21 July 2021, by Cornelia Tautenhahn

The self-care renaissance, more diversity and financial wellness: The global wellness trends 2021 - Part 2

The borders between health and wellness are blurring, diversity features on the agenda, financial wellness moves centre stage and travelling becomes mindful: these are the GWI wellness trends in 2021. 

Integrating fitness into business events is one of the trends © Shutterstock

Estimated at some $4.5b annual sales, the wellness industry boasts a multitude of segments and trends. The study carried out by the “Global Wellness Summit” on the 2021 trends reveals some of the paradigm shifts caused by the COVID pandemic. Part 1 of this series of editorials focused on such trends as the market entry of big entertainment industry players into the wellness market, personalised nutrition and the influence of architecture.  (https://www.fibo.com/en-gb/for-media/News/Artikel117.html)  


Trend 5: The self-care renaissance – as wellness and health are growing together

The pandemic has put the health theme on the agenda of both governments, business and individuals alike.  

“If you look three to five years down the road, it’s inevitable that there will be a much more seamless exchange between healthcare and wellness, where there’s mutual respect and wider acceptance based on evidence rather than bias.”

Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Professor for Medicine and book author

In this new era the healthcare system and the wellness industry will learn to get along.  Then hospitals will be inspired by 5-star resorts and issue prescriptions with hyper-personalised instructions for promoting optimal health.   

How health and wellness can learn from each other

Lab coat and “aseptic” waiting rooms, on the one hand, and spiritual healers and therapeutic retreats, on the other: at times two worlds collide when healthcare and the wellness sector come together.

But in Corona times, health is something you can be thrilled by. The pandemic and its deaths have proven that science, medicine and doctors are indispensable and that yoga and essential oils will not cure COVID-19. On the other hand, those who exclusively banked on the healthcare system have now realised they need to focus on prevention.  

Wellness means learning to become science-based and to set standards. At the same time, the healthcare system learns from the wellness industry with less sterile environments and a holistic approach.  

Well-being factor in classical medicine © Shutterstock

The scientific base already exists 

However, what the populace does not know is that many wellness practices are already scientifically proven. The “Wellness Evidence Portal” of the Global Wellness Institute, for example, lists convincing research results that support 31 of the most popular therapies – ranging from Ayurveda to optimism. But this is rarely in the public spotlight. Attention is instead paid to such headlines as “This Smells Like My Vagina” candles or crystal-covered items that do not do justice to the image of the wellness industry.  


Well-being and health on the political agenda 

Governments have their sights on their population’s health and some also focus on wellness in grand style. This not only provides the wellness sector with a financial boost but also promotes a global culture of self-care. For example: Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, introduced the first-ever “Wellness Budget” in 2019 – and, hence, an unprecedented emphasis on citizens’ well-being versus capitalist gains.

In Singapore the government joined forces with the world’s biggest tech giant with a view to creating a healthier society. Via the “LumiHealth App” and the Apple Watch citizens can take part in nationwide wellness challenges and access personalised heath programmes including mindfulness and nutrition tips plus monetary incentives up until 2022.  


CBD finds its way into medicine 

In the field of mental health alternative, wellness-oriented approaches are finding their way into conventional medicine. Some years ago we would not have imagined that our grandma probably sleeps betters taking CBD products. Between 2015 and 2018, however, the number of US senior citizens over 65 who smoke or consume marihuana as a foodstuff has doubled. And this trend will continue on a global scale. Just recently the UN decided to no longer categorise medical marihuana as one of the most dangerous drugs in the world.  


More “feelgood” factor for visits to the doctor 

The shortcomings of the healthcare system have been known for quite some time already: Red tape, expensive co-payments, long waiting times and hospitals that make you sicker than before rank top of the list here.


An example: Dental health is suffering throughout the world, even in leading economies such as the USA, Great Britain and Germany. One of the reasons: Many people are simply afraid of seeing a dentist. Here wellness can come to their rescue. New York-based start-ups “Tend” and “Dntl Bar11” are two actors who make a visit to the dentist a self-care experience. There are Beats headsets that abate the noise of scratching plaque, massage armchairs in the lobby and, of course, the favourite Netflix show broadcast on the ceiling.  


This is what the future might look like 

An excellent example for the merger of health and wellness is the “Octave's Sangha Retreat” in Suzhou, China. Here ancient cures merge with modern medicine in the name of human optimisation. At the premises there is a corridor leading from one side to the other. One extreme houses conventional medicine and the other houses wellness practices ranging from acupuncture to “more extraordinary” devices measuring the age of the soul. Visitors can freely commute between the two sides depending on their needs.

By caring for our mental and physical health ourselves we can reduce our dependency on the healthcare system. And although it is up to us in the final analysis, both healthcare and wellness play a crucial role for taking the right decision.  

