Interview with Mark Sands, Vice President of Wellness at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.
Mark Sands is the Vice President of Wellness across the Six Senses, playing a significant role in creating and launching many of the brand’s wellness initiatives, all while successfully leading spa operations. He works closely on many aspects of spa developments and at the beginning of 2023, launched the brand’s first dedicated wellness retreat, Six Senses Vana, in the Himalayan foothills of India. Here he shares his fascinating insights into the world of wellbeing, the challenges faced by the wellbeing industry and what keeps him inspired!
You have been at the forefront of the wellbeing industry for 20 years, what inspired you to want to work in wellbeing originally?
Whilst I might want to romance the history and look like I had a smart grand plan …the honest answer was that I fell into fitness, health clubs and spas through a love of sport. The community, competition and life lessons you learn in both individual and team sports is massive. What kept me in the industry was its evolution into a wellbeing industry and my move to the foothills of the Himalayas at Ananda. This is where