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Global Wellness Summit Identifies Five Wellness Market Trends for Japan

A boom in inbound wellness travel, J-Beauty, futuristic wellness real estate, technology solutions for the longevity economy, and a new emphasis on mental health in the workplace will drive Japan’s strong future in wellness.

Miami, FL – August 5, 2019 – The Global Wellness Summit (GWS), the premier gathering of international leaders in the $4.2 trillion wellness economy, is soon headed to Asia, with its 13th annual conference being held at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong from October 15–17. In anticipation of the Summit, the GWS recently hosted a VIP Roundtable in Tokyo, where several of Japan’s most powerful opportunities in wellness—both at home and abroad—were discussed.

Roundtable participants included top executives and board members from leading Japanese companies, including Benefit One, FUJIFILM, Healthcare Laboratory, Kao Corporation, Mori Trust K.K., Shimizu Corporation, SONY and Yakult HQ, along with GWS Executive Director and Chief Creative Officer Nancy Davis and conference co-chair and president and CEO of Japan-based Conceptasia, Yoriko Soma.

Five Wellness Market Trends for Japan

1) Strong Assets for an Inbound Wellness Tourism Boom

Asia has been the eye-opening growth leader in the $639 billion global wellness tourism market: Wellness trips in Asia grew a staggering 33 percent from 2015–2017 (reaching 258 million annually). While Japan’s market ranks fifth in the world, it has seen more modest recent growth in wellness tourism than other Asian nations, even though it has strong assets. While Japan added 2.7 million wellness trips, China and India rank #1 and #2 worldwide for wellness tourism growth—with China adding 22 million, India 27 million, Malaysia 3.3 million, and Vietnam 3.2 million (2015–2017). All of these Asian nations (along with Indonesia and the Philippines) clocked 20–30 percent (or more) growth in wellness trips from 2015–2017 while Japan grew trips only 3.5 percent.

No wellness tourism market will grow faster than Asia’s through 2022: essentially doubling revenues from $137 billion to $252 billion. Japan can often underestimate the value of its wellness culture and destinations and could more clearly promote their authentic assets to drive more sustainable, high-revenue tourism. The world is listening.

Asia’s Wellness Tourism Leaders

                                    Annual trips                 Annual Revenues         World Rank

China                           70.2 mil.                       $31.7 bil.                          #3
Japan                          40.5 mil.                       $22.5 bil.                          #5
India                            56 mil.                           $16.3 bil.                          #7
Thailand                     12.5 mil.                        $12 bil.                             #13
Australia                     10 mil.                           $10.5 bil.                          #14
Asia Total                    258 mil.                        $137 bil.

Given that Japan has unique assets that wellness travelers now most hunger for—from an extraordinary hot springs culture to meditating with monks to forest bathing to food as both medicine and spiritual art—there’s vast opportunities for the country to more powerfully promote “Japanese wellness” and grow its inbound wellness travel market.

Hot springs are hot with travelers, and Japan’s resources are unmatched, with nearly 21,000 authentic onsen, or roughly two-thirds of all hot springs establishments in the world. The future: more luxury-level Japanese onsen resorts (integrating more holistic wellness experiences), such as InterContinental in Beppu, and Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton in snow resort Niseko, opening in the next year. Exporting the Japanese onsen experience to the rest of Asia is also a rising trend, with onsen development heating up in China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia from Japanese companies such as Gokurakuyu Holdings and Hoshino Resorts, which just opened its first onsen resort in Taiwan this week.

The quest for spiritual healing and mental wellbeing are the two most powerful world wellness trends, and 2018 legislation opening up Japanese monasteries to tourists and the rise of Terahaku (the Airbnb of temple accommodations) were smart moves, letting more travelers tap into their inner Zen at Japan’s hundreds of Buddhist monasteries. Forest bathing, that poetic medicine of spending time in forests, was developed in Japan in the 80s and has recently become a global phenom, with wellness resorts worldwide announcing new forest bathing programs every month. More travelers will want to experience forest therapy at its Japanese birthplace, where there are 62 official healing forests and hundreds of trained guides.

