The Wellness Economy’s $7 Trillion Future

The wellness boom is upon us — here’s what you need to know.

Wellness has become a must for individuals and businesses alike, especially with many peoples’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing taking a hit over the pandemic. In the post-pandemic world, there has been a shift from wellness meaning face masks, juice cleanses and luxury massages (the consumerist approach to self-care) to a multi-dimensional, whole-body approach encompassing mind, body, social, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

While the industry as a whole took a hit during the pandemic years, new research has found that it is set to bounce back bigger and better than ever. According to The Global Wellness Economy: Looking Beyond Covid report by the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness market has returned to pre-pandemic levels, currently valued at US$5 trillion and it is positioned for radical growth in the next four years.

“The wellness economy will grow to US$7 trillion in 2025, because the forces that have been driving it remain as powerful as ever: an expanding global middle class, an ageing population, and rising chronic disease,” said Katherine Johnston, GWI senior research fellow. “But the pandemic has brought new shifts and a global ‘values reset’: ‘Wellness’ now means far more than a facial or spin class, with a growing focus on mental wellbeing and the importance of work-life balance, social justice, environmental sustainability, the built environment, and public health. These drivers will underpin the recovery of the wellness economy; they will also shift consumer, policy and healthcare spending in new directions.”

The GWI last measured the wellness industry at US$4.3 trillion in 2017, with new research showing the market reaching US$4.9 trillion in 2019 and falling to US$4.4 trillion in 2020, courtesy of the pandemic.

“This research update is crucial, because 2020 is the watershed year that will forever divide history and the trajectory of the wellness economy into ‘before’ and ‘after’ COVID-19,” said Ophelia Yeung, GWI senior research fellow. “But there is no question that wellness — as a concept, as a lifestyle priority, and consumer value — is a big winner from the pandemic.”

The pandemic saw detrimental impacts upon wellness tourism, spas, and thermal/mineral springs, while healthy eating and weight loss, wellness real estate, mental wellness and the public health and personalised medicine sectors all increased during the same period.

In the post-pandemic world, the markets set to see exponential growth include wellness tourism, thermal/mineral springs and spas. Others such as wellness real estate and mental wellness are also forecast to see continual growth and expansion. Below is a snapshot of what to expect as we emerge from the pandemic era.

Wellness Tourism (pandemic loser, future winner): The impressive 21 per cent annual growth rate projected for wellness tourism through 2025 reflects new traveler values (a quest for nature, sustainability, mental wellness) as well as a period of rapid recovery from pent-up demand in 2021 and 2022.

Thermal/Mineral Springs (pandemic loser, future winner): One of the fastest-growing wellness markets from 2017 to 2019. There are now 35,099 hot springs establishments across 130 countries, with a strong 18 per cent annual growth is expected through 2025 and more than 140 new projects in the pipeline.

Spas (pandemic loser, future winner): From 2017 to 2019, the spa industry was growing at a fast 8.7 per cent annual rate and reached US$111 billion across 165,714 spas. After a pandemic decline, the industry is expected to recover fast, with the market growing 17 per cent annually through 2025 and more than doubling in revenue to US$150.5 billion.

Wellness Real Estate (pandemic and future winner): Wellness residential projects skyrocketed from 740 in 2018 to over 2,300 today. Wellness real estate will continue its growth surge, doubling to US$580 billion from 2020 to 2025.

Physical Activity (pandemic loser, future winner): Fitness technology was a pandemic hero, sitting at US$49.5 billion in 2020, thanks to digital apps, streaming and on-demand workout platforms surging 40 per cent. Moving forward, the hybrid bricks-and-mortar and digital future is bright and set to nearly double from US$738 billion to US$1.2 trillion by 2025.

Mental Wellness (pandemic and future winner): Posted strong 7% growth from 2019-2020 (from US$122 billion to US$131 billion), as consumers desperately sought solutions to help them cope with pandemic stresses. The largest segment, “senses, spaces and sleep,” grew 12.4%, while the smallest segment, meditation and mindfulness, grew the fastest (25%). The forecast: strong 10% growth annually through 2025, to reach US$210 billion.

Personal Care & Beauty (pandemic loser, future winner): The Asia-Pacific became a power player over the pandemic, now the first-ranked market. Spending will bounce back post-pandemic, with 8.2 per cent annual growth forecast to reach US$1.4 trillion in 2025.

Traditional & Complementary Medicine (pandemic loser, future winner): This market spans different holistic, indigenous, ancient therapies and products (acupuncture, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, etc.). Despite a downturn during the pandemic, it’s set to see 7 per cent annual growth from 2020-2025, reaching US$583 billion.

Workplace Wellness (pandemic loser, future winner, with a difference): This segment grew 4.6% annually from 2017 to 2019, reaching a market high of $52.2 billion, then shrinking again through the pandemic. Companies are still shifting to more meaningful, holistic approaches as well as changing company culture and focusing on the built environment itself. The market is forecast to grow 4 per cent annually, reaching US$58.4 billion in 2025.

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