A Feast for the Senses

With a global collection of exotic spas, Six Senses continually makes headlines and wins awards for its authentic, immersive retreats and its equally inspiring spas. From pristine island hideaways to incomparable urban oases, the spas in its portfolio provide guests with transformative wellness experiences they won’t soon forget. Here, Anna Bjurstam, vice president of Six Senses Spas, shares some of the strategies that have helped create such a successful, thriving brand.


What is your company’s spa mission statement?

A. Our mission statement is “To help people reconnect with themselves, others, and the world around them” with our core values being “Local Sensitivity, Global Sensibility,” “Crafted Experiences,” “Emotional Hospitality,” “Pioneering Wellness,” “Fun & Quirky,” and “Responsible & Caring.” These guide us in everything we do and are incredibly important to us.


What sort of training do you offer your spa management to help them achieve your company’s mission for its spas?

A. We enroll all spa managers in the Raison d’Etre online Spa Management Education, where the course is tailored exclusively for Six Senses Spas. This is important, as it ensures that all spa managers have the same base and are working with the same tools. Each spa manager then writes his or her own business plan, marketing plan, and human capital management plan. We also have our yearly spa management conference where we gather all our spa managers for four days to inspire, teach, and work together toward our company mission. This year, we will focus on leadership, sustainability, retail, and performance management.


What sort of training do you offer, brand-wide, to your therapists, estheticians, and other spa staff?

A. We have corporate, regional, and local trainers, and we just completed our one-month “train the trainer” education for our corporate and regional trainers. The focus for this year ahead is incorporating sound healing and singing bowls in the beginning and ending of our treatments, a new deep-tissue massage, a new detox massage, cupping as part of various treatments, emotional hospitality, retail sales, and personalizing guests’ journeys. Our 10 trainers started teaching the above in September and will continue going forward. In addition, we keep close track that every spa completes the target amount of training each month to keep on top of all our current services, and we also monitor this with external mystery shoppers, internal mystery shoppers, and a management visit system.


What do you do to keep your spas at the forefront of industry trends and development?

A. One of our core values is Pioneering Wellness, and that means not only coming up with new things but also taking what is already there and making it the best it can be. For example, we launched our yogic programs earlier this year in which we take a cohesive approach to yoga in all our properties and can offer the same programs across the board. It is not only basic yoga classes but also full programs that utilize yoga in a more pioneering way and couple it with nutrition, spa, and other wellness techniques.

We also have the world’s largest visiting practitioner (VP) program. Our VPs are experts within their respective fields, such as fitness, coaching, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurveda, yoga, healing, astrology, and more, and they come and visit for a two- to eight-week period in our spa. To date this year, we have had more than 100 VPs in our spas, and we have a central system monitoring quality, guest feedback, finance, and compliance with Six Senses to make sure that we have only the highest quality VPs.

Furthermore, we are always researching, and we collaborate with some of the world’s best doctors, such as Mehmet Oz, M.D., Steven Grundry, M.D., and Michael Breus, Ph.D., on developing new integrative wellness programs, new nutritional guidelines, new scientific sleep programs, a holistic anti-aging clinic concept, and an advanced in-room wellness concept. We have so much in the pipeline that will revolutionize hospitality wellness, and we make sure to have science backing up the initiatives we do.


What sort of elements do you maintain brand-wide for your spas, and how do your spas honor their varied locales?

A. For us, sustainability and using natural materials is what always greets the guest in every spa. When it comes to services, we have a set of core treatments in every spa, including our Yogic Programs, but then the spa is responsible for connecting with the local healing traditions and offering this to our guests. We want to reconnect guests with the place they are in and teach and have them experience what it has to offer. Not one of our spas looks the same, as we are always inspired by the local community. For example, in India, we use Ayurveda; in Thailand, we incorporate traditional Thai medicine; and in China, TCM tops our core treatment services. I don’t think there is any spa brand that utilizes as many healing traditions from around the world. We are truly capturing the healing wisdom from the planet. We also have our Six Senses product line found in most of our spas (not all due to different countries’ licensing and import laws).


What do think your clients want in a spa experience, and how as a company, do you meet those needs?

A. First of all, they want simplicity, meaning spa menus that they can understand and find what they want. All of our consumer research tells us that they do not like complicated and long-winded menus. Secondly, we offer a layered approach to wellness, where it is up to the guest to choose what they want from a spa experience. The more results they want, the more they have to invest themselves. For example, the first layer is “sensory,” and it is all about pleasure and relaxation, in which all guests need to do is show up. The second layer is about Exploring, which involves a level of more alternative therapies that require participation from guests, such as yoga, meditation, healing, advanced beauty, and fitness. The third layer is about Reconnection and involves more sophisticated treatments and individual programs delivered by experts, and from then on up it gets more advanced, where on the sixth layer, guests are actually the masters and the teachers.


How do you appeal to spa-goers from various cultures?

A. I think reconnection is something people want to do regardless of culture, and to relax and explore one’s wellbeing is something that we all are looking for these days. We see more and more that the luxury traveler wants to have authentic and tailored experiences, and this we offer in all our spas. Then, we respect different cultures and the way they spa, where some are very communal and others want complete gender-separated areas. We look carefully at our target market when we design a spa to cater to the various needs and wants.


When it comes to menu development, do you offer certain treatments and experiences across the brand?

A. Yes, we have a set of core treatments. These are Holistic Massage, Deep Tissue, Detox Massage, Energizer (back, neck, and shoulder), and Head and Feet Massage. In addition, all our treatments start and end with singing bowls and sound healing, as this is found to greatly speed up the relaxation process. Last but not least, we have our yogic programs. Our beauty and body treatments depend on the product brand and where we have our Six Senses products. In the future, we will have one experienced health coach and an in-depth assessment using a number of technological devices in order for us to be able to offer advanced integrative wellness programs in all our spas.


Do you work with specific spa products, equipment, and retail brands across your portfolios?

A. We work with our own Six Senses products, and then the brand that we use the most is Subtle Energies, an Ayurvedic aromatherapy line that offers amazing products and treatments. I have worked with the company and its founder, Farida Irani, for many years, and they provide a very genuine experience. In addition, we work with Amala and Anika, as both are natural and sustainable and enhance our brand.

Anna Bjurstam shares her thoughts on Six Senses Spas that truly sparkle, though she admits, “There are so many, and each has its specialty.”—J.K.C.

Six Senses Spa at Soneva Kiri (Koh Kood, Thailand) “This is perhaps our spa most connected with nature,” she says. “At the spa, many guests have experiences that are profound wellness and healing journeys.”

Six Senses Spa at Sharq Village & Spa (Doha, Qatar) “This is unique with its large membership and day spa component,” she says. “We can provide wellness on an ongoing basis there to our return guests, and we truly are able to change people’s lives so they can live up to their full potential.”

Six Senses at Rue de Castiglione (Paris) “It is the smallest spa in our portfolio,” Bjurstam says. “There, we have been able to create the most healing environment in a minimal space.”