Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) industry is one that integrates environmental protection, farming, wellness and medical treatments. It not only embodies the long history and culture of China, but also has huge development prospects and social benefits, capable of helping China’s economy achieve more breakthroughs. By Fifi Kao
In a world of biotechnology, high-tech equipment and resource globalization, fewer people today like to talk about TCM. Even we, the core members of China’s spa industry, are no longer so keen on adding TCM into the business.
When SPA came to China 10 years ago, high-end spas, mostly hotel spas, paid much attention to TCM-related treatments. There were two reasons. Firstly, the spa-goers at that time were mainly foreigners and they loved Chinese healing and the TCM concept. Secondly, the main Chinese guests at the spas were above 40 years of age and they also loved traditional Chinese treatments.
So why do people lose their interest in TCM programs now? At the SpaChina Summit 2019 which was held not long ago, I released the industry report for 2019- 2020. In terms of spa trends, we don’t see anything related to TCM. During the summit, there was also no presentation which talked about TCM. For me, it seems that I have lost an important piece of puzzle. So after the summit, I have been reflecting on this issue seriously.
Loss of TCM in the SPA Industry
Compared with 5 years ago, there are more Chinese guests at spas now. They have become the main consumption power of the hospitality industry. But interestingly, surveys show that they are more likely to choose relaxing and stress-reducing aroma treatments instead of TCM treatments when they visit high-end spas.
Meanwhile, the younger generation has become a major source of guest flow at spas. Obviously, because of their age, they have no special needs for the therapeutic TCM treatments. Moreover, TCM is somehow out-of-date and boring in their eyes. Considering the TCM principle of keeping the abdomen warm by avoiding exposure of the navel, they are more interested in having beautiful firm abs by following private coaches.
Surveys also show that there are more segmentation of the spa industry. In the past, a spa might offer everything from head to toe, but now there are more specialized spas. Some focus on skin management, some on body management, and others on essential oil treatments, stress management or beauty equipment. There are also some spas specialized in TCM and they usually possess steadier guest sourcing with the guests’ age comparatively a bit older.
Furthermore, with the development of WeChat and we-media platforms, the TCM fans now get more chances to have direct conversation with TCM experts. Convenient and fast payment systems also lead many TCM talents to open their own clinics. And the spas, because of the lack of TCM talents or limitations in providing certain TCM programs, finally choose to give up TCM-related treatments. Also, in the minds of Chinese guests, TCM treatments should be very cheap. So you can see that the price of TCM-related treatments at high-end spas are always among the cheapest. In addition, there haven’t been any innovation or development concerning TCM-related products and treatments in recent years.
Because of the reasons above, high-end spas provide less and less TCM treatments. However, what are the government’s policies with regard to TCM?
New Government Policies Regarding TCM
On November 6, 2017, the government advocated paying greater attention to the development of TCM and exalted TCM to a high position as relevant to the revival and prosperity of the country.
On March 3, 2018, Mr. Wang Guoqiang of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine said: “We will continue to expand the coverage of TCM herbs, enhance the training to basic staff of TCM-related departments, and encourage doctors who are specialized in Western medicine to learn more about TCM. We will start an innovative TCM “Hundred, Thousand and Ten Thousand Talent Project” to foster about ten thousand basic level TCM talents; build medical treatment alliances to transport the quality medical resources of the city to rural areas and towns; seriously put into practice the development strategy programming outline of traditional Chinese medicine; and guide more certified professionals to open TCM clinics so as to offer more diversified TCM services to the public.
Since then, more efforts have been made to develop and promote TCM including the implementation of Chinese Medicine law, the integration of TCM into the diagnosis and treatments of other medical branches, comprehensive reform of government established TCM hospitals, adjustment of TCM services and prices, introduction of medical insurance payment methods fit for TCM services, TCM resource allocation, improvement of registration systems for TCM clinics and promotion of TCM development among minority groups.
