The booming development of Six Senses – an exclusive interview with CEO Neil Jacobs

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed exclusively Neil Jacobs,  the CEO of Six Senses Hotels, Resorts & Spas

How has your company performed in the first half of this year?

It’s been a great year for Six Senses. We’ve seen steady growth in the first half of the year. Our mobile bookings are up by ten percent and website production continues to grow steadily. Rooms revenue and average rates have both increased beyond projections. Our resorts posted strong numbers in the first two quarters of the year and we expect to exceed budgets for 2017.

With the addition of new destinations, has your consumer profile base changed? (if in any way)

Yes, our customer profile has evolved. Five years ago the US market represented less than five percent of our overall business. It is now our No. 4 market worldwide. China has also grown due to easy access and brand awareness following the opening of Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain outside of Chengdu and is our No. 2 market globally. We have seen a nice performance from Brazil as well, year to date.

What is your view on the growing potential of millennials in luxury travel? Is this already an important target segment for your company?

Millennials are very important to Six Senses. We know that our position on sustainability and wellness deeply connects with this generation and they seek out properties for these reasons. They select companies that are authentic and not only project the right image, but live it. Six Senses believes in developing ties with the local community and surrounding areas. Our goal is to enrich the lives of the people around our resorts and spas as well as our guests. Millennials also love the experiences and offerings we present. For example at Six Senses Nihn Van Bay in Vietnam guests can go to a local lobster farm, select their lobsters and bring them back for the chef to prepare. It’s an interesting experience and supports the local fishermen. We’ve got a huge organic garden in Oman near Six Senses Zighy Bay and this farm supports the resort and we in turn support local farmers. Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand has an onsite farm with goats and chickens. Guests can even collect organic eggs and enjoy them for breakfast.

 How would you define the Six Senses DNA as a leading luxury hospitality operator?

In these times of societal disconnection from personal encounters we create places and environments in which people can stop to take a healthy breath, reconnect with themselves, their families and the world around them. We strive to create lasting memories from shared moments of discovery or a shared moment of change. Although our beginnings may have focused on incredible beaches, lagoons and tropical lushness, we set out to show that the amazing Six Senses emotional experience can be replicated to settings that could not be further from that image. The UNESCO heritage-listed Douro Valley in Portugal and the circuit we are creating in Bhutan through five incredible lodges are excellent examples of how the Six Senses model can be adapted and still retain all the sustainable commitments for which Six Senses established the industry yardstick.

What is your competitive edge as a luxury hotel resort operator?

Our competitive edge goes back to our locations, our design, our people, and our committed platforms of sustainability and wellness. Six Senses is successful when it takes people into a new dimension – a space that allows guests to move out of the expected and to enjoy out-of-the-ordinary experiences. We have a quirky side too that resonates with guests and shows our playfulness. We are not a cookie cutter brand and we know are guests are not all the same. Six Senses is all about giving people options and allowing them to interact with us as they want. We’re about community and openness. We’re having a lot of fun with the brand and we see it is felt, based on guest comments and feedback.

 What is your expansion strategy? (direct ownership versus third party management) Are you focusing more on full scale resorts or Spas?

We are expanding rapidly. We have over 30 resorts and hotels in the pipeline and will open eight new resorts in 2018, followed by some terrific locations in 2019 including a hotel in New York. Most of our projects adopt a third-party management model, but there are cases where we are investing directly in a project.

 Are there any particular destinations you are focusing on for future development?

We have a huge interest in Africa and Central/South America. In the next five years, more properties will open in Europe which makes it great for the brand as the majority of our guests currently come from Europe. We’ll also have a presence in the Caribbean and Mexico which appeals to the North American and UK markets. We are really excited in taking our resort experience to urban locations and delivering the Six Senses experience to key city centers. I’d be remiss not to mention the importance of China and we are very excited about opening a stunning property in Yangshuo in 2019.

What are your main markets? In the current international context, have you seen any declines?

Our top five markets are UK, China, Germany, Austria, France and USA. We have seen come declines in our Russian business, but there has been pick up in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkey).

Do customers expect faster renovations? Tell us more about your renovation initiatives across your chain.

Customer expectations are always high and we have continued to refurbish and keep our properties refreshed and up to date. All of our properties have undertaken enhancements over the last 24 months and will continue to do so. We’ve also worked in creating larger, multi-bedroom villas to accommodate large families and friends wishing to travel together. The dining experience is also extremely important and we continue to evolve the physical space of our restaurants along with menus and ingredients in line with trends and eating preferences seen around the globe.

Which are the main disruptors the luxury hospitality is facing nowadays? Do any of these affect your business strategy?

OTAs are driving a segment of our business and we look at them as our friends. They fill in slower periods which is essential to success. Air BnB and other rentals do not really affect our business based on our current locations. People tend to select a destination and know they want to be exactly where we’re located.

Neil Jacobs, CEO Six Senses Hotels, Resorts & Spas