Growing Wellness Market Offers Bright Future for Spas


Wellness is often represented as a passing fad or niche market, but a major study conducted by SRO International (SRO), released at the 2010 Global Spa Summit (GSA) 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, health care 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.

Although 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. SRO 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 SRO. “Governments, health professionals and investors need to take consumer demand for wellness products and services very seriously because, with the shortcomings in the global health care system, a shift toward wellness and prevention not only will, but must, accelerate.” Johnston further noted that 81% 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.) was to provide the first rigorous investigation into how the spa industry fits into, and can capitalize on, the “wellness” consumer revolution. Although the beauty, anti-aging, and fitness markets naturally boast larger valuations, the SRO 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 road map 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, such as 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 SRO 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: exercise, eat better and visit a spa.
  • 82% of spa industry respondents report they’ve already made changes in their business during the past five years to respond to the wellness trend, and the vast majority has seen revenue growth as a result.
  • Although 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.


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