Wellness has to appeal to all @Shutterstock

Trend 6: More diversity in the wellness industry

“Black Lives Matter”, to name but one movement, prompted many major companies in the wellness business to fight racism. Lululemon, Nike and Goop, for example, were fast to publish solidarity statements in which they stressed their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Websites such as Self, Well+Good or Shape featured coloured wellness professionals and entrepreneurs. Some, however, also met with criticism and were accused of PR without truly being committed to anti-discrimination.


Paying lip service alone is not enough 

Expressions of solidarity alone may seem noble but they will not bring sustainable change. Because the narrative in the wellness sector is often still wrong – meaning that products and services are geared to the needs of well-heeled white people.

„ “I once spent a week at a high-end wellness resort, where I was the only black person at the premises (apart from the cleaners). The staff explained to me that, had I arrived a month earlier, I would have met a black celebrity guest at the resort. I did not feel welcome this way and my wellness was not appreciated. (…) To me wellness spaces, spas, clubs and resorts seem to have been designed for white people. When I visit these places, I often feel stressed out rather than rejuvenated and relaxed.”

Tonia Callender, scientific employee at the Global Wellness Institute


Inequality continues to prevail

In the USA inequalities in prosperity and sustained effects of housing segregation, racist prejudices and discrimination affect the well-being of coloured people. According to a study by the “National Academy of Medicine”, healthcare is worse for black people than for white. Since poverty levels are higher here they are cut off from expensive wellness offers anyway.  


Access to certain sports is lacking

Stereotypes and misperceptions continue to create a situation where black people are underrepresented in a wide variety of sports. While martial arts are open to all interested parties, other sports such as ballet, Lacrosse or swimming keep the wrong narrative alive whereby these activities are mainly reserved for white youths.


Wellness industry at the crossroads 

Wellness consumers are more versatile and black entrepreneurs and wellness professionals will continue “adding colour” to the wellness sector.  


Since the importance of diversity and inclusion is growing, the companies offering wellness for all races and income brackets, will flourish. They will not only change the white wellness narrative but even become its pioneers soon. More people want diversity and inclusion and the acceptance of Black Wellness will expand the consumer market while boosting companies’ profitability. This requires deeper reflections than just support statements, links on a website, diverse marketing materials and messages on the noticeboard.  

Trend 7: Breathe new life into events with wellness offers

Events were not possible during COVID-19 for a long time but as they return there is also a new trend gaining ground that will change meetings and events for ever: The way we convene. People are looking for new ways to promote their health and events can provide them with the scope to do so.  



Technology solutions not enough 

2021 sees the era of hybrid events start. The virtual components will be refined further bringing about many new ideas and actors. But technology will not suffice to create human connections. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a parallel “loneliness pandemic” (GWI Whitepaper “Resetting the World with Wellness: Human Connection in a Time of Physical Distancing”). 

Integrate activities into everyday business life © Shutterstock


Innovations in the “personal” part of the events 

The need for security, on the one hand, and the longing for connecting with people, on the other, makes organisers venture into new, innovative solutions. There is a great opportunity for incorporating more wellness components. The way we convene will gain new importance.


Cardio rather than sitting

The Global Wellness Summit 2020 was held as such a hybrid event. Next to a comprehensive safety protocol this event incorporated wellness components in a variety of ways. The central conference room was equipped with cycles, sitting balls and wellness zones. This allowed delegates to exercise during the conference. In this project GWS cooperated with the Planet Fitness chain. Healthy meals and snacks also played an important role there.  


The relatively new term of “Nudge Wellness” means “inspiring healthy behaviour by making wellness choices easily accessible and clearly visible”. This inspired the majority of delegates to not just simply sit down.  


Connecting technology with wellness

The future of the events industry is paved with technology, but the most effective way will also be paired with wellness and the realisation that one of the most important pillars of wellbeing is social interaction. Nothing will ever replace being together in person. Organisers now have the task of innovatively incorporating wellness elements into their concepts.


Ideally, you talk about money © Shutterstock

Trend 8: Financial wellness – let’s talk about money

For a long time, people preferred not to discuss finances, salaries and the like in public. Indeed, silence about money is deeply rooted in many cultures. High earners tend to conceal their income out of feelings of guilt. And from South America to Southeast Asia, children are taught from an early age that it is a big taboo to talk about money.


Financial influencers conquer social media 

Today, step by step, there is more transparency. For example, the over three billion views of #personalfinance content on TikTok show that financial influencers are officially a hot ticket. “Money Talk” is going out of the pure banking and finance world and into society. People are talking about what role money plays in their lives.


This growing openness goes hand in hand with an awareness that there is a connection between money and mental health. Financial well-being is coming into focus.

Silence makes you sick 

Silence about money does not make us healthy. In fact, it makes us sick. A report by Thriving Wallet shows that financial stress affects physical health, blood pressure, respiratory symptoms, somatic problems and tension. Another report from the UK’s Money and Mental Health Institute found that people with anxiety and depression are three times more likely to be in debt. But even being debt-free does not automatically mean you do not worry about money. Bank of America Corp. surveyed people with sufficient means and again found that thoughts about money had a negative impact on mental health for 59 per cent of respondents.


