Breaking Travel News interview: Michael Newcombe, vice president, spa and wellness, Four Seasons | Focus

Global Wellness Day is taking place around the world, with organisations from across the hospitality sector lending their support to the event.

An entirely not-for-profit social project dedicated to living well, the celebration encourages participants to ask how they can live a healthier life.

Among the hospitality organisations taking part is Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts, with Michael Newcombe, vice president of spa and wellness at the luxury brand, telling Breaking Travel News during a recent chat in London that the event is a good opportunity to showcase its offering.

“I have been driving Global Wellness Day internally at Four Seasons for a number of years.

“I was introduced to the concept a few years ago and we felt it was a good platform to activate the community in each of our hotels and get as many as possible to do something small, but tangible,” he explains.

“It is very simple in certain locations, a set up in the lobby, yoga on the roof, but I think it offers a good showcase of what we do, of how we are developing spas, and wellness, in most of our locations.”

This Global Wellness Day marks the third consecutive year Four Seasons has commemorated the event, a natural fit for a company committed to creating memorable spaces and experiences that enable guests to unwind, relax and recharge.

Four Seasons are offering something for everyone with a variety of complimentary and charitable activities that focus on self-care and wellness.

Four Seasons Resort & Residences Anguilla, for example, is inviting guests and local residents to join in a morning meditation and a guided walk along Meads Bay Beach, well recognised as one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.

At the same time, Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre is offering complimentary one-on-one meditation sessions with holistic healer Muneeza Jaffer Labuschagne, while Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An, in Vietnam, will host a thoughtfully curated itinerary of complimentary Tai Chi, AntiGravity yoga, and rice field cycling.

While a worthy cause in its own right, Newcombe suggests wellness will be of growing importance for Four Seasons looking ahead.

“The event comes as we make the roots more permanent with wellness – there is an overwhelming lifestyle demand these days from everyone,” he adds.

“Wellness with Four Seasons is an option, and it will only ever be an option.

“As a brand that has multiple segments of guests, it is really important that we do not put ourselves in a position where we have to say no to something.

“We are not a dedicated wellness retreat, where you can work with the guests before arrival for example, work on a diet; that is not who we are.

“What we are trying to do is have stronger wellness options for guests during their stay.

“We are a hotel company, but as wellness and lifestyle demand gets stronger, so will our options get broader.”

In his other capacity as general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Newcomb has also been busy, overseeing a complete renovation of the hotel.

The project was led by Wimberly Interiors’ Los Angeles office and was completed at the end of last year.

Over the years the hotel has become a second home for celebrities and entertainment industry executives, and the importance cinema has been emphasised in the new design.

Newcomb explains: “We engaged designers Wimberly Interiors, who Four Seasons have used on a number of other projects before.

“Their brief was to bring in our history – we are 30 years old.

“We are a Los Angeles and Beverly Hills hotel with a slice of history, deeply rooted in film and Hollywood.

“This is a key part of our business – the ability to do four, five junkets in a week.

“This has been going on for 25 years – so many of the films that come out, we have seen junketed with us two weeks prior.

“The industry, and the talent, have come through the door so many times that it has become the place that meetings take place and deals are done.

“The designers came up with a nod to retro Hollywood – doors that were once white are now black, the room numbers have a new look, while the bold dominating artwork is now a series of retro black and white prints in beautiful contemporary frames.

“It has really encapsulated the history, but given us a whole new look.

“We encouraged the designers to really disrupt the theme of the hotel – to bring in the history – and I think it has come out extremely well.”

Here too wellness has played a role, with eight new Wellness Rooms added to the property.

Launched in partnership with Delos, the rooms aim to optimise guests’ physical and emotional wellbeing while travelling.

Located on the fourth floor, the accommodations combine the latest technologies with a stylish new room design and eco-chic features.

Newcomb adds: “As demand increased for most customised ideas, we were looking at bringing spa from the peripheral of Four Seasons Los Angeles to be more of a core feature.

“We thought, what better way than to bring it into some of the guest bedrooms.

“When we renovated we highlighted eight rooms that we would dedicate to this project and instead of renovating them within the scope of the other 270, we added some features.

“There are ten principal features – wooden floors, which have been hypoallergenic-tested, for example, and an air purification system to clean the air almost hourly, more than air conditioning, it is an air cleaner, purifying the air from allergens, as well as a wellness menu.

“There is a circadian lighting system, energising light in the bathroom.

“These added features change the whole dynamic feel of the room.”

Of course, wellness has also played a pivotal role in the development of Los Angeles as a tourism destination, with the latest campaign from the tourism authority seeking to position to the city as a year-round relaxation hub.

As an active member of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, this is something Newcomb has been keen to encourage.

“Our latest campaign highlights Los Angeles as a year-round destination.

“It highlights the idealistic and iconic destinations in Los Angeles, it is a quick soundbite of the city, its blue skies and sun.

“We have a respectful rivalry with other cities in the United States, not least New York, for inbound traffic, and this is part of that.

“Los Angeles has, I feel, so much to offer, It really is overwhelming how geographically it is blessed.

“You can sit in your car and point it in one of three directions, ruling out the ocean, and you have San Diego, San Francisco and Las Vegas just a short drive away, and that is just if you run out of steam locally, which you never would.”

Despite fears over a so-called ‘Trump slump,’ the Four Seasons general manager is keen to play down fears.

He explains: “Los Angeles as a market is having a very, very good year. I think some initial anxiety internationally after the presidential election has now transformed into optimism.

“When I last checked the markets were doing okay, the Dow Jones has seen a very positive growth since election day, and I think what you are seeing is good solid numbers across the United States in the tourism sector.

“There are obviously exceptions, Hawaii, with the volcano; there are always pockets of uncertainty that you cannot control.

“But most of the gateway markets are showing good performance.

“Most the Los Angeles hotels put a lot of emphasis on the summer market, which has not begun yet, but it is looking good, not great, but good, and better than last year.”

He does, however, issues a note of caution with regard to overinflating expectations when it comes to outbound tourism from China.

“With regard to China, I have less optimism than perhaps I did last year, because of some of the manoeuvrings with regard to investment overseas, or perception of overseas investment, but I have not seen demand change – flat to positive.

“But that is only in comparison to how optimistic everybody was with the expectations of this big wave that was coming – I have not seen the wave, but very strong demand does continue.

“I do not think China has taken off to the point that we hoped, and that might be due to some changes in outbound view from the market there.

“There is also a lot of interest in the next market, we are always looking ahead, and this is the wealthy, knowledgeable Indian traveller.

“When you look at the logistics of that country, as a new market, we are hopeful there,” he concludes.

More Information

Founded in 1960, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is dedicated to perfecting the travel experience through continual innovation and the highest standards of hospitality. 

Currently operating 110 hotels and resorts, as well as 38 residential properties in major city centres and resort destinations in 46 countries, Four Seasons has more than 50 projects under planning or development.

Find out more on the official website.

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