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Q&A neil jacobs,
CEO Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas

Neil Jacobs is CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts and Spas. The Bangkok-based company which started with nine managed hotels under the Six Senses and Evason brands founded by  Sonu Shivdasani  was acquired in April 2012 by the US-based private equity fund manager Pegasus Capital Advisors.  Since then Six Senses has become a major resort player that nevertheless retains the essence of the eco-friendly, wellness-inspired original. The energetic and inspirational Jacobs is a man who does things differently: along side the discipline and business sense that working with major hotel brands  (Four Seasons, Starwood) has taught him comes a genuine wish to push the envelope, to create something new. In his Bangkok-based office he's thrown away his desk and his chair and now works in what he calls 'the pit' in the middle of the office to encourage collaboration and a free exchange of fresh ideas with like-minded colleagues.  So far it seems to be working. Six Senses Hotels, resorts and spas has undergone a significant expansion and revamping. It has opened new resorts in Asia, most recently in China, and Europe (Portugal).  Now on the horizon are the Seychelles (October 2016), Fiji (2017) and the much anticipated lodges in Bhutan (2017).  

What inspired you to get into the hospitality business in the first place?
Love of travel, to use my foreign language skills. Hotels were the only people that would hire me.
You have a wealth of experience from Four Seasons to Starwood. What was it about joining Six Senses that interested you?
It's just different. The 'coming from' is good. Love of spa and wellness, focus on sustainability, fun and quirky, and a different point of view.
What is the single most defining thing about Six Senses resorts?
More than one single thing. Spectacular locations. Willingness to push the boundaries. A truly outstanding well being agenda (my personal passion). We also believe in 'emotional hospitality' connecting with guests on a deeper level.

 

Neil Jacobs

You have a number of new hotels in the pipeline, including expansion into the Caribbean and South America. Can you tell us a little about that?

We're focused on different parts of the world, not only in the Americas. European cities and resorts, more in the Middle East and Africa. The new hotel frontier.

 

What is coming up in 2016 and 2017? 

We open in the Seychelles in October 2016, In Fiji on Malolo Island in 2017 and also five new lodges in Bhutan. Bhutan is one of those places in the world that is very special indeed, our lodges are in spectacular locations  with a very real spirit of place, each designed to fit  the environment around it. Spa-wise we're doing something a little different with just two signature treatments in each lodge, each created to echo what is going on in that particular lodge so guests can go on a 'wellness journey' as well as a physical one.

six senses spa at kempinski hotel barbaros bay
Six Senses Spa at Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay
six senses yao noi
Six Senses Yao Noi
Describe your ideal hotel room.
With Six Senses we really design from the inside out. For me, with our resorts, the indoor outdoor flow is all-important; so landscape architects and lighting design can make or break the guest experience. My ideal room has space, but not so much that you lose intimacy. Is organic but not rustic.  Design driven, but not at the expense of the people in it. 

 

What are some examples of Six Senses' outside-the-box thinking?

When we think about giving our guests a good night's sleep we don't just mean the mattress (although the ones we are developing are organic, made in Devon and pretty special). Our new personalised sleep programs have been developed through research from doctors and academics and include everything from white noise, to lighting  and how your day effects your night.

I also road- tested a new massage with meat-cleavers as a local Taipei option but my colleagues gave that the thumbs down! 

Apart from your own, what are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
Hotel Bourg Tibourg.
Le Marais Paris, cool, great location, quirky B & B with huge style up the street from Mariage Freres.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. I was based as GM for close to 4 years.
Katikies, Santorini Greece. Sublime in every way.
Peninsula House, the Dominican Republic, like being at home. Very odd and unexpected.
What is your favourite city to visit?
New York, the buzz & energy.
Paris, the sheer beauty.
Beijing, the scale and the mystery behind closed doors.
LA, the best weather in the world.
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
Has to be El Bulli before it closed. Amazing experience but not really dinner. Ferran Adria - holy grail.
La Boqueria , the market in Barcelona.
Restaurant Helene Darroze in Paris. New breed. Delightful.
Pizza at Pizzeria Mozza on Melrose in L.A. Nancy Silverton still makes the best dough anywhere.
Singapore. Fish ball soup and otak otak at Newton, durian and mangosteen on the street in Geylang.
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
Singapore Airlines. Non intensive service with huge grace.
What three things do you never travel without?
iPad, Vanity Fair, James Perse T's and track pants.
six senses con dao
Six Senses Con Dao
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
Bhutan. There are some places in the world that are just particularly special spiritually and culturally -  Bali is another one and I've felt that in Morocco, in Marrakech, too.  

 

What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
Freedom and renewal. (And time to reflect.)
 
What is the most important thing it can't?
World Peace (just kidding!)
Luxury Links: www.sixsenses.com
Posted 3/4/13  Updated 12/5/16
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