Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs on what makes an exceptional guest experience and what’s exciting in spa and wellness right now

Six Senses’ Neil Jacobs

Neil Jacobs is the CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, one of the world’s most renowned luxury hotel and resort brands and a leading name in the wellness space.

Mr. Jacobs has more than thirty years of experience in the hotel and spa industry, and his passions include wellness, sustainability, innovative design, food, and experiential travel. He studied Hotel Management at Westminster Hotel School in London, French Civilization at La Sorbonne University, and Italian culture and art in Florence, and is fluent in five languages.

With Mr. Jacobs at the helm, it’s no surprise that so many things make Six Senses a standout in spa and wellness, from the commitment to sustainability and community, to beautiful properties in breathtaking settings, to creative guest experience offerings you won’t find elsewhere.

Six Senses recently joined the InterContinental family of brands, a move that Mr. Jacobs called, “an exciting new era.” He added, “IHG believes in our purpose to merge the two platforms of wellness and sustainability to promote personal health, and the health of the planet.”

We spoke with him about what makes Six Senses so special, what makes an exceptional guest experience, and what he is most excited about in spa and wellness right now.

What do you think makes Six Senses such a standout among spas and wellness businesses?
Six Senses Spas has an advisory board of amazing experts in their respective fields, which includes doctors and scientists, to help and direct us as to what is happening within their respective fields and to navigate on what is right or not for our guests. We have a wellness operational department plus a wellness innovation team where we look at all things wellness and also what is trending. We are constantly on the outlook for innovations, therapies and technologies. I don’t think that any other hospitality and wellness brand does what we do and it shows how we aim to stand out from the crowd.

What makes an exceptional guest experience?
Luxury is all about subtlety and experience – offering our guests a chance to interact with the community around them in a way that feels genuine and authentic. Our role is to make a difference in people’s lives where they feel rested and rejuvenated and leave with an expanded view. In an industry with players claiming service focus, Six Senses stands out as the brand with empathy. The exceptional service experienced by guests is a result of every one of our hosts believing in the brand and understanding the commitment of the group to guests, environment and the individual communities of which we are a part.

What is luxury today and how is it different from luxury ten years ago?
My personal observation is that the delivery of luxury is becoming more relaxed and losing its formality with greater focus on guest convenience and being responsive to guest comforts. Technology simplifies and makes everything easier. We just need to be careful not to overdo it and be sure that all aspects are purposeful, and not use tech for tech’s sake.

Can you talk a bit about the importance of community, and how you and Six Senses are trying to encourage this? 
At Six Senses we think that community is an important aspect that is missing in much of today’s world. How we interact with community is important when it comes to building a business with sustainability in mind. Our commitment is towards developing our people and we hire local where possible. Our hosts are personally involved in community projects and we invite guests to participate if they wish.

Another major issue for Six Senses is sustainability. Can you tell us a bit about your efforts in this area?
Sustainability initiatives include being plastic-free by 2022; each property has an Earth Lab where guests can learn about our sustainability programs; our on-property production of Six Senses Water for guests and hosts – in still and sparkling – using reusable glass bottles which eliminates the carbon footprint of shipping water and 1,690,376 plastic bottles in 2018.

What would you say is the biggest challenge currently facing spa and wellness?
There are many wonderful opportunities constantly being presented to Six Senses. We must always be sure of our ability to execute well and deliver what we promise our guests. It’s easy to be lured into growth, but growth for growth’s sake is not the road we travel. Each Six Senses project must be accretive and further our goals and embody our values.

What are you most excited about in wellness right now?
At Six Senses, we have been working the past six years with servicing our guests with scientific personalized wellness through biomarker testing, TCM assessment, Ayurvedic assessments, sleep assessments, movement assessments, and more. We see that mental wellness and brain health in general are in focus, and we are working with neuroscientists and doctors on programs such as our Holistic Anti-Aging Center.

Biohacking is a big trend right now, and in particular using technology or processes that speed up your wellness. It may be something like wearing blue blocking glasses an hour before sleep in order to sleep better (and we do provide this at Six Senses as well), ice baths, or more technologically advanced hacking such as neurofeedback, vibroacoustic loungers and more.

Another trend is Energy medicine, looking at all that which we cannot see or conventional science cannot define. Quantum Physics is looking at this field right now, however Shamans, Buddhism and indigenous people have worked with this energy field for thousands of years. At Six Senses we have teamed up with Dr. Alberto Villoldo, a doctor and Shaman and we are providing Energy Medicine programs, such as “Grow a New Body” at selected resorts.

What has joining up with InterContinental Hotel Group meant for Six Senses and for Intercontinental?
It has only been a short time since joining with InterContinental and I must say that things are going really well. They are tremendous people with a great culture who are respectful of what we do. There are plenty of areas where we can integrate to create synergy and this can only make us stronger and more effective, so it’s proving to be a great ownership shift for us.

You have a lot of locations opening. What are you most excited about for Six Senses right now?
Regarded as a resort and spa company, we have now applied the DNA to urban hotels, which we are confident will set new standards and benchmarks for living that combine a healthy approach to work, leisure time, dining, fitness and overall well-being.

We have just opened resorts in Bali, Cambodia, the first of five lodges in Bhutan and a second hotel in Singapore. Some of the projects we have recently announced are in the US, Costa Rica, Iceland and France, with a mix of urban and resort properties.

All these properties will further reinforce that the Six Senses DNA is able to triumph in such diverse and unique locations.