Trade Talk: Bryan Gabriel of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas

The groups Chief Commercial Officer gives us details on upgrades across its global portfolio, wellness innovations, and a soon-to-open Italian outpost.

All photos courtesy of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas

Last year, Six Senses opened new resorts in Ibiza, Israel’s Negev Desert, and Rajasthan. What were the key challenges of launching these properties during the pandemic?

Completing and opening resorts when the future suddenly becomes uncertain brings up many challenges — from country-wide lockdowns, which impacted travel into our destinations, to the construction work timelines, uncertainty and delays in the hiring process, and finding creative ways to keep the teams that were already on the ground engaged and motivated, to managing booking changes and cancellations. Despite all of these challenges, we are delighted to have opened three amazing properties with the support of our owners, resort, and corporate teams; and to have learned a lot about resilience and perseverance along the way.

 

Many companies have used the recent downtime to make improvements to their hotels. Have there been major renovations or upgrades at any Six Senses worldwide?

We have seen an addition of larger accommodations at Six Senses Douro Valley and Six Senses Ibiza as extended families and groups of friends tend to need larger and connected rooms, more opportunities to be together, and activities that keep everyone happy in their own company too.

Renovations were completed on the Beachfront Retreats and Reserve at Six Senses Zighy Bay. The two three-bedroom Beachfront Retreats, built in a traditional Omani village style, are located at either end of the beach, overlooking the sea.

The Vooc Village was launched at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay to keep its younger guests entertained, whether hanging upside down at the jungle gym, splashing around in the aqua gym, or enjoying games or craft-making in the indoor play center.

And Six Senses Kocataş Mansions, Istanbul, opened its signature wedding venue recently with the ideal style and setting for an extraordinary celebration overlooking the city’s legendary Bosphorus.

A bedroom in the refurbished Private Reserve at Six Senses Zighy Bay.

You joined Six Senses right at the start of 2020. How did the team go about rethinking the global marketing strategy when travel ground to a halt, and more recently, when borders reopened?

During the pandemic, we introduced At Home With Six Senses to keep connected with our guests and followers. Videos, tutorials, articles, and advice from in-house experts and Friends of Six Senses were shared via our social media channels, newsletters, and sixsenses.com to help them stay well through these uncertain times. All that content was created to support the pillars of Mindfulness, Eat, Sleep, Move, Live Naturally, and Connect.

At Home With Six Senses got some great traction with our audiences, so we decided to evolve it from “live sessions” across our social media channels to create a virtual platform that allowed us to introduce Masterclasses and Friends of Six Senses sessions in a more structured webinar environment. Our latest Virtual Panel Sessions have gathered respected leaders in their field, including Dave Asprey, Shauna Shapiro, and Sterling Hawkins, to connect with the Six Senses community, share ideas, explore multi-dimensional issues, and separate fact from fiction.

 

With China still adhering to a strict zero-Covid policy, how has Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain adapted and fared in these circumstances?

It has been a fascinating time in China for Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain with all our focus being on the Greater China domestic market. We relooked at everything we do and tweaked a number of guest experienced based on what the family, couples’, and corporate markets needed to support them through this difficult time of restricted travel. The resort under great leadership from our GM Melissa has been trading well.

There have been difficult times for the team with continuous lockdowns; the resort has had to close and reopen as has everyone following government directives. We have taken this time to focus internally on our hosts and family’s wellness keeping everyone motivated. We are looking forward to Greater China reopening to both inbound and outbound travel.

An aerial view of Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain in China’s Sichuan province.

Wellness is one of the main pillars of the Six Senses brand. What are some of the latest innovations and experiences that spa-goers can look forward to?

Hacking-your-way-to-optimal-health treatments are becoming available across many Six Senses locations, from Normatec boots to enhance blood flow, CellGym to boost longevity and performance to Venom and Hypervolt for soothing a sore back and muscles. We are incorporating these cutting-edge treatments in our offerings, for example, to restore tired legs after skiing through the Stretch Pod and Biohacks Recovery Lounge at Six Senses Crans-Montana. We are also moving outside of our current offerings with Six Senses Vana, which combines Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine, and Yoga as part of an intentional wellness retreat in the foothills of the Himalayas in India.

