changes in their business over the last five years to respond to the wellness trend, and the vast majority has seen revenue growth as a result
  • While medical tourism ($50 billion) has generated far more discussion up to now, “wellness tourism” (consumer travel to pursue holistic, preventive, or lifestyle-based services) represents a market more than twice as large ($106 billion)
  • 71% of consumers would be more likely to visit spas if they learned that a series of research studies demonstrated treatments deliver measurable health benefits

Survey Methods

The study was conducted by SRI International, a worldwide independent, nonprofit research firm originally founded as the Stanford Research Institute in 1946. It incorporates an extensive review of major studies, data, and reports on each wellness sub-sector; interviews with high-level industry executives, organizations and associations; and findings from two globally distributed surveys—a consumer survey (more than 1,000 respondents) and an industry survey (more than 300 respondents).

For more information on the report, or to request a copy of the SRI report, contact Betsy Isroelit at 213-300-0108 or betsy [at] spafinder [dot] com

About Global Spa Summit:

The Global Spa Summit is an annual event that attracts top-level executives and leaders from around the world with interest in the spa and wellness industry. Delegates from diverse sectors, including hospitality, investment, finance, real estate, medicine, manufacturing, technology, consulting, product, and other related industries attend this intimate, high-level gathering focused on advancing the spa and wellness sectors. With increasing attendance by delegates from more countries each year, the Global Spa Summit is expecting representatives from over 35 nations around the world in 2010.

About SRI International:

Silicon Valley-based SRI International is one of the world's leading independent research and technology development organizations. SRI, which was founded by Stanford University as Stanford Research Institute in 1946 and became independent in 1970, has been meeting the strategic needs of clients and partners for more than 60 years. Perhaps best known for its invention of the computer mouse and interactive computing, SRI has also been responsible for major advances in networking and communications, robotics, drug discovery and development, advanced materials, atmospheric research, education research, economic development, national security, and more. The nonprofit institute performs sponsored research and development for government agencies, businesses, and foundations. SRI also licenses its technologies, forms strategic alliances, and creates spin-off companies. In 2009, SRI's consolidated revenues, including its wholly owned for-profit subsidiary, Sarnoff Corporation, were approximately $470 million.


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