Our relation to money 

This is where financial wellness comes into play. It explores the relationship between the individual and money and uncovers the deeper issues that can negatively impact that relationship. HSBC, for example, one of the largest banking and financial services institutions in the world, expanded its financial wellness offering at the start of the pandemic. PwC points to Financial Wellness as a solution to increase employee productivity while reducing medical costs. And fintech start-ups like Happy Money, which evaluates “happy” and “sad” spending patterns, are betting on financial wellness as the way forward.


“Money-Fit” as a mission 

New actors no longer see stress around money as a financial problem, but as a health problem. “ZavFit” represents this paradigm shift. The European health tech start-up has the first health tool for money. It’s not about how much money you have, but how you use that money.

The end of silence

The growing financial wellness movement is bringing the topic of money out of the shadows. One example: online platforms like “Money Diaries”, which track euro by euro how real people spend their money. Or the hashtag #debtfreecommunity featuring millions of pieces of advice on overcoming debt.

The hour of the financial therapists

When you talk about money, you talk about so much more – the past, the future, pressure, shame, trauma, status. Financial therapists help people overcome these subconscious hurdles so they can spend, save and invest better. The Financial Therapy Association now has over 300 international members, and the number is growing. 

Financial inclusion 

We all deal with money on a daily basis, but our experiences with it vary greatly depending on race, socio-economic status, age, personal values and even sexual orientation. In February 2020, Swedish-born Magnus Larsson launched Majority, a banking service that gives immigrants the tools they need to succeed financially. In September, over 50,000 people joined the waiting list for Jefa, a digital bank designed specifically for women in Latin America. In November 2020, Daylight, the first LGBTQ+ digital bank in the US, was launched, and so on. New actors are building a future where access to finance is a basic human right.

Trend 9: Travel more slowly and mindfully

The COVID pandemic had temporarily brought travel to an almost complete standstill. But the pause gave consumers and suppliers alike the opportunity to think about rebooting travel. It addresses issues such as over-tourism and how communities, cultures and places can benefit from tourism. And also due to the increase in many people’s personal stress levels during the pandemic, 2021 will be the year of the “travel reset”, where things slow down, get closer and become more mindful.


Leaving destinations in a better state

Travellers are increasingly paying attention to the sustainability of travel companies and hotels. One answer to this is provided, for example, by “Regenerative Travel”, a global association of more than 40 resorts in 24 countries that have taken up the cause of “positive social and environmental impact”. The key factors of the introduced benchmarking system for hotels include, for example, environmental and social initiatives, activities that open up the destination from the perspective of the locals, and a design that fits the environment. 

Reisen wird achtsamer und aktiver © Shutterstock

Too many and too few tourists

Venice is the best example of the problems that mass tourism can cause. Now that the lagoon has recovered due to the pandemic, the issue is moving up the agenda. Cruises in particular are in focus, also in places like Barcelona or Dubrovnik. But “under-tourism” can also have major social and environmental impacts if regions suddenly lack income.


Travelling differently than before COVID

During the pandemic, many travellers took refuge in more remote locations. This shift will most likely continue. International travel is likely to be postponed until a later date by many people, with many preferring to stay close to home. Those who do travel stay longer in one place and there is a trend to make the hotel itself the destination and accordingly leave little or nothing behind. The hotel industry is responding with extraordinary leisure activities directly at the hotel.


Active in nature

During the pandemic, many people rediscovered nature – for relaxation, exercise and for reasons of social distancing. The “back to nature” movement coincides with the boom in slow travel, for example on foot, by boat or camper van, or active holidays with cycling, hiking, skiing, climbing or kayaking. Not surprisingly, for example, bicycle sales in the US increased by more than two-thirds in 2020.


Connecting travel with a purpose

Many travellers are now looking more at the purpose of their trip, whether it is reuniting with family, climbing Kilimanjaro, philanthropic travel or learning new skills. Finding meaning in travel is a highly individual thing, but the travel industry has creative offerings. At the new “Mauna Lani”, for example, an “auberge resort” in Hawaii, guests seeking a fitness challenge can learn the Hawaiian training method of underwater rock running or take a course in open water swimming.


Conclusion: The development of the wellness industry

People who live healthy lives – exercising regularly, eating well and having a supportive system – are better equipped to fight COVID-19. Those who take good care of themselves and prevent chronic illness are in the best position to stay mentally and physically healthy. The experts of the Global Wellness Summit’s Wellness Trends 2021 report are united by the belief that wellness will improve, surprise and inspire our environment and our lives in the future. Wellness has evolved from a “nice to have” to a must-have for everyone. But there is still much to do.




About the GWI:

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower wellness worldwide by educating the public and private sectors about preventative health and wellness. GWI’s research, programs and initiatives have been instrumental in the growth of the USD $4.5 trillion wellness economy—and in uniting the health and wellness industries.