- New Global Wellness Institute research reveals the wellness market grew to a record $4.9 trillion in 2019, up from $4.3 trillion in 2017, before falling back to $4.4 trillion in the year of the pandemic
- Report unveiled at the Global Wellness Summit, highlights a major consumer values reset, which it predicts will trigger an annual growth rate of 10% to fuel the industry’s recovery and propel its valuation to reach $7 trillion by 2025
- GWI also announced that BBC StoryWorks, the commercial creative arm of BBC Global News, will produce a first-of-its-kind film series to educate and entertain its audience about the world of wellness
- “We hope to bring a new comprehension of wellness to our global audiences, and start a deeper conversation about integrated, personalised health,” said the BBC StoryWorks’ VP Programme Partnerships Simon Shelley
BOSTON, United States — The value of the global wellness industry shrank by 11% to $4.4 trillion in 2020 — down from historic highs of $4.9 trillion in 2019 — due to the seismic economic shocks of COVID-19, reveals new research by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).
The same research also predicts the industry will bounce back rapidly, driven by a major consumer “values reset” that will see a return to pre-pandemic levels of $5 trillion in 2021 and accelerate at an annual 10% growth rate to reach $7 trillion by 2025.
The report, released last week by the nonprofit GWI at the Global Wellness Summit in Boston, MA, is the industry’s most in-depth research on the 11 leading wellness markets to date.
It identifies the pandemic’s big winners, including wellness real estate, mental wellness, healthy eating and fitness tech, while also highlighting the markets that took the biggest hit, namely gyms and boutique studios, wellness tourism, spas and hot springs.
Pandemic winners and losers
For the first time, the GWI’s research breaks down the total wellness economy for each global region. It found that Asia-Pacific was one of the fastest-growing wellness markets from 2017 to 2019 (8.1% growth), and it also shrank the least during the pandemic (-6.4%).
Conversely, North America was the fastest-growing wellness region from 2017 to 2019 (8.4%), but among the hardest hit by the pandemic (-13.4%).
The report also found that Asia-Pacific ($1.5 trillion) overtook North America ($1.3 trillion) as the world’s largest wellness market in 2020, yet per capita, annual spending on wellness remains highest in North America at $3,567, followed by Europe at $1,236.
“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.
“When we analyse how different wellness markets performed in the last year, it’s natural to want to compare them and label winners and losers. 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 wellness economy will grow to $7 trillion in 2025, because the forces that have been driving it remain as powerful as ever: an expanding global middle class, an aging population, and rising chronic disease,” added Katherine Johnston, GWI Senior Research Fellow.
At the same time, she said, the pandemic has triggered a major global values reset that will propel the industry to new heights. “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,” said Johnston.
“These drivers will underpin the recovery of the wellness economy. They will also shift consumer, policy and healthcare spending in new directions.”
BBC to produce film series focusing on the world of wellness
At the Summit, it was also announced that BBC StoryWorks, the commercial creative arm of BBC Global News, will produce a first-of-its-kind film series about the world of wellness — and the GWI will be a collaborator.
The series will aim to “cut through the noise, reaffirm the value of evidence-based wellness and introduce a global audience to some of the most important existing and emerging solutions across the industry,” read a statement about the collaboration.
It will look to educate and entertain its huge online audience with a set of powerful documentary-style short films, immersive audio content and in-depth written pieces that will live on a dedicated microsite on BBC.com, which boasts 130 million unique visitors each month.
Simon Shelley, Vice President Programme Partnerships at BBC StoryWorks, said: “We hope to bring a new comprehension of wellness to our global audiences, and start a deeper conversation about integrated, personalised health.”
Commenting on the results of the GWI’s research at the Summit, Shelley added: “Wellness isn’t just the absence of illness –– it’s about people functioning at their absolute best. It feels timely and pertinent and something we need to explore for our audience.”
The BBC series will focus on four core pillars: the meaning of wellness, wellness tech, the industry’s relationship with the healthcare sector and wellness as a human right — and members of the GWI network will be invited to submit case studies to BBC StoryWorks for consideration.
Wellness tourism hardest hit by pandemic
When compared with other global markets, the GWI’s report shed more light on how different sectors are expected to bounce back from the economic shock of the pandemic.
“It’s hard to compare with other industries as they don’t tend to have good numbers,” Ophelia Yeung told Welltodo. “Sports, for example, has around 20 different valuations. We’re lucky the wellness industry has good data.”
She did, however, reveal two comparisons that reflect contrasting fortunes for the wellness sector. “Wellness real estate grew by 22% versus construction, which shrank by 2.5%,” she said. “By contrast, spending on beauty and wellness fell by 13% versus overall consumer spending, which fell by 4%.”
Pre-pandemic the GWI data suggested strong growth rates for every wellness sector between 2017 and 2019, where each market hit a record valuation. In those years, the wellness economy grew 6.6% annually, a significantly higher rate than global economic growth (4%).
Conversely, in the pandemic year of 2020, the wellness economy contracted by 11%, nearly four times more than the declines in global GDP (-2.8%).
At -39.5%, wellness tourism narrowly edged out spas (-38.6%) and thermal/mineral springs (-38.9%) as the sector hit hardest between 2019-20. The market shrunk to $436 billion, while wellness trips dropped from 936 million to 601 million.
However, an impressive 21% projected annual growth rate for wellness tourism through 2025 reflects new traveller values including a quest for nature, sustainability and mental wellness, as well as a period of rapid recovery from pent-up demand in 2021 and 2022, the report found.
Wellness real estate maintained double-digit growth
At the other end of the spectrum, wellness real estate maintained industry-leading growth through 2017-19 (23.2%) and 2019-20 (22.1%).
With COVID-19 dramatically accelerating the understanding of the role that the built environment and our homes play in our physical and mental health, the wellness real estate market was the number one growth leader both before and during the pandemic.
The market grew from $148.5 billion in 2017 to $225 billion in 2019, and then to $275 billion in 2020 (22% annual growth). Wellness residential projects (either built or in the pipeline) skyrocketed from 740 in 2018 to over 2,300 today. Wellness real estate will continue its growth surge, the report suggests, with the market set to double to $580 billion from 2020 to 2025 at 16% annual growth.
Elsewhere, personal care and beauty remains the largest market size across the 11 categories highlighted in the GWI report. Consumer spending expanded from $1 trillion in 2017 to $1.1 trillion in 2019 and then declined by 13% to $955 billion in 2020 with Asia-Pacific rising from the third to first-ranked global market.
Nevertheless, spending is projected to bounce back post-pandemic, with an 8.2% annual growth rate to reach $1.4 trillion in 2025.
The other big winner of the pandemic was fitness technology, despite its categorisation within a shrinking physical activity market. The report found that the fitness technology sector exploded by 29% in 2020 to become a $49.5 billion market — with digital apps, streaming and on-demand workout platforms surging 40%.
The GWI research also suggests the segment’s hybrid bricks-and-mortar/digital future is bright, anticipating the physical activity market to nearly double from $738 billion in 2020 to $1.2 trillion in 2025, retaining its position as the third-largest market, behind personal beauty and healthy eating.