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On Trend: Banking on Health — Shifting Luxury from Wealth to Health

15 May, 2018

Beyond the continuing growth of urbanization, the persistent march of globalization and digital technologies influences nearly all aspects of our lives. Given the stress, noise, and ‘always-on’ smartphone lifestyle, city dwellers face an increasing need for peace and quiet. High net worth individuals (HNWIs), in particular, are less interested in attaining status from labels or price tags. They move away from flashy, material ways of reducing anxiety and stress toward avenues that are more novel in their approach, while retaining a sense of olden-day glamour. Today, experience — with a focus on health, sustainability, and wellness — comprises the new luxury economy.

A 2013 study by The Boston Consulting Group, Shock of the New Chic: Dealing with New Complexity in the Business of Luxury, estimated that consumers spent more than USD 1.8 trillion worldwide annually on items they defined as luxuries, such as clothes and jewelry. At the same time, nearly USD 1 trillion were spent on luxury experiences, which ranged from five-star restaurants through to exotic vacation travel. Similarly, according to a report, US Spending 2017, by consumer research group YouGov Affluent Perspective, while discretionary spending on items like fashion, jewelry, watches, and home décor is down 11%, affluent spending on leisure travel, communication services, and fine dining is up 9% — with 43% of discretionary spending on travel.

Silence is Golden

As discussed in the Global Wellness Summit’s 2017 annual trend report, 8 Wellness Trends for 2017 — and Beyond, retreat offerings incorporate facilities for quietness, mindfulness, and time in wild nature. This is in contrast to the hyper-luxurious amenities that may have been emphasized in the past. Silent dinners, silent baths, and even silent salons have become the new therapy for HNWIs. The report also points to ‘wellness monasteries’, which are retreats infused with the values of ancient sacred spaces and often inspired by modern science. Numerous studies over the last decade have highlighted the benefits of silence. A 2013 Duke University study, for example, found that two hours of silence daily incited significant cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory. Another 2006 study published in the journal Heart found two minutes

of silence to be more relaxing than listening to relaxing music. The findings were based on changes in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

Many hotels aim to provide guests with peace and quiet, but these are rarely positioned as core offerings. Monastero Santa Rosa, for instance, is a high-end retreat set in a 17thcentury monastery in Italy, which specializes in luxury mindfulness. In addition to its coastal views, guests are drawn to the silence created by the hotel’s unique facilities, such as its vaulted Roman baths and sauna carved out of a rock. In Germany, the historic Villa Stéphanie at Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa has equipped its hotel rooms with copper plates, ensuring that guests can completely disconnect from WiFi, mobile reception, and even electricity.

Catering for Creativity

According to market research company Nielsen’s 2015 report US Book Industry Year-end Review, 12 million copies of adult coloring books were sold in the US that year, up from 1 million the year before. The firm further found that sales are primarily driven by younger women who find the act of coloring therapeutic and a welcome alternative to online activities.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, creativity and the arts are central to wellness concepts, specifically at hotels, wellness retreats, spas, and studios. It refers to Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa in California which offers offline recreational activities, such as private painting lessons and tickets to museums, along with spa treatments. HNWIs may also enjoy the experience of music therapy with over-water light shows and underwater music. For example, at Toskana Therme thermal baths in Germany and Austria, guests can float in warm salt water, while being gently manipulated by therapists.

Digital Detoxing

The Esalen Institute is a non-profit US retreat center growing increasingly popular among prominent Silicon Valley figures including ex-Facebook President and Napster Co-founder Sean Parker and renowned entrepreneur and founder of software company Asana Justin Rosenstein. The center, which was founded in the 1960s, is focused on providing yoga and meditation exercises. It serves as a getaway, removed from the frantic, technology-driven world. In 2017, global luxury hotel group Mandarin Oriental introduced Digital Wellness Escapes and Digital Wellness Retreats with the specific intention of helping individuals to detach themselves from their phones and laptops to have a quiet, technology-free time. The treatment starts with a shungite-infused bath aiming to help the body eliminate the “free radicals we get through our technology”, as described on their website. Unsurprisingly, guest activities also include journaling, writing, coloring, and meditation.

Mind over Matter

Above all, however, the focus on mental health, through meditation and mindfulness, is redefining what luxury experiences encompass. A 2016 Oxford University meta-analysis, titled ‘Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy in Prevention of Depressive Relapse’, found that mindfulness-based therapy was more effective at reducing depression relapses than antidepressant medication. That same year, Corinthia Hotel London in the UK became the first such establishment to have a year-long Neuroscientist in Residence, Dr. Tara Swart from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create new programs tackling mental wellness, resilience, and positivity. According to the US-based International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, the health market has grown to such a degree that health clubs generated USD 27.6 billion in revenue in 2016. In 2015, this figure was USD 25.8 billion, a significant increase from the USD 20.3 billion generated by the sector in 2010.

In the UK, well-known individuals, such as Princess of Hanover Caroline, and her daughter Charlotte Casiraghi, are often spotted at exclusive, holistic gyms such as Bodyism. Founded by Australian-born author and wellness specialist James Duigan, Bodyism sets itself apart by the oxygenated air and Vitamin D light fixtures that ensure its members feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Capitalizing on the trend of health and wellness, in 2017 renowned five-star English hotel The Lanesborough partnered with the trendy wellness and weight-loss brand to offer its guests access to one of London’s most cutting-edge fitness facilities. These trends highlight the shifts that are taking place in current definitions of luxury. For HNWIs, the emphasis has moved away from having towards a more holistic focus on being, as health and wellness becomes the new therapy.