People profile

Neil Jacobs

CEO, Six Senses


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We are certainly in a period of industry consolidation,” says Neil Jacobs, CEO of wellness resort brand Six Senses. In February, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) acquired Six Senses from Pegasus Capital Advisors for a reported US$300m (€267m, £229.5m). The sale included the management of 16 Six Senses hotels, 37 spas, and sister spa management companies Evason and Raison d’Etre. Jacobs says the deal “reinforces the IHG commitment to creating a very high-end portfolio of brands, and says to the markets that they care enough about wellness and sustainability to conclude the Six Senses acquisition, rather than another boutique brand.”

It was Six Senses’ focus on wellness and sustainability, along with its “impressive management team”, that IHG pointed to as reasons for the purchase. Jacobs, who’s been CEO since 2012 and who has a personal passion for spa, sustainability, design, food and experiential travel, is certainly a part of that team. He has more than three decades of experience in running and developing hotels and spas, including heading up the Spa Task Force at Four Seasons.

Wellness innovation
Many of Jacobs’ passions are growing in importance – and increasingly overlapping – for today’s travellers. “As people become more conscious about their health, they’re more accepting of different modalities, including the spiritual and mindful, and become more curious each year as to the possibilities,” Jacobs explains. “What will keep [wellness] relevant is continued work around new initiatives, jumping feet-first into the lesser-known healing arts, and doing work to devise programming that is interesting and exciting for our customers.”

Those new initiatives and programmes are driven by a Wellness Innovation Group, headed up by Anna Bjurstam, vice president of spa and wellness for Six Senses. The group is charged with the ongoing creation of wellness content for the brand, which recently has included the launch of a Grow With Six Senses programme for children; a holistic anti-ageing concept at Six Senses Kaplankaya; the development of a jet lag app; and the Sleep With Six Senses (see SB18/2 p66) and Eat With Six Senses programmes, which address sleep health and nutrition, respectively.

Focus on ‘spa as spa’
Despite these broader wellness initiatives, spas remain at the heart of each Six Senses property, with every location offering signature treatments and therapies, plus locally inspired therapies, yogic programmes, and more traditional feel-good pampering. Therapists are drawn from all over the world, and visiting practitioners add an extra depth of knowledge.

But it’s the move to take wellness outside the spa, integrating it into the entire stay for guests, that has set Six Senses apart from the competition. “Spa is a big part of the wellness offering, but it’s not the only part, as we know,” says Jacobs. “We remain focused on ‘spa as spa’ to ensure that our spa offerings remain vibrant and relevant, and interface properly with all of our other content.”

Accelerated growth
Jacobs says it’s ‘business as usual’ at Six Senses since the acquisition, though some restructuring may follow to deal with growth and the multiple new properties which are scheduled to launch in the next few years. These planned openings include a hideaway in Israel’s Negev Desert; the transformation of a series of 19th-century mansions in Istanbul; and the group’s first project in North America, a contemporary duo of twisting towers designed by inspirational architect Bjarke Ingels in New York . Additional projects are currently underway in Austria, Brazil, mainland China, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and Thailand.

In March – just after the acquisition – Six Senses opened two ambitious projects: Krabey Island in Cambodia, set on a private island near Ream National Park, which includes an expansive spa inspired by the sacred Khmer Kbal Spean River; and Six Senses Bhutan, which will include five lodges and a circuit of spas spread over the remote Himalayan kingdom.

“This is an exciting new era for Six Senses,” says Jacobs. “IHG believes in our purpose to merge the two platforms of wellness and sustainability to promote personal health, and the health of the planet. Joining forces with IHG means we can use a wealth of systems and operational excellence to grow our brand and reach new markets – without losing our quirky personality and playful touch.”

Six Senses is now expected to grow to 60 hotels within the next 10 years, as IHG plans to accelerate the brand’s growth globally. But with other major hotel groups jumping on the wellness bandwagon, whether with in-house offerings or buyouts, will the demand for wellness continue?

“There’s absolute certainty that wellness is here to stay,” says Jacobs. “The entire world is talking wellness. It means different things to different people, but it’s not going anywhere.”

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