23 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 3

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Leisure Management - Neil Jacobs

Spa People: 20th anniversary issue

Neil Jacobs

People are sometimes their own worst enemies. Be brave, be curious. Listen to the wise

Neil Jacobs, Six Senses photo: six senses
Striking locations include Six Senses Shaharut in Israel’s Negev Desert photo: six senses
Six Senses is venturing into the festival and retreat business photo: six senses
Wellness washing doesn’t work – customers are so much better informed photo: six senses
Lifestyle education should be offered in schools photo: Amber Toms
Produce used in Six Senses’ restaurants is grown in organic gardens on-site photo: seth powers

What’s been your biggest life lesson?
At 26 I was a GM in the Seychelles living through a coup d’etat with African mercenaries complaining about the breakfast buffet. I quickly learned to think on my feet.

I had 14 years with Four Seasons in Asia and saw how the extreme power of corporate culture can make magic every day over many years.

Eleven years ago, I had the opportunity to be part of the transformation and growth of Six Senses, working and hanging out with passionate believers and creators in wellness, sustainability and extraordinary experiences.

When diagnosed with bladder cancer (all clear now), my colleague and dear friend Anna Bjurstam sent me to Vaidyagrama, an ayurvedic clinic in Tamil Nadu for five weeks. The wise people I met there reinforced my belief in the ancient healing arts and the power of the universe.

What do you still hope to accomplish?
There’s still plenty to do at Six Senses with various brand stretches. We want to become experts in the retreat and festival business, allowing us to spread the word more deeply and fill rooms in less busy periods.

Can the industry as a whole broaden the reach of its programming to a wider audience, who are less able to experience ultra-luxury? Personally, I believe we have an obligation to.

What industry changes have you observed?
Finding the right employees is always difficult, but our value set is compelling to many young people joining the industry. What we do is no longer considered ‘woo woo’ and it’s attracting great talent to us.

Secondly, the customer is so much more informed and wellness washing doesn’t work. Providers have made great strides – the modalities they offer are light years ahead of what they were two decades ago. And this is obviously good for the industry as a whole.

What key innovations can you identify?
We launch two new initiatives a year and these are overseen by a Wellness Innovation Team. We like to think it keeps us ahead of the curve. At the very least it keeps us honest and focused.

We’ve made countless advances in sleep health and in understanding circadian rhythms, nutrition, longevity, genetics, functional medicine, brain health, mind/body practices and ancient healing arts from China, India and South America which are now all in the West.

The list is endless and it makes the next 20 years look so exciting. And are we talking about AI? Of course we are.

What do you wish had been invented?
A cure for cancer and cognitive degradation. Optimal obesity solutions. I’d love to see general lifestyle education become an essential part of the curriculum in schools.

What business models are exciting?
We’re finally talking about wellness communities, which have the potential to take our industry into another dimension. Yet this will require professional and innovative real estate developers to work closely alongside a brand. It presents a huge opportunity and is a win-win.

How do you hope the industry will be in 2050?
That there’s the same passion, drive and innovation as there is today. And that we continue to do real good for our guests and customers.

What’s holding the industry back?
People are sometimes their own worst enemies. Be brave, be curious. Listen to the wise.

Read more: www.spabusiness.com/neiljacobs

Birthday message to Spa Business

"Spa Business is the title I look forward to receiving. Newsy, on top of the trends, well-written and good-looking"

More from spa industry leaders...

In celebration of Spa Business’ 20th anniversary, industry leaders take a look at how far the sector has come since the magazine’s inception in 2003, share personal career highlights and reveal their plans and ideas for the future.

View next: Marc Cohen

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 3

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