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March 7, 2013updated Mar 25, 2013

Six Senses’ New CEO Reveals Expansion Plans

By Chris Boyle

Water Villa at Six Senses Laamu, Maldives

Water Villa at Six Senses Laamu, Maldives

Paraglide arrival at Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman

Paraglide arrival at Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman

By Tova Syrowicz

Fans of Six Senses hotels, currently based in Asia and the Middle East, will be happy to learn that the sustainable luxury brand has a few new-build openings in the works.

Five new properties—three in the Western Hemisphere—are all scheduled to open by 2016.

In mid-2012, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani parted with the Six Senses hotel and spa company that they had nurtured from the ground up, keeping only Soneva Fushi (their island home/hotel in the Maldives) and Soneva Kiri in Thailand. Everything else, except for Soneva Gili (sold to the group that owns the Four Seasons resorts in the Maldives), was acquired by Pegasus Capital Advisors, a US-based private equity shop, for what has been described as a “good deal.”

Six Senses’ new CEO, Neil Jacobs, shares that while Pegasus invests across many verticals, it tends toward a theme of sustainability and “greenness” across the board, so guests of Six Senses will continue to experience the uniquely sustainable brand of luxury Sonu and Eva envisioned and grew. Indeed, Pegasus saw a group of properties, distinct from other offerings, with great potential for expansion. So what some might assume to be an Asian company, says Jacobs, is really a global company. In addition to nine hotels (six Six Senses and three Evasons), the company encompasses 29 spas, in locations that include London, Paris, the Dominican Republic and, most recently, Gstaad (in the hot new Alpina Gstaad hotel). The new builds, meanwhile, will open in Colombia (in Tayrona National Park near Santa Marta), St. Lucia, the DR, Bhutan and Chengdu, China (home to Taoism and a renowned Panda Reserve).

Jacobs explains that travelers looking for “bling” might be in for a surprise. While ultra luxurious (accommodations typically begin at 1,000 square feet, and the vast majority have sizable private pools and extensive outdoor space), Six Senses properties use locally sourced, artfully handcrafted materials wherever possible. And they all look different, suited to their climate and environment, but always natural and comforting. So don’t expect a gleaming marble lobby in the tropics; think more along the lines of a beautifully finished timber floor.

Service is personal, intuitive, anticipatory and high-touch, with a lot of thought given to creating unique, authentic and local experiences (think diving with a marine biologist or stargazing with an astronomer). Jacobs highlights the paraglide arrival at Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman as an example, or the special spa journey that will be on offer in Bhutan, where one property will really be five scattered across the country (comprising 80 rooms in total), as visitors to Bhutan rarely stay put. Each property will not only be distinct, but will offer a unique spa treatment, so guests can embark on a wellness odyssey as they explore the nation’s striking natural offerings.

While Six Senses has no urban hotels to date, Jacobs believes the company’s DNA can certainly, and should be, applied to places like New York and London, Tokyo and Shanghai. He envisions hotels with a max of 80 or 90 rooms that, in addition to building brand awareness, will be able to offer travelers something really different to what’s currently available.

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