On Global Spa and Wellness Trends

Each year participants at the Global Spa and Wellness Summit are asked to submit some answers to questions about the biggest trends facing the spa and wellness industry.  Here were my responses . . .

What are the most significant global issues facing us today?

1.  Planetary wellbeing: Whether we cause global warming or not, the planet has limited resources and we cannot continue to produce tons and tons of non-biodegradable plastics and other pollutants and not expect this to catch up with us.  (See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201108/positive-psychology-and-climate-change.html)

2.  Population and urbanization: The population is growing and getting wealthier and more urban.  The wealthy West has modeled a way of living that does not take into account our planet or our future generations and now other large nations that have been aspiring to live that same kind of lifestyle are gaining access to it.

3.  Food: Both of the above issues have massive ramifications for how we produce and consume our food.  How we feed the urban masses in an ethical and sustainable way will be a major topic for debate in the decades to come.

4.  Questioning capitalism:  The messy relationship between money, politics and wellbeing has finally hit the spotlight of the world stage.  Governments and citizens alike are questioning how society can produce a better life, not just a better mousetrap.  (See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201202/economy-goes-down-health-goes-up.html)

5.  War and peace: With the increased accessibility of massively destructive technologies, we will have to find better ways to resolve our differences.

What do you see as the main innovations happening around the world, those which are game changing and/or disruptive?

1.  Cloud computing: Soon, all data will live in the “cloud” eliminating a need for memory space on devices and further shrinking technology.

2.  Haptics and GPS: The combination of touch (as in touch-screen) technology and motion or location sensors opens up infinite possibilities to integrate new technologies into different areas of our lives (e.g. “smart” clothing, “smart” refrigerators, etc.; See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201104/haptics-the-new-science-of-touch.html.)

3.  Microfinance: New ways of delivering capital to the “bottom of the economic pyramid” is rapidly growing the economies of third world markets.

4.  Information revolution: The cost of information and education via the internet has been dropping substantially.  People are learning more and faster than ever before and the value of a conventional education is plummeting rapidly.  I predict an education revolution in the next decade.

3. What do you see as the main innovations in the spa/wellness industry (existing and future)?

1.  Personal biological monitoring:  People are using technology to measure and track health statistics more than ever before.  (See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201105/personal-biological-monitoring-the-future-of-health-diagnostics.html)

2.  Nanotechnology:  The small size of technology will allow new technologies that can enter the body and perform reparative or preventative interventions.

3.  Positive psychology: This new branch of the science has introduced a renewed push towards the importance of creating greater health, flourishing and wellbeing rather than the prevalent disease/illness management model.  (See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201009/why-psychology.html)

4.  Personalization and integration: Software advances allow spas (and other wellness businesses) to learn more about their customers, personalize the services more and integrate better into their life outside of the spa.

5.  Social and gaming wellness: Increasingly there are ways for people to join communities with similar wellness goals for mutual support, collaboration and peer pressure.  This brings new ways to make wellness fun.

6.  Mindfulness:  There is a growing body of scientific literature showing the value of mindfulness practices.  I predict mindfulness will be the next big health trend.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities/challenges for the global spa and wellness industry?

The greatest challenge is to establish credibility and take a leadership role in the world’s inevitable move towards a more holistic health model.  Currently the spa industry is not taken seriously by most health institutions and the spa world does not get the credit it deserves for a growing trend towards “spaification” of a variety of health offerings.

The greatest opportunity is for spas to play to their strengths as leaders in holistic and preventative healing offerings.  (See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201105/spas-could-lead-the-way-in-the-art-and-science-of-healing.html)

What are some practical ways for businesses to create a climate for creativity and innovation?

 1.  Be dictatorial.  Collaboration gets ideas that are safe.  Innovation often comes from one person who has the power, authority or the leadership skills to drive others to bring their bold vision to reality.  If it was an idea that everyone agreed with, everyone would be doing it already, so new ideas often come from someone who is strong enough to bring their ideas to fruition in the face of opposition from the crowd.  (See http://psychologyofwellbeing.com/201012/where-does-radical-game-changing-innovation-come-from.html)

2.  Fail faster.  One of the hardest things to do in business is create a culture where associates feel safe to experiment and make mistakes.  Leaders can foster a culture of creativity by creating a safe space for low-stakes failures to occur.

3.  Take breaks.  I get a lot of good ideas when I’m lying on a massage table.  People need down time for their brains to function at their best.  To encourage creativity, create space in peoples’ days for intermittent breaks for rest and/or play.

 This past weekend the Global Spa and Wellness Summit featured my talk on Spas and the Science of Happiness on their blog.  


by Jeremy McCarthy

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Now available:  New e-book on The Psychology of Spas and Wellbeing.

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3 Responses to On Global Spa and Wellness Trends

  1. David M. Carter August 14, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Thanks Jeremy!

    I recognize that your answers are in the context of the spa industry. But, I think that your answers to the first question are spot on with regard to society in general. Isn’t it interesting that the issues you raise are not even a part of the national political conversation today? And, bravo to you for boldly identifying “questioning capitalism” as a legitimate answer. There is this strange feeling (for lack of a better word – help me with this) in our society that capitalism is somehow sacred.

    One disruptive innovation that I believe should be added to your list is ecological economics. By bringing natural “capital” into the pricing of our economic throughput, we realize how inefficient and destructive our growth at all costs economic model has become. This innovation can properly balance the equation, helping lead to new and better ways of measuring the well-being of our societies. It’s wonderful to see that positive psychology has a seat at the table for many of the initiatives taking place around the world that are doing this.

    Keep up the good work, Jeremy.


  2. Marsha Snyder August 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    I am very interested in your ideas. If you would contact me by e-mail, I would like to discuss with you what I see as another unique opportunity for the spa industry.

  3. Jeremy McCarthy August 14, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Thanks David, I agree with you . . . ecological economy would be a good one to add to this list. I hope we do get to a “truing up” of the economy so that real costs are represented that incorporate the global impact, but I’m not sure the groundswell on this is strong enough yet.

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