Sandie Johannessen of Four Seasons on changes and challenges in the future of spa & wellness

Sandie Johannessen


Sandie Johannessen, Senior Director of Spa, Asia Pacific, for Four Seasons Hotels and Residences, talks with Spa Executive about the present and future of spa and wellness.

Sandie Johannessen is the Senior Director of Spa, Asia Pacific, for Four Seasons Hotels and Residences.

A passionate advocate of multi-dimensional wellness, Ms. Johannessen’s 25-year quest for “pure experiences and forward-thinking techniques” has taken her around the world, from the UK and Scandinavia, to India, Maldives, Malaysia and Seychelles, where she served as Four Season’s Senior Director, while also overseeing several spas in the Middle East and Africa. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, Ms. Johannessen achieved a Bachelor in Yogic Science at Bangalore University, and studied to be a Dietary Analyst and Educator in Middlesex, UK.  She has regional oversight of 15 Four Seasons properties across Asia Pacific, including properties in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Korea, and mainland China. She is also currently pre-opening the Four Seasons Hotel & Residences Bangkok at Chao Phraya River.

Her role includes the responsibilities of ensuring exceptional guest experiences at all times and being the face of an ultra-modern luxury spa and wellness center. Among other things, she also oversees Four Seasons’ online teaching and supports the company’s Global Spa MIT (Spa Manager in Training) program.

We caught up with Sandie Johannessen to talk about the present and future of spa and wellness, challenges the industry is facing, and the industry trends and developments she is excited about.

sandie johannessenWhat has your experience been like in the past few weeks and months as we are coming out of the COVID-19 lockdown? What has changed and what has stayed the same?

Cleanliness and hygiene are now a non-negotiable core of how we operate. We already have very strict protocols, but visible and documented operating protocols are now highly recommended. It has also become important that we use the correct terminology in our communication with our guests, when it comes to hygiene, so they understand what we are doing. There’s a lot of training from hygiene managers who come in and train the staff, so that we are reassuring the guests that they’re in good hands with us. What has stayed the same is the commitment to the wellness experience to our respective guests.

What challenges are you facing and how are you dealing with them?

Rebuilding business in our spas through our new behaviors and values is critical. Spa and Fitness Center hours of operation are continuously reviewed and modified based on demand. Spa products are being re-engineered, and opportunities for menu alterations are being considered, keeping low-touch treatments in mind.

How are you maintaining the guest experience within the new parameters set for the industry?

Four Seasons has developed Lead With Care, our enhanced global health and safety program focused on providing care, confidence, trust and comfort to all guests, employees and residents within the new COVID-19 environment. Four Seasons’ singular goal is to provide guests, residents and employees with the confidence and assurance that their health and safety is our first priority. We are incredibly proud to work alongside international experts to inform our health and safety decisions as we focus on strengthening our already stringent health and safety measures through our new Lead With Care program.

Do you think technology will play a larger role in the future of spa and wellness now that things are changing, and if so, what do you think that role will be?

We are currently working on an approved list of virtual/low-touch treatments for all of our spas. This will include bio meditation, chakra balancing, reiki, and treatments with the Hyperice Percussion Massage Tool. In addition, we are considering electronic magazine recommendations on a menu in the seating area, which guests will access via their own personal devices.

We may see more use of salt meditation pods, sound and light therapy, no-touch massage chairs, and beds. We’re looking at partnering with virtual group programs delivering educational wellness online. These classes can be supplemented with in-room delivery of things like resistance bands, essential oils, and crystal sets that are sanitized after each use. So, guests don’t physically have to come down into the gym if they’re uncomfortable.

What will you miss in the foreseeable future?

We will miss the spontaneity and the human element of large gatherings, like local and global spa conventions and big conferences. We would invite lecturers and host a big event, and all the directors from each property would fly in. We have nothing like that planned in the near future. We’ll see what happens over the next couple of years.

Four Seasons is an iconic brand. Why do you think that is?

We offer outstanding luxurious experiences, and what we do we do very well. Any person who works for or with Four Seasons, and any guest who visits, would agree that Four Seasons Hotels are beautiful spaces where service standards are of the highest order and where staff provide warm, professional, competent hospitality, while invariably appearing happy in their work. In all Four Seasons properties, our number one asset is our people. We have some of the best body workers and aesthetic technicians giving the most advanced treatments in the most modern and luxurious environment, making us the number one choice for discerning luxury spa guests now and for the foreseeable future.

What makes an excellent and exceptional guest experience?

Most Four Seasons Spas offer a range of innovation for the mind, beauty and fitness.  With this as our focus, we invite guests to embark on a unique journey of self-discovery, personal growth and self-awareness — whether the individual is at a beginner, intermediate or advanced level. This brings positivity and new energy into each client’s life, and introduces them to a new, better way of living.

Are there any trends that you are excited about in spa and wellness?

Education. I enjoy engaging graduates; getting them enthused and committed to their wellness careers as a vocation and lifestyle, not just a job. At present many industry employees are focused on providing money for their families, which, while noble, can be a restrictive mind-set mindset if they don’t go and explore and discover and make it a lifestyle and a passion. If we can enthuse, excite and support our juniors more, then they will become better supervisors, managers and assets, and more loyal to the company, while also progressing their own careers more; a win-win.


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