THE UNSTOPPABLE RISE OF WELLNESS
Like me, you've probably noticed over the last decade or so, that there has been an increase in 'body and soul' events. This has, broadly speaking, reflected a shift in consumer spending and interest away from material goods and towards experiences, memories and 'self-enrichment'.
Of course, we're all still buying plenty of material product, but there's no denying a groundswell of awareness about environmental and ecological challenges, social problems and so-called 'work-life' balance has been underway for some time. People have a much greater understanding of supply chain ethics than ever before, for example. Despite phenomena like 'fast fashion', junk food, and plastic packaging, the trendsetters and thought leaders of the media appear to be united in wanting to appear to be reducing waste, reusing and recycling. From 'Hygge', 'Lagom', me-time and duvet days, to Extinction Rebellion, going vegan and living plastics-free the public is thirsty for the stories that show us ways to live well, feel well, and do good.
This tendency is a difficult thing to encapsulate, but "wellness" will have to suffice, and I think it's going to be a major and growing feature of very nearly everything we do as an industry in the future. As a result we're now also seeing trade events that are devoted to serving the practitioners, teachers, mentors and others producers in the wellness sector.
Events are going to have to cater to a growing number of vegetarians and vegans, that much has been certain for decades, but the proportion of people turning to meat and dairy free diets is accelerating. Diet as a whole is intrinsic to how we treat our bodies, and quality, authenticity and morality are all strong factors when it comes to food choices today, in a way they were not a mere 10 years ago.
Consumers want their choices to reflect their concerns about how food should be originated (food miles, live export etc), packaged (less is more), and not wasted (something like 70% of shop bought salad is thrown away). The growth of organic, artisan, authentic and ethical foods will only increase as awareness snowballs.
Wellness, as a concept, extends beyond being just a consumer or individual concept. Many organisers are expanding the concept to encompass their whole event thinking. The sense of wellness impacting upon energy consumption, materials used in creating the event, the carbon footprint of the resources being used onsite, all of which is evidenced in the emergence of low energy LED lighting, modular stand systems, sourcing ethically produced furniture and an increasing awareness of the waste streams generated by any event. The expectations of many organisers is that wellness is a holistic concept that extends beyond the person.
Events have been providing 'faith spaces' for some time, but I think the demand for more secular 'retreats' for meditation and other wellness activities will grow. Even "power naps" are making a comeback - the benefit of a short sleep during the day isn't packaged so aggressively today though. Now people are tuning into their own bodies with the benefit of technology, monitoring their sleep cycles, physical activity, even blood oxygenation and sugar levels. The power naps of yesterday are the 'restorative' mini-sleeps of the 21st century.
Events, conferences and exhibitions are already choosing turnkey solutions from dedicated providers to bolt on wellness features to their events. From sleep booths, juice bars and meditation areas to yoga workshops and even gong baths, there's still room for plenty of innovation.
The much parodied 'self-help' era of the 70s and 80s has given way to a much greater understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place in it. This translates into tectonic shift in audience and customer expectations for the event industry. Audiences growing up today have a sharper sense of what constitutes inauthenticity, bandwaggoning or empty gestures than we do, and the events of the future are going to need to provide real substance for any claims of wellness that they make.