by Andrew Jacka

Transformation of Wellness Post COVD-19 first published in Global Spa Online, September 2020. Reprinted with permission

In the ‘new normal’ world post COVID-19, wellness will come to the fore with even greater importance whether or not we have an effective vaccine or restrictions are eased and the world gets back to pre-pandemic levels of business.   The transformation of wellness has begun.

Wellness had already started to transform the world before COVID-19 turned the world on its head. Global initiatives such as Plastic Free July, a commitment to reduce plastic pollution launched 2011, Global Wellness Day, a global social movement launched 2012, the United Nations World Happiness Report launched 2012 or Sustainable Development Goals a United Nations initiative ratified by governments around the world in 2015, or World Wellness Weekend launched 2017, have already moved to change the wellness landscape, even if for some, their role in wellness is not immediately obvious

Equally one might not see the connection between these initiatives, Electro-Chemical Activated (ECA) Water and wooden toothbrushes yet they and many other actions all undeniable contributors to our wellness – be it at the macro level where you have little or no control or the micro level where you have total control.   

The spa and wellness sector (like many other industry sectors) has taken a big hit as a result of the pandemic, with both the restriction of movement and the reduction in discretionary spending significantly impacting business levels.  This has resulted in large scale redundancies and the closure (temporarily or permanent) of businesses across the industry.  At a time when one would have thought that the services offered by spa and wellness operators should be seeing a significant uptick in demand as a result of the hygiene standards employed and the ‘preventive’ health benefits which they yield, we have instead seen business after business suffer and forced to close when they should have been a viable part of the solution, especially give their heightened hygiene protocols, but instead we have to wait and pick up the pieces when this is all over.   Despite governments (and consumers) focusing on ‘relaxation’ as the primary goal for a spa business they can provide much more.  Relaxation if practiced regularly, can strengthen the immune system and produce other medically valuable physiological changes including the promotion of mental wellbeing.

Spa is part of wellness, but wellness is much bigger than spa.  In a post COVID-19 world spa is likely to become more clearly defined by both the industry, regulators and consumers as ‘last century fad’ and the ‘pampering quick fix – feel good services’, while the role of wellness is better understood to be a broader offering of services to achieve ‘the state of being healthy – physically, environmentally, emotionally, spiritually. There likely is going to be significant challenges with the regulators when they finally realise that spa and wellness are not one and the same thing. 

Wellness is acknowledged to encompass eight dimensions: Emotional Wellness, Environmental Wellness, Financial Wellness, Intellectual Wellness, Occupational Wellness, Physical Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness. Each of these dimensions can bring its own challenges in their deliverance, but the results yield sustainability, and addressing them all in a practical, cost-effective manner will ensure that the end product is truly a wellness facility and not one with is just wellness washing.  As to how far down this path we travel, whether we specialize in one dimension or seek to incorporate all will depend on a multitude of factors not least of which will be customer demand.  

transformation of wellness

The transformation of wellness will ensure there are wellness spas – business that have spa at their core but offer multiple hour/day packages and programs to assist their guests in their journey towards improved sustainable health, yet you can also expect to see a growth in business that focus on an individual wellness dimension that is seen as far removed from the ’wellness industry’.  

Having a healthy relationship with a loved one, using wooden toothbrushes instead of plastic ones, using vinegar or lemon to clean benches, buying your vegetables ‘loose’ instead of prepackaged, borrowing a book from the library, avoiding credit card debt, learning to play a musical instrument, establishing a work-life balance, dancing, gardening, volunteering your time to a good cause are examples of wellness and why the regulators will have the work cut out for them to try and regulate what in many instances is not regulatable.   

Each dimension of wellness can require a balancing act to achieve as each brings its own distinct challenges with varying levels of commitment required to successfully achieve, however the rewards are immense for the mind, the body and the soul when you attain a healthy state of being.

Wellness is clearly defined by its dimensions, yet how this fully translates in the business world is still being explored and reasonably will be fraught with the highs and lows of adapting to a ‘new normal’.  Whether wellness is just a marketing word, or it is a viable business model that does not fall foul of regulators will take time to determine.   To minimize consumer confusion, we need to commit to a universal definition of wellness and not try to put our own marketing spin on it, as we have done with spa.   The spin only causes confusion across the industry, media, those responsible for its governance, and with consumers.

In a post COVID-19 world, and as a result of the transformation of wellness, the eight dimensions will evolve (and who knows – perhaps over time this will be come nine or more) but the essence of these dimensions must remain unchanged so that we have a common understanding.  

Wellness has started to, and will increasingly influence all aspects of life.  If we look at it pragmatically we have a world that is teetering on a knifes-edge driven by excess and while popularist politicians, conspiracy theorists or those with vested interests are unlikely to take a different short term perspective, unless we take a meaningful look at the what, why and how we are doing it we are stepping into a black hole from which there may be not return.

Social Wellness, Occupation Wellness and Physical Wellness are intrinsically linked with the other dimensions, so whether business operators focus on one or more, we as a society must focus on all of them so that we as individuals can be well, society can be well and our planet can again be well.

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