By Liza Horan, Editor
As countries begin to relax lockdown measures, yet maintain social distancing, every commercial industry is figuring out what that means in practical terms. In Europe, parking lots and sidewalks have been approved as outdoor dining rooms so restaurants can serve customers while respecting the two-meter spacing rule. In Asia, supermarkets are taking contact details and squirting anti-bacterial gel into shoppers’ hands upon entry. And professional associations in the wellness industry are collaborating to review old guidelines and issue new standards.
“We will not go back to the way it was,” industry expert Sue Harmsworth said in a video conference hosted by the Global Wellness Institute this week. The founder of ESPA’s 50-year career in the sector includes participating in the design of over 500 award-winning spas in 65 countries and currently serving on the board of the GWI, among others. Harmsworth, whose grandmother was an herbalist while her mother worked in medicine.
Harmsworth’s top insights are:
- Hygiene standards rising: Sensitivity to cleanliness has been heightened as the public learned about viral spread and how to protect themselves. Standard Operating Procedures will need to be updated and, at least in the short-term, require the use of disposable materials, such as one-time-use aprons, sheets and tools. While this counters the great environmental protection progress this sector has made, it is vital right now. Hygiene in wellness facilities could mean adopting medical-grade standards of equipment sterilisation of tools and air quality control.
- Customer demographic skews lower in the short- to mid-term: The 70+ age group is deemed as “vulnerable” to Covid-19 and this group may be absent from physical wellness facilities until there’s a vaccine. This will drop the median age of spa and wellness customers from about 45 years old, as the 20- and 30-somethings comprise the bulk of business activity.
- Online product sales and services emphasised: Lifting lockdown measures toward resuming full booking capacity will be a phased plan and vary by type of business and location.
- Local services favoured over long-distance: People are anticipated to stay within a 90-minute drive from home for spa getaways or wellness services, and not travel internationally. Harmsworth anticipates that long-haul air travel may be curbed for the next 18 to 24 months. Australia’s prime minister already announced that international travel will be banned for one year.
- Demand for balanced wellness offerings to increase: As mental health and general wellbeing have been challenged through the coronavirus crisis, people have become especially aware of all aspects of health: Mind, body and spirit. Harmsworth says facilities that focus on physical services — like aesthetic beauty and workout studios — will extend their services to include more spiritual-focused offerings. And the reverse holds: Spiritual or esoteric centres are likely to add physical disciplines. The demand for integrative or holistic offerings will grow.
This is not a time to sit idle, Harmsworth cautions. Her advice for businesses is to:
- Digitise whatever aspects of your business make sense, whether they drive direct revenue or are a way to deliver value to your customers, such as a talk or workshop.
- Prepare for the new rules by ordering supplies, revising your Standard Operating Procedures for social distancing and hygiene requirements.
- Train your staff on those new rules, and also to understand that customers may not be in the same mental headspace as they were before lockdown. A higher level of understanding, care and empathy will be required when communicating and interacting with customers because people are dealing with anxiety, social isolation and other mental and emotional situations.
- Convey that you are a brand to be trusted. Make an effort to be transparent about the steps your business is taking to comply with health and safety guidelines, so customers can feel confident. Consumers will choose the brands they trust most, Harmsworth says.
- Add value — don’t discount. Hold steady with pricing, even if you reduce the number of treatments or services on your menu. Find a way to provide extra value to the customer experience.
- Add non-contact and machine-based services. These are alternatives to hands-on work. Heat, water, light, and sound therapies, and breathwork are examples.
The full recording of the call with Harmsworth is here, and the GWI has assembled Positively Well, a list of resources for wellness business to rebound from the coronavirus lockdown.
The worldwide case count for Covid-19 is 3.356 million with about 239,000 deaths, says the World Health Organization.
In other mind-body-spirit news this week, leading meditation app, Headspace, is offering Headspace Plus free to residents of Los Angeles County as part of a collaboration with the local Department of Mental Health for support during the pandemic. They’ve also curated a collection of free content for residents in New York state and Michigan in partnership with the governors, though anyone can access the meditations and content.
Mindfulness — staying present in the moment — combats stress and boosts wellbeing, according to two studies summarised by Douglas LaBier in Psychology Today. “A combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness results in … being more resilient against daily stressors,” a researcher says of one study. For another study that focused on differences by age, a researcher said, “We found that positive relationships between aspects of mindfulness and well-being became stronger from middle age onwards.”
Amazonian tribes are fighting the pandemic their way, Stephen Harris write for The Conversation. “Among indigenous communities on the urban fringes in the Napo, there is a surge of interest in planting medicinal trees and plants in response to the pandemic … They are closing down access routes and retreating deeper into the forest. Whenever possible they escape into ancestral territories, sometimes to places of cultural or spiritual significance.”
Switzerland an early-adopter of alternative therapies into mainstream with legislation for federal diploma. Since 1999, Switzerland has gone back and forth on how to ensure naturopaths practice to a consistent and acceptable standard for safety and other factors. Part of the struggle has been that there are multiple professional associations — four for Ayurveda alone — that have to advise the governmental standards. While details are being worked out for a federal diploma, Switzerland is already ahead of most countries: “Five alternative therapies – homeopathy, holistic, herbal and neural therapies and Traditional Chinese Medicine – are included under the Swiss basic health insurance package,” according to SwissInfo news site.
Scientists try to understand consciousness — of ourselves and of the universe. Futurist.com covered two recent advances: Integrated Information Theory is a model that aims to quantify and measure consciousness, and mathematicians are finding that it applies to non-living things, too. In another theory, scientists believe the brain creates consciousness as a side effect from increasing entropy, “a process that has been taking place throughout the universe since the Big Bang.”
Treating the whole person, not just the condition, works best: A new study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors shows that a holistic approach to treating drug addiction across lifestyle factors is more successful than a pharmacological treatment alone.
“According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40% to 60% of patients who engage in medication-assisted treatment programs for substance-use disorder will relapse,” Global Health News reports. “Interventions that take a multidimensional approach – tackling the biological, social, environmental and mental health obstacles to overcome while also addressing a person’s substance use – work best for those hoping to stop using drugs.”
How are intuitives and healers dealing with coronavirus conditions? Goop asked. Checking in with one’s self, breathing and feeling connected to the larger community are among the ways they’re finding strength at this time.