Futurist, Gerd Leonhard, on the future of spa, wellness & hospitality

gerd leonhard
Gerd Leonhard

What does the future hold for spa, wellness, and hospitality? Futurist, Gerd Leonhard, shares his vision for what we can expect soon — and soon after.

There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future of spa and wellness. Technological advances are changing the industry and putting a new perspective on the way we look at the world. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these shifts. Over the past few years, an increased focus on overall wellness and mental wellbeing have also been drivers of change.

In our quest to learn what the spa of the future might look like, we spoke with Gerd Leonhard, a Futurist, global Keynote Speaker, and author of five books including Technology vs. Humanity. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts in London, and the founder and CEO of The Futures Agency, a unique and globally engaged group of over 50 well-known futurists and speakers striving to create and share powerful narratives that help people “discover, understand and design their preferred future, and to make wise decisions, here and now.”

Here’s what Gerd Leonhard had to say about the future of spa, wellness, and hospitality.

Leonhard is predicting a “human renaissance.”

“I think because of COVID and the ongoing difficulties in the world, there’s a bit of a new human renaissance happening. People care again about being human and about having a purpose. And that will have a great impact on healthcare, wellness, all of these things. Because we’re going to spend more time looking at things that we really want and need rather than chasing things that we thought we wanted.”

Wellness technology and the metaverse won’t trump the need for real world connection.

“Tech and wellness are moving toward more elaborate experiences. I see great use cases for augmented and virtual reality for yoga and meditation, for example. But, at the same time, I think there is going to be a rehumanization, which means less technology. There’s a saying I’ve been using for a long time: “offline is the new luxury.” You have this trend where people are saying we want to have less technology so we can come back to ourselves.

“In the future there will be much more elaborate virtual worlds, like the metaverse, where we can go inside of the screen or have pop out holograms. But in the end, human nature is still to connect in the physical world. That is what humans do. People don’t see only with their eyes. They see with their ears, their noses, and their bodies. And, this is where we have to keep in mind when we talk about wellbeing, that it cannot just be virtualized. There’s a strong physical component to human existence that we can’t just cut out because it’s tedious.”

The box on the face has been one of the factors impeding VR’s expansion outside of gaming. This may change.

We are developing technology that will replace wearing the box; regular glasses and images that can be projected onto your iris. Apple is working very hard on augmented reality glasses. So, say you’re a dentist or a surgeon, as you are looking at your glasses, you can see the health data of your patient. But it’s a question of finding a good interface because obviously superimposing data over your field of vision could be disorienting. And then, the human brain isn’t designed for this kind of direct input, and that is a potential pitfall.”

Sustainability will be mandatory and people are willing to pay more for it

I always say green is the new digital. Years ago everything was about digital transformation, and now it’s about going green. That means sustainable energy, sustainable food, plastic reduction, all of the things that can make things more sustainable, including paying more for sustainable options, like for different kinds of service that produces less CO2.

This will be mandatory. It’s no longer optional. Research shows that people are making decisions based on sustainability and are willing to pay more for it. In 10 years, if you’re not part of that circular economy of taking out and giving back, you will be ignored. Big tech companies are making their technology and data centers sustainable, and going to net zero by 2030 is becoming a major theme. This means trillions of dollars shifting away from using fossil fuel and a new normal. That’s definitely the big topic.”

Talk of genetic engineering at a spa and wellness level may be premature but not off base.

If you could collect all the data of your phenotype, which includes the biome, genome, and DNA (there’s a company in California called Human Longevity Inc that will do it for roughly $11,000) then you could conceivably compare it to other data and see your likelihood of developing conditions like diabetes or Alzheimer’s. But, while that is definitely coming, we don’t yet have enough data. We have like 50 million sets and we need more like 500 million to compare. If that becomes a new normal, which I think it will, we will have information about what is likely to happen with our bodies and can take action with lifestyle changes. I think that is at least 20 years away, though. Because if you mute a genome, which is to deactivate it, because it may cause cancer, then you also deactivate 17 and a half million other possible variations that are impacted by the same genome. It’s not as simple as muting the genome for cancer, like an on-off switch. It’s complicated and it could basically kill everybody in your family that has that genome three generations down the road.

“This idea of using data analytics for wellbeing is definitely a keeper but changing the physical nature of people is further away.

Another big problem will be data security. If I’m going to put my DNA in the cloud, I wouldn’t want that to be mishandled the way Facebook mishandles my personal information.”

Care will move out of the healthcare sector and into the wellness sector as we focus on prevention rather than cure.

A convergence of sectors has been obvious for some time. We see Apple becoming a healthcare company, in that they are using your data to make you more comfortable and help you live better and provide wellbeing. And we now have conversions of these previously separated industries, like pharma and medicine, with the wellness and food sectors, for instance, and you see things like personalized nutrition. If I have an analysis of my body and know that if I eat X, Y, Z, I won’t do well, then I can have a plan personalized and customized for me, just like we do now with healthcare.

We have a lot more access to information and a lot of people will be experts on this. You don’t have to be a doctor for that. It helps to be a doctor, but sometimes that gets in the way of seeing alternative solutions. The entire healthcare industry has been fixated for a hundred years on what I call “sick care,” which is fixing sick people. And the future will be about keeping people healthy. That will have a huge impact on wellbeing and on hospitality.” 

“The future is better than you think,” says Leonhard.

Because of all the technical and scientific progress that we’ve made, we can do entirely different things with wellbeing and happiness. That should be extremely exciting for the future, as long as we don’t overdo it. It’s all about balance. I always say that we should embrace technology, but not become technology. We have a sort of nature deficit disorder where we don’t get enough nature because we’re using technology too much. I think nature will make a very bigcomeback in the healthcare and wellbeing industries with this idea of rewilding, going back into nature, connecting with nature. It won’t be just disconnecting and rewilding completely. That’s unlikely to work for most people. But it will mean putting more emphasis on leaving the tech behind. That will be an ongoing struggle once we get into virtual worlds, like the metaverse.”

 

Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com

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