Japan faces two critical tourism issues: 1) over-tourism crushing historical sites and the Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo routes and 2) an imbalance of exploding foreign arrivals without an increase in tourism dollars. Wellness tourism can help tackle both. Japan attracted an incredible 31.1 million inbound tourists in 2018 and aims to double that to 60 million by 2030. For that to be sustainable, they must spread these travelers out. The country needs more strategically planned wellness tourism zones, routes and tours—such as the Dragon Route developed in central Japan, packaging mountain hiking, a local food/craft scene and hot springs retreats—or companies such as Walk Japan, leading off-the-beaten-path walking tours where you eat like a local, soak in hot springs, and stay in rustic ryokans. The Japan National Tourism Organization recently stated it wants to increase visitor spend 80 percent by 2020 (to 8 trillion yen/$74 billion), and, if so, targeting inbound wellness travelers would be a smart strategy: They spend $2,192 per trip versus $1,436 for the average Japanese tourist (a 53 percent premium).

2) J-Beauty: In the Limelight

Wellness is rewriting the $1.1 trillion beauty market, as natural, functional, nontoxic and sustainable ingredients surge, and consumers seek prevention over repair and hyper-personalized regimens. “K-Beauty” dominated recent global headlines, but now “J-Beauty” is surging, as Japan’s high-tech, high-nature approaches dovetail with the biggest current beauty trends.

K-Beauty revolves around a dizzying array of steps and formulas, hyper-exotic ingredients, the latest color/makeup trends, flashy packaging and celeb endorsements. The Japanese beauty approach focuses on minimalism, prevention and protection; multi-step rituals emphasizing purity and cleansing routines; ancient yet powerful ingredients; and much science and technology. The goal: skin so healthy, bright and luminous (“bihaku”) that little makeup is needed.

Business shifts show beauty growth and activity. There are new acquisitions, such as Unilever buying Japanese-inspired, geisha-ritual-focused brand Tatcha for $500 million. More J-beauty brands are fast expanding their global footprint, such as Jill Stuart Beauty launching in the US. More mainstream brands are infusing more Japanese ingredients, such as Estée Lauder embracing the Japanese ritual of watery lotions. And there is significant futuristic thinking about beauty. Shiseido just opened its 76,000-square-foot S/PARK near Tokyo, its global innovation center with research labs, a restaurant, museum, and skin diagnostic beauty bar—and is creating futuristic products such as a patented, tightening and smoothing “second skin” and Optune, technology that analyzes a person’s skin, mood and health (also factoring in the weather) to dispense hyper-customized products.

Whether it’s DHC, Ipsa, Kao Corporation’s portfolio, NatureLab Tokyo, Shu Uemura, SK-II or Sekkisei, the Japanese beauty wave is one rising, long-term opportunity.

3) Japan: Pioneer of Smart, Healthy Homes & Cities of the Future

Where we live determines 80–90 percent of our health outcomes, so new wellness real estate and communities are the next frontiers. Asia, with rising incomes and cities choked by urban sprawl and pollution, will be the world’s largest wellness real estate market by 2022 when it’s valued at $78 billion. Of the 740 wellness real estate projects built or in the pipeline worldwide, 293 are in Asia—approaching half. Japan’s wellness real estate market ranks 10th globally and is now worth $2.2 billion.

Wellness real estate projects take many angles, from improving the “home biome” (air, water, sound and light quality) to communities that engineer human connection in an age of loneliness. A natural opportunity for Japan, given its powerful tech industry (with companies such as Panasonic, Sony, NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Philips, etc.) is to take a leading role in building the new smart, connected healthy cities and urban homes of the future (already pegged as a $1 trillion market this year*). Smart cities/communities use electronic data collection sensors, AI, augmented reality, self-driving cars, telemedicine, etc. to radically transform our living environments—all of which will be radically sped up by coming 5G and NB-IoT technologies.