Undoubtedly, TCM will have a bright future in China. As the policies being carried out more and more, there will be more practical privileges in terms of obtaining certificates, opening clinics, finding jobs, registering, doctor-visit charges and more. If you want to find a job in the TCM field, you will have more channels than finding a job related to Western medicine. The TCM master followers, TCM major students or any other relevant individuals will have more possibilities to become real industry talents.
The government has recognized TCM as a valuable branch of medicine and scientific system that conforms to the rule of the universe and nature. Mr. Wang Qi, the award-winning TCM master, once said: “The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation surely includes the rejuvenation of TCM; and the fulfillment of The Chinese Dream undoubtedly includes the TCM Dream.”
With the continual rise of people’s living standards, health becomes a priority topic in our lives. The medical treatment and medicine industry has become a new economic growth point. TCM is the only medical category that China boasts absolute predominance. In fact, TCM is an industry that integrates environmental protection, farming, wellness and medical treatments. It has huge development prospects and social benefits, playing a vital role in China’s economic breakthroughs.
In China, the rejuvenation of the nation is based on the rejuvenation of culture. TCM is a precious treasure and the only systematic science in Chinese traditional culture. If TCM disappears, Chinese traditional culture will suffer great loss. The government will by no means allow such a thing happen.
TCM around the World
It is reported that TCM has been spread to 183 countries and regions worldwide with over 100,000 TCM acupuncture clinics, over 300,000 acupuncturists and over 50,000 registered TCM doctors.
According to the statistics, in Europe, there are about 100,000 trained TCM staff, 60% of whom are in-service, over 10,000 TCM clinics, most of which are specialized in acupuncture and 30%-40% of which also use TCM herbs or related products, over 300 TCM training institutes, which deliver over 5,000 TCM staff to other countries every year, and over 500 importing wholesalers of TCM medicine and products. Even in the Netherlands where only 15 million people dwell, there are over 4,000 TCM personnel and 1,500 TCM clinics.
One third of Western medicine pharmacies in Germany sell TCM medicines. Over 500 hospitals of Western medicine has set up TCM departments with totally over 20,000 acupuncturists. If you want to visit Kortzting TCM hospital, you need to book half a year in advance and all your expenses will be covered by the insurance company.
In UK, there are over 3,000 TCM clinics, over 1,000 of which are in London, with over 7,000 acupuncturists, and over 40 TCM medicine suppliers big and small. TCM industry has become the second biggest industry in UK, next only to the catering business, with a total assets of about 100-150 million pounds. As early as March, 1999, the Swiss government included the expenses of TCM, TCM medicine and acupuncture into the national medical insurance.
Let us move to Japan and South Korea. These two neighboring countries began to pay great attention to TCM several decades ago. The speedy development of TCM industry in these two countries has far surpassed China. TCM medicine in Japan has occupied 90% of the global TCM market while China’s only occupies 3%.
In December, 2015, Tu Youyou was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine due to her discovery of artemisinin. In her speech, she said that this was a gift that China’s TCM gave to the world. The value of TCM and TCM medicine draws wide attention once again in the whole world. Tu Youyou also awakens Chinese people and lets them realize TCM’s contribution to and position in the world. The global medical field also shows more respect to the TCM.
The Future of TCM in SPA
As a TCM lover, I really want to see this lost piece back in the puzzle of the spa industry.
Maybe we can start from small things. For example, we can guide the younger generation to gradually feel the charm of TCM; make more innovations and optimize the pampering and healing effects of TCM treatments; combine essential oils with traditional TCM herbs to enhance an East-meets-West natural and energy healing concept; or update present TCM-related products so that they can better meet the needs of the living pace and lifestyle of modern people. Anyway, in the process of promoting TCM, we need to persist and make more endeavors so as to keep alive our traditional healing culture and wisdom.
In the spa industry, there are many excellent masters and talents who are attracted by TCM. SpaChina has interviewed them, hoping that they can give you some inspiration on the application of TCM.