Wellness – Movement or Industry?


Wellness is a Movement, not an Industry!

Last year at the Professional Spa & Beauty Convention in Dubai when I made this statement, it ruffled a few feathers. It was intended to get people thinking and encourage some robust discussions. It certainly did just that. Interestingly, most of the reaction, in the heat of the moment, was highly defensive. But I wasn’t suggesting being a Movement is a bad thing. Infact, the opposite is true. It’s much easier to get people passionate about a Movement than an Industry.

Let’s establish a clear example of each before we get started…

Gay Rights is a Movement. The Automotive Industry is, well, an Industry.

Remember that video that went viral towards the end of 2016 with the guy explaining all the problems with Millennial generation? If you somehow managed to miss it, here’s a link  – The Millennial Question

The naysayer is Simon Sinek, author, speaker, etc. He wrote a book a few years earlier titled Start With Why. The key point of his book is that people care more about why you do something than what it is you actually do.

Again, for those who prefer video consumption, here’s his TED talk on the subject..

Movements are all about why. If we accept this, then it kinda follows that a Movement is more powerful than an Industry. And yet most that I speak to are offended when I question if we are really an Industry or not. It’s like they see it as a question to the legitimacy of the work they are doing.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a Movement as – a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas.

Industry is defined as – a particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity.

You could easily argue that Wellness can be both.

Attributes of an Industry

But let’s take a more detailed look at a few attributes of each and see if where that leaves us…

  1. An industry is guided by standards. A movement is rooted in values.

Hmmmm? Standards within Wellness is definitely something lots of people talk about. But I think we’re a long way from having anything like a uniform set of standards. So, on this one, I’d have to say Wellness is Movement.

  1. An industry becomes more uniform over time. A movement becomes more diverse.

Destination Spas, Day Spas, Hotel Spas, Ayurveda, Massage, Spiritual Healing, Wellness Living, etc., etc. Diversity seems to be a bit of theme here, doesn’t it? Once again, on this score, I’d have to say Wellness fits better in the Movement classification.

The score so far… Movement = 2 ; Industry = 0

  1. An industry is inoculated against passions and fads that flare up outside its walls.  A movement is contagious, influencing institutions, individuals, and ideas beyond itself.

Just look at the new Wellness Trends we trot out every year! Rather than trying to inoculate ourselves against these trends (or maybe more accurately, fads) we seem to embrace them. Each year we eagerly await the latest trends report to see which way we should be going. It reminds me a bit of Groundhog Day where the good folks of Punxsutawney turn to Phil each year to set the direction for the season.

  1. An industry is exclusive, with barriers to entry that become higher over time.  A movement is inclusive, with boundaries that are barely there.

This one’s a bit interesting. In some ways, I think we do try to position ourselves as exclusive. Much of the focus of spas and wellness has definitely been on the more affluent consumers. But I don’t think this is necessarily about building barriers to entry. It’s simply a matter of targeting the lower hanging fruit first. It’s hard to think of any major barrier to entry for an outsider wanting to get into the Wellness field. And as a group, I think we generally pride ourselves on welcoming outsiders with open arms. Indeed, if anything, we want more people getting onboard the Wellness train. Even from a purely business standpoint, this makes sense. It’s a case of growing the overall pie rather than cannibalising the existing market.

Final Tally… Movement = 4 ; Industry = 0

So, on balance, it seems we are a Movement, not an Industry – at least not yet.

A great test of all these attributes is to ask someone from outside the world of spa and wellness. Ask them how they see this industry of ours. Any time I’ve done this, the answers always come back the same. On first glance, they would call us an Industry, coz there’s obviously some business happening here. But look a little deeper and all the indicators seem to point to Movement.

What’s the point?

Who cares if Wellness is a Movement or an Industry anyway? Does it really matter?

Well, I would suggest that as soon as you want to start charging people money for something, you’d better start thinking Industry, not Movement.

If we’re all going to hang out in the park on Sunday afternoon and meditate together, in a communal bid for Wellness, that’s great. But if you want to charge me $100 to come to your spa to have someone teach me how to meditate, at that point I want to know that there’s some standards in place. I want to know there are some Industry guidelines that define what I will get for my money.

Either embrace the Movement or define the Industry.