A new report suggests the world wellness economy has surpassed Germany’s GDP in size with spa and wellness becoming the priority for hotels
Wellness is a big, global business with €5.9 trillion in revenue in 2022, according to a new report from the Global Wellness Institute, a leading industry group. Research from the nonprofit organisation said the industry has grown from €3.09 trillion in 2013; by 2027, it is expected to grow an additional 57 per cent, to €7.73 trillion, about twice as large as Germany’s gross domestic product.
“We are surprised by the resiliency of the global wellness economy, and how quickly it has bounced back from the pandemic,” said Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow at GWI, in a press release.
There are varying estimates out there of what truly constitutes the size of the wellness industry. For example, one frequently cited number is €1.36 trillion, published by consultancy McKinsey & Co. in 2021.
Wellness can be a murky catchall label for a great variety of businesses. For its report, GWI defined the industry as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” In its research, GWI breaks down wellness into several wide categories, of which the largest—personal care and beauty—is valued at €0.98 trillion. That subsector includes such things as skin care and salons for hair or nails.
Just behind that category comes healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss, at €.97 trillion; this does not include the rapidly growing market for prescription weight loss drugs such as Ozempic. Further GWI categories include wellness tourism, a €592 billion industry; physical activities like going to a gym; and public health, along with traditional and complementary medicine.
In one of the biggest changes since before the pandemic, spending on public health, prevention, and personalised medicine, was up the most, to €556 billion in 2022 from €326 billion in 2019. The report is including health screenings for Covid-19 and cancers in this metric.
One of the smallest sectors is “workplace wellness.” This consists of employer-designated programs aimed at boosting employees’ health and well-being, such as fitness and educational classes. Unlike many of the other sectors, this market has shrunk since 2019, from €47.50 billion to €46.05 billion in 2022, because more employees now work from home and corporations have been cutting costs.
It’s a different picture for hospitality companies, which are increasingly trying to capitalise on wellness tourism and demand for spas. Kerzner, with luxury brands including One&Only and such individual properties as Atlantis the Royal, is creating a brand around the trend, with its first location set to open in Dubai early next year: Siro will revolve around guests’ physical fitness, mental health, nutrition and sleep. It won’t be alone. Equinox, once known for upscale gyms, opened its first hotel in New York’s Hudson Yards in 2019, with rooms described as “temples to regeneration”; in September, it was included in the first-ever World’s 50 Best hotels list.
The only other New York hotel to rank on that list, Aman New York, has a three-floor wellness wing that’s part spa, part medical practice. An internist — trained at Harvard —can analyse your bloodwork and prescribe “wellness immersion programs” that include hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“Every big brand has cottoned onto this notion that wellness is the new battleground for super luxury hotels,” says Inge Theron, founder of Facegym, in an interview with Bloomberg earlier this year. “Where it used to be what restaurant concept do you have, now it is about what you are doing in the spa space. It’s not just about having a big pool, it’s now about what smart doctors and scientists do you have on staff.”
As for who’s spending the most on wellness, spending per capita is highest in North America, at €4,649 a year — far above Europe’s €1,446. All those gym memberships, haircuts, vitamins, spa visits and yoga trips are adding up.