The next wave of smart city projects will put health and wellness front and center, harnessing those new technologies to bring on-demand wellness into the world’s homes, neighborhoods and cities. The Connected City project near Tampa, Florida, calls itself the first “Smart Gigabit Community,” where technology is deployed to give residents the best in modern medicine and preventive healthcare. Panasonic is building out Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town near Tokyo, focusing on “energy, security, mobility, wellness and community.” Sixty-eight percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 (UN), and Japan could be a lead engineer of the highest-tech, connected-for-wellness cities of the future.

4) Japan’s Age-Tech Opportunity

The world is aging at a historic pace: The number of people aged 50+ will nearly double by 2050 to 3.2 billion. Asia is aging fastest: The 60+ demographic will triple between 2010 and 2050, reaching one in four (or 1.3 billion) people. And Japan, with its plummeting birthrate and super-longevity, is the first super-aging nation: Twenty-seven percent of people are over 65, and by 2050, Japan will have 70 retirees for every 100 workers. This poses very hard challenges for Japan’s economy, and our aging world will seismically change societies, markets and government policies.

But change brings opportunity: From West to East, aging is getting positively redefined, even rebranded as cool. Products and services for older people are a vast $15 trillion global market, and as Japan is experiencing first what the rest of the developed world will soon experience, it has a keen opportunity to innovate for the coming “longevity economy.” With a history of ingenious, people-focused tech and design, Japan could pioneer the products/solutions that help people age better, whether tech that helps people stay mobile or the reinvention of senior housing—even robotic pets, such as Sony’s Aibo, providing smart companionship. Brands that get beyond their narrow obsession with millennials, and digest the spending power and new “aspirational aging” mindset of today’s older consumers, will thrive.

5) Workplace Wellness in Japan: Focus on Mental Wellness

Asia is infamous for its culture of overwork, where grueling hours are glorified. News that one in five Japanese workers was at risk of death from overwork (“karoshi”) made global headlines a few years ago. Alibaba founder, Jack Ma’s recent public endorsement of China’s “996” culture (12-hour days, 6 days/week) led to a vocal social media backlash. Asia’s work-life imbalance problem has a profound human and business cost, as overwork is proven to be associated with heart disease, obesity, addictions and diabetes, and with work-related stress costing companies $300 billion a year. A serious disconnect: only 5 percent of Asian employees have access to some form of workplace wellness program (only Sub-Saharan Africa has lower rates). In this $48 billion global market, Asia-Pacific only spends $9.3 billion yearly on workplace wellness, impacting only 93 million workers.

Japan is a relatively positive Asian counterexample: the second-largest national workplace wellness market (behind the US), spending $3.9 billion annually and with 21.4 million out of 66 million workers having access to some workplace wellness initiatives—roughly one in three. There is real action underway to positively change Japanese work culture: from Prime Minister Abe Shinzo making WorkStyle Reform part of his core economic agenda to more specialized consulting firms helping Japanese companies tackle employee wellbeing.

But the big focus has been on physical health/fitness, when data shows that workplaces need to zero in on mental wellness, given fast-rising rates of anxiety and depression. Japan may be the world’s fourth healthiest country (Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index), but Japanese people are much less likely than other wealthy countries (the second-lowest rate, at only 35 percent) to say they’re actually well/in good health (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2019).

Mental health needs to be dramatically “un-tabooed” in Japanese workplaces; workplace wellness programs need to focus on improving company culture; give workers easier/anonymous access to traditional mental health services; experiment with alternative mental wellness approaches, whether meditation, yoga, healthy sleep programs or biophilic office design (such as Tokyo’s new Kojimachi Terrace offices, which is like working in a forest); and work to reinvent work for aging employees.

With a 2019 theme of “Shaping the Business of Wellness,” the Summit will explore the most important business and investment trends across all global wellness markets. The GWS is always a sold-out event— apply to attend here.

*Persistence Market Research

About the Global Wellness Summit: The Global Wellness Summit is an invitation-only international gathering that brings together industry leaders and visionaries to shape the business of wellness and the future of the $4.2 trillion global wellness economy. The gathering is held annually in different locations across the globe and has taken place in the US, Switzerland, Turkey, Bali, India, Morocco, Mexico, Austria and Italy. The 13th annual Summit will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong from October 15–17, 2019.