Wellness retreats that range between a few days and a full week are available across several resorts and allow guests to enter a playful and friendly space to detach from the narrative of daily life, blow the lid off stuck behaviors, and make some long-lasting and meaningful changes. Each retreat has a specific focus, but all are guided by experts to encompass wellness, personal growth, nutrition, relationships, self-care, and more. Everyone works as a group, so even if guests are traveling solo, they are not alone.

 

How did the pandemic affect the progress or funding of ongoing sustainability initiatives? And have any new programs been launched since 2020?

I think it’s worth pointing out that in 2020, Six Senses was one of the first signatories of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, which unites the sector behind a common vision and targets to address plastic waste and root causes. This goes way beyond single-use plastic. Our Plastic Free 2022 goal means we’re eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging from our guest rooms and service areas while introducing more reusable solutions in kitchens.

In 2021, Six Senses was the first hospitality brand to collaborate with the United States Coalition on Sustainability and SustainChain™, a change engine to drive unprecedented action and progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Championing the value of collaboration, SustainChain™ connects the global sustainability ecosystem to join collective ventures, share best practices, and scale solutions. This was a part of our ambitious Plastic Free 2022 strategy to remove and avoid all virgin plastic materials from hotel and spa operations.

Earlier this year, we launched a brand-wide Climate Warrior program which is built on simple, tangible things children can do and enjoy doing, to combat climate change and play a positive role in their environments and communities. Last month saw the addition of the Sustainability Camp at Six Senses Laamu which aims to give teenage guests and their families insights into the sustainability initiatives and techniques used for the resort’s operations and provide a skillset for the daily improvements they can make at home, striving toward a more sustainable way of life.

Families visiting Six Senses Laamu’s Sustainability Camp.

What sort of timeframe and intermediate targets has Six Senses set for going carbon-neutral?

We track Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions following the GHG Protocol, and each hotel sets its own annual reduction goals, which we build “from the bottom up” into our group-wide yearly target. We are still focusing heavily on reducing energy consumption at this stage in our climate strategy. We track from each hotel all energy, water, and waste, plus some more positive figures like the weight of compost each hotel produces, vegetables from our gardens, and the weight of materials upcycled at the hotel and diverted from landfills. We also track each hotel’s positive impact on local communities and ecosystems, i.e. in terms of people with increased access to clean drinking water or the number of endangered species protected. The fun part of having all this data is compiling it and sharing a snapshot of the impact we are collectively able to make across our teams.

 

Six Senses Rome is welcoming its first guests in early 2023. Can you tell us about a few of its highlights?

Palazzo Salviati Cesi Mellini is a truly wonderful home for Six Senses Rome. This historical building dates back as far as the 15th century — the original facade and monumental staircase have been restored to their grand origins to preserve the palazzo’s priceless heritage. The facade of the neighboring church San Marcello al Corso, a fine example of Italian Baroque, has also undergone major renovation works, representing the hotel’s first sustainability project and commitment to the local community.

We cannot wait to showcase the art of ancient Roman bathing — the three plunge pools reproduce the caldarium, tepidarium, and frigidarium, reducing inflammation through heat and aiding muscle recovery through a 60-minute journey. A bas-relief inspired by the myth of Daphne and Apollo embellishes the walls, adding pathos and recreating a bygone Roman feel.

And our F&B concepts will reflect our Eat With Six Senses philosophy through locally sourced and seasonal ingredients at their peak flavor, which will be the stars of the menu that showcases best-in-class regional produce.

Six Senses Vana is set to welcome its first guests sometime next year.

What other projects does Six Senses have lined up in the next few years?

Apart from Six Senses Rome, Six Senses Crans-Montana; Six Senses Vana; Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea; and Six Senses Kanuhura are coming in the first half of 2023, with Six Senses London and Six Senses La Sagesse set to follow in late 2023.

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