For the owner of Six Senses, a reference in the world of luxury wellness, their success is based on a skilful blend of intelligent design and strong values. No compromises: sustainable development and well-being are at the heart of the group’s approach.
We caught up with Neil Jacobs at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes twice in a row, in December 2018 and December 2019, to ask him about his vision for the industry, and how his group is evolving to stay at the forefront of wellness, in the high-end category.
Neil Jacobs is CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts & Spas. Before joining Six Senses, he spent five years at Starwood Capital Group, where he headed the group responsible for developing “Baccarat Hotels” and “1 Hotels”, a new model for sustainable tourism. He was previously Vice President, Asia-Pacific Operations for another luxury hotel flagship: Four Seasons.
Rapid growth requires adaptation
Since he took the helm of Six Senses in November 2012, the group has enjoyed exceptional growth and development. A new Six Senses has just opened in Cambodia on Krabey Island, and further openings are planned for Israel and Ibiza. “The group is even set to triple the number of its establishments over the next few years.”
“This meteoric development naturally poses problems of adaptation to different markets and new ways of doing things.” The chain was initially known for its barefoot luxury concept, with wooden resorts lost in tropical nature. Six Senses is now opening establishments in the city (opening soon in New York), or in the mountains (Courchevel, Bhutan, etc.). “The design may change, but what all these establishments have in common are their values.”
“We have customers of all ages and backgrounds. What they have in common is a set of values and a state of mind based on well-being, sharing and sustainable development. It’s all connected, in fact. “
The evolution of urban well-being
For Mr Jacobs, the development of urban hotels has become a logical step. “We want to provide wellness where people live, so that it’s part of their everyday life, not just on exotic vacations”. When it comes to wellness and the therapies offered by the Group, it’s important to have follow-up and personalized advice over the long term, rather than just a few days on the beach.
Even though Six Senses is different from destination spas because they don’t just focus on wellness (it’s perfectly possible to go to a Six Senses and get neither massages nor sun salutations!), the group is going to get more involved with the theme of yoga retreats. “Off-season in Ibiza, we’ll be organizing music festivals and retreats.”
Neil Jacobs is particularly excited about the forthcoming opening of the Six Senses Xi Club in New York (early 2020), which is going to be a real innovation in luxury hotels. A club you’ll need to be a member of to enjoy exceptional wellness facilities and a friendly meeting place.
Self-realization: happiness is above all a matter of spirituality
Six Senses is now really focusing on the theme of sleep, which goes beyond their famous menu of scented pillows. From personalized consultations with sleep experts to a mobile app to help combat jetlag, there’s no shortage of ideas to help customers get the rest they need.
“Where Six Senses goes further today is on the theme of self-realization. In Bhutan, for example, we’ve created a themed trail between our different hotels, so that guests emerge transformed and get to know each other better.
In 2018, Six Senses launched Bhutan’s first wellness tour, where guests travel between the group’s five lodges on a quest for happiness. Each stage reveals a new pillar of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index. Indeed, the small Himalayan country has become famous for its concept of happiness in a country, which is not based on wealth and Gross Domestic Product, but on a measure of the satisfaction of its inhabitants. So there’s a real quest for happiness through a return to spirituality within the Six Senses. (Read our article on Six Senses‘ transformational journey in Bhutan).
Neil Jacobs is also aware that people need a real digital detox these days: “We’re all addicted to our mobiles, so we need to know how to take a break.”
If you had to choose just one Six Senses hotel for a resolutely wellness break, where would you go?
I think I’d go to Six Senses Kaplankaya in Turkey, the one with the biggest wellness facilities to date.
The trend is towards more and more mediaspas. Will you be following the trend?
Yes and no. We don’t want white coats, but customers are demanding an increasingly scientific approach to well-being. At some point, we’re going to be obliged to offer blood tests to those who want advanced analyses for their fitness programs.
Interview by Luxe Wellness Club editorial team, December 2018, updated in December 2019 during our second meeting.