LOS ANGELES—Health and wellness therapies and trends abound—sound healing with Himalayan singing bowls, forest bathing (essentially, a walk in the woods), crystal therapy and a host of detox diets, to name a few. So, what exactly does it take to achieve a positive state of wellbeing? It’s a question that has different answers depending on whom you ask.
As chair of the global spa and wellness task force at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Michael Newcombe is charged with promoting a holistic approach to spa and wellness services across the brand. At Four Seasons, the goal is to combine traditional techniques with modern technology for results-oriented treatments. Composed of Four Seasons spa leaders from around the world, this team guides the brand’s global spa strategy. In addition to this leadership role, Newcombe also serves as GM for the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills.
“The chair role represents the way Four Seasons has grown organically. We have 24 openings coming up in 26 months and the average space is 10,000 sq. ft., with the biggest spa we have at 22,000 sq. ft. These require a different formula and objective,” said Newcombe. “The spa and wellness concepts are becoming a reason to go to a destination—not an add-on amenity. It’s not a Four Seasons phenomenon; it’s global.”
Beyond health, the impact of the spa and wellness industry is also a financial one. According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the global wellness economy is now three times larger than the global pharmaceutical industry. In a report, GWI found that 2016 spend on wellness was $3.7 trillion worldwide, representing 5% of the global economic output, and nearly half the size of all global health expenditures. In addition, the report showed the spend on pharmaceuticals over the same period was at $1.8 trillion.
“If you go back 10-15 years, what you see now is everyone understanding the importance of fitness, a healthy diet and the mind-body connection,” Newcombe said. “When our clients and guests are on the road, they have nutritional options, fitness choices and broader offerings. We are integrating wellness into some of the rooms in Los Angeles with early trials, and it’s something we hope to trial and talk about doing on a broader scale in 12 to 18 months.”
From the Middle East to Beijing, a key differentiator compared to other hotel companies is the brand’s keen sense of place, noted Newcombe. Four Seasons spas are encouraged to be part of the journey and locale.
“In Abu Dhabi, I saw one of their treatment beds was a regular deluxe bed, but the cushion was filled with sand and able to be heated. We encourage that local sense of place through touchpoints of treatment, scent, product or culture. When you go, you want to experience more of Abu Dhabi not just where you traveled from,” he said. “When you travel with a luxury-destination mindset and experience a treatment in a spa in Beijing or Shanghai, and have a massage that reflects the culture and experience of local therapists programmed into the treatments, that brings out the best of Chinese massage culture. That is the customization that our clients expect.”
As keeper of the flame of Four Season’s spa and wellness philosophy, Newcombe and the task force are working to hold the brand’s standard of excellence and looking into the future of its services moving forward.
“Our main goal is to ensure we deliver what the guests want. We never mandate from a central role to push into markets; we listen to experts in each market to develop their own strategy under broader goals,” he said. “No one knows what the Kyoto market wants more than the person who runs the operation, for example. We bottle that into a spa wellness format, we look at trends and have monthly video conference calls to share and develop our annual goals.”
Newcombe further explained that at Four Seasons, the spa and wellness task force is continuously looking at striking the right balance of delivering what the guest wants and how it can meet those needs. The wellness and nutrition teams work with F&B to ensure proper nutrition options throughout the hotels. The brand also looks at the various departments—spa, pool, wellness rooms—and how to synergize opportunities to leverage each other’s talents.
“Wellness isn’t just about appearance or feeling good, it’s about restoring and maintaining balance, both physically and mentally,” he said. “Whether it’s eating healthy and staying active while on a business trip or taking time to relax and recharge while on vacation, our goal is to create highly personalized, holistic spa experiences for each of our guests, helping them regain balance and find tranquility in their travels.”