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Wellness hospitality is going urban in a big way.
There’s Equinox, and it’s long-delayed promise to open hotels in New York and Chicago. There’s Hyatt’s purchase of Exhale, a company providing fitness and spa experiences in major markets across the country. And there are several one-off properties around the U.S. combining health, wellness, and hotel rooms.
The Well, a private members club, is opening in early 2019 in Manhattan and according to Andrew Gibson of Sensei, “these examples of new wellness ventures in urban locations are a result of the overwhelming global interest in wellness.”
Why are these brands, known for their middle-of-nowhere, relaxed resort appeal, moving into New York?
“The answer is simple: Numbers. Not everyone can get to a remotely located resort. Opening a hotel and spa in New York puts Aman and Six Senses within reach of millions of affluent potential customers, including visitors and locals alike. [They] will also introduce the brands to people who may not be familiar with them,” said hotel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt,
For Anna Bjurstam, vice president, spas and wellness at Six Senses, it’s all about replicating the experience of a vacation at home.
“A lot of our guests come from New York. This is a way for them to continue the experience back home, as we look at the renewal of brand. We feel like for brand development, given the way world has changed, we want to go into different types of markets,” she said
A Different Approach
During the past five years, Six Senses has opened properties that look more like standard hotels than sprawling utopian resorts.
“In Portugal, we opened a more traditional property in 2015, and it’s doing incredibly well, with the highest average daily rate in the country,” said Bjurstam.
Six Senses recently took over a 40-room property in Singapore and is adding another location there shortly. In these cases, where space is more limited, “It’s not about where we are, but the content we are creating. And it’s creating an immersive experience through the hotel,” Bjurstam said.
And so, to New York, the brand’s first urban property built from scratch. The site sits in West Chelsea, between the High Line and the Hudson River. It will comprise 137 guest rooms, 200-plus residences, a spa, a private club, and three food and beverage outlets. The expected opening is summer of 2020.
“This project is a fascinating and exciting contrast to the typical Six Senses locations where we operate resorts in settings with azure waters, UNESCO heritage listings, and lush rainforests,” said Neil Jacobs, the company’s CEO.
“Six Senses New York will have the same touchpoints and DNA, with some creative adaptation of course, but with no compromises on our commitment to community, wellness, sustainability and design.”
One of the more revolutionary aspects of the New York property will be its attention to social wellness. “We are aspiring to tackle one of biggest threats to wellness — loneliness — by introducing our first Six Senses Place, where hotel guests and members can be part of a community,” Bjurstam said.
The space will include a bathhouse, a clinic, a shared work space, event spaces for wellness lectures, and a dedicated restaurant and event space. “We are designing the restaurant a bit differently, too, with communal tables and individualized menus,” Bjurstam said. The latter might perhaps be based on a blood test given to diners on arrival.
Guests will also have access to blood tests, biomarker testing and scientifically tested anti-jet lag tools. According to Bjurstam, in-room features will include circadian rhythm lighting; blackout windows; specially designed beds, white noise machines; and filtration systems used to clean the air and increase cognitive performance.
“This move isn’t without risk. Six Senses is associated with beautiful, idyllic, exotic destinations. Opening a property better known for zen-like tranquility in the midst of a city that never really closes down could muddy the brand and confuse some customers,” Harteveldt said.
Gibson, though, is optimistic that Six Senses and Aman can succeed in New York.
“I believe that the opportunity to have a wellness break in an inner city or to choose a wellness-focused hotel on your business trip will become an expectation for many.
“Companies that understand how to deliver wellness are best suited to this. Six Senses have a very ambitious project in New York, but if any company can remain vigilant to protect their values and principles, and find a way to deliver them in a city environment then it would be Six Senses,” he said.