GWS panel predicts hottest wellness trends for 2021

by Megan Whitby | 17 Nov 2020

A discussion panel about future wellness trends saw spa and wellness industry experts offer their take on what’s in the pipeline for the industry in 2021.

Moderated by Beth McGroarty, GWS VP of research and forecasting, the panel took place during GWS 2020, featuring Sandra Ballentine, W magazine editor; Cecelia Girr, senior cultural strategist at Backslash and Elaine Glusac, The New York Times travel columnist.

Also joining the conversation was Claire McCormack, Indie Beauty Media Group content + thought leadership; Sarah Miller, Wall Street Journal luxury brand ambassador; and Jessica Smith, freelance wellness and beauty trends consultant

Spa Business has rounded up the top five trends from the session.


Ballentine kicked off by predicting that COVID-19 will make immunity building and enhancement major wellness trends in 2021.

This programme style has already ramped up speed in 2020 with a host of operators already rolling out or planning immunity support and booster packages, including RAKxa, Clinique La Prairie, The Bürgenstock Resort and Lefay Resorts.

“There’s going to be an increased focus on strengthening and supporting immunity and physical fortitude,” she said, “expect to see more customised immunity hacks – like genetic testing and biohacking, which will provide clients with a blueprint of their health and pinpoint the right treatments for them.”

Ballentine also believes this will lead to an increased focus on gut health and microbiome because of its relation to our immunity and brain function.

In the GWI's latest report it defines mental wellness as its own industry and pinpoints Brain-boosting nutraceuticals and botanicals as one of the emerging sector’s four major categories.

NatureThe panel unanimously agreed that nature will continue to be a trend in 2021, following a global retreat to the wilderness as people all around the world looked for an outlet while social interaction has been restricted.

For spas, this trend could materialise as more creative outdoor wellness programming such as wild swimming, forest bathing or meditation in nature, as well as outdoor treatments and use of spa gardens.

Glusac said: “We know nature is very healing and people are turning to it to find solace during the pandemic, because they can’t travel and socialise like usual.”

She added that the fact people are also choosing to spend more time in nature and take a break from their digital devices is a bonus for wellbeing - perhaps another trend spas could leverage by offering digital detox packages and retreats into nature.

Tackling the taboo

Girr believes that 2021 will see a “massive and seismic cultural taboo toppling”, meaning wellness will expand its boundaries to things such as death, sex, money and socialising.

“We’re moving from wellness focusing on looking and feeling good, to this next wave where we’re lifting the lid on some of the pain points and pressures in society,” she said.

“Wellness will fundamentally change the way we approach the riskier topics we don’t tackle, because they’re so sacred and codified

“But with COVID-19 as a cultural accelerant, I think wellness is going to continue shedding light on how our approach to these things is only contributing to the mental health crisis we’re in.”

McCormack concurred, saying that during lockdown sexual wellness brand witnessed a huge spike in sales, seeing year-over-year sales triple and even quadruple.

She added that she believes women’s sexual health and wellness will boom in 2021, as companies are realising that many women are suffering in silence and feel failed by the medical system, in particular regarding the menopause.

“Companies are continuing to look into alternative ways to meet women’s health needs, making things such as pelvic floor trainers and supplements designed specifically for women.

“Even pre-COVID in 2019, almost US$500m (£375m, €423m) was invested into femtech, so I believe this will be a big trend for 2021.”

Wellness at homeBallentine highlighted that although self-care and beauty are already taking off in 2020, they will reach new heights in 2021 and that spas have an opportunity to leverage this.

“I think all kinds of wellness coaching will become increasingly important – spa professionals and personal trainers have a real opportunity to enhance the at-home experience for customers, with things such as virtual classes and digital content, to maintain engagement.”

McCormack said at-home wellness, in particular, is gaining traction in 2020 and that lots of companies are noticing this and pitching solutions for healthy living and healthy homes, such as air purification systems.

“We’re spending so much more time in our homes, so companies are looking to help us optimise that space to have it be another wellness refuge.”

Smith added that wellness architecture will have a reawakening, not only in buildings but also looking at how there might be more transparency about how the environment might impact our health in the long-term.

She believes technology in the home will also be part of this trend – with the intention to create pandemic-proof properties, both commercially and as homes, using technology such as the Carlo Ratti wardrobe purifier which removes micro-organisms, bacteria, and viruses from clothes.

Spa Business's sister magazine, Well Home, is already tapping this trend, with a new issue due out for 2021. Find out more at Well Home Global.

GWS< Global Wellness Summit  Beth McGroarty  nature  self-care  at-home wellness  wellness architecture 
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A discussion panel about future wellness trends saw spa and wellness industry experts offer their take on what’s in the pipeline for the industry in 2021. Moderated by Beth McGroarty, GWS VP of research and forecasting, the panel took place during GWS 2020, featuring Sandra Ballentine, W magazine editor; Cecelia Girr, senior cultural strategist at Backslash and Elaine Glusac, The New York Times travel columnist. Also joining the conversation was
Panellists believed spas have an opportunity to leverage the up and coming trend of self-care and wellness in the home / Shutterstock/triocean
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