As Managing Chairman of the German Wellness Association, Lutz Hertel knows the industry better than almost anyone else. In an interview, the wellness expert gives a current market assessment and talks about the changes in the concept of wellness over the past decades.
Mr. Hertel, as managing chairman of the German Wellness Association you know the industry better than almost anyone. How would you assess the current developments in the market?
The general assessment is that the entire wellness market in Germany is growing steadily. But exact numbers are missing, mainly because wellness can’t be defined as a separate market segment, and because the term has been repeatedly associated with other meanings in the last 30 years. Initially, wellness in Germany was considered a countermovement to the “no pain, no gain” concept. The gentle way to do fitness: low-impact aerobics, body & soul gymnastics. After that, wellness was everything supposed to make you feel better effortlessly, from harmony-inducing herbal tea to pampering shower toilets. Then came the idea that still prevails today: that fitness is cultured relaxation in luxurious temples of wellbeing: cool pools, sprawling sauna landscapes, stylish relaxation worlds, exclusive cosmetic treatments and relaxing, pampering massages from around the world.
Has this picture changed in recent years?
Yes, the understanding is shifting towards the actual meaning of the wellness concept: effective fitness, nutrition and regeneration for a healthy body and a productive life. That’s a significant trend, which is shaped predominantly by millennials and their successors, Generation Z. They care about optimising their lives, through their own actions and with a sense of social and environmental responsibility. As an early wellness protagonist, I like seeing this development because it corresponds to the core of the true wellness philosophy.
How do you think the wellness market will evolve in the medium term, i.e. within, say, the next five years?
We can already see that demand for wellness in the form of products and services will increase further. Conventional products and services such as massages and care cosmetics will continue to do well. In addition, training and coaching offerings for an effective and efficient wellness lifestyle will enrich the market. Joining hotels and spas, more and more smaller businesses and probably also wellness or spa chains will participate in the market. Moreover, low-budget providers will – at least in the bigger cities – make wellness experiences generally affordable. As a result of climate change, eco-wellness will become more important, which means products and services shouldn’t just sustainably boost our wellbeing, they also need to contribute to stabilising the climate and ecosystems.
Is mental wellness or relaxation a current trend? What’s behind it?
At least there’s a lot of talk, not just about mental wellness but also about spiritual wellness. That said, those terms aren’t clearly defined and, in my estimation, are mostly just empty phrases for something that’s got very little to do with actual wellness. In a professional sense, mental wellness means developing and using your intellect, i.e. your mind, in order to have a better life. In other words, it’s about stimulating, improving and applying cognitive abilities: analytical, logical and critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, scientific understanding, creativity, reasoning skills, decision-making competency, the ability to focus mentally, and self-regulation, i.e. the ability to consciously control physical, mental and emotional processes. All these abilities can be trained, shaped and – within the limits of individual possibilities – built up just like a muscle.
What’s the role of fitness studios with integrated wellness areas? Is this a market with future growth potential?
I see potential demand for fitness studios with conventional wellness areas – saunas, pools, relaxation rooms, maybe even massages – even though the associated price segment primarily reaches target groups in the upper middle class and above. Actually, though, fitness studios could and should have been the leading providers in the market for wellness services for a long time. After all, wellness isn’t an occasional relaxation and beauty programme but a growth process that develops our physical, mental, emotional and social potential. Visiting a hotel, spa or thermal bath three or four times a year is certainly a nice leisure programme. But wellness is a “daily job”, and the fitness studio near one’s home or work can be the perfect partner for that. Of course this requires a fitting concept and a good team, which very few gyms can boast as of yet.
From your perspective, how important is FIBO for obtaining an overview of current wellness trends?
Wellness is a cross-sectoral concept that’s permeated many industries. The number of FIBO exhibitors with a connection to fitness is growing, and of course the latest trends are reflected in their new products and services. For the first time, the German Wellness Association will display the new products nominated for the Wellness & Spa Innovation Awards 2020 at the Wellness Competence Center in Hall 8. Companies can apply to be nominated until 15 January 2020. Innovations are good trend indicators, and sometimes they are trendsetters themselves. Visiting our innovation show at FIBO will definitely be worthwhile for getting insights into the current developments of the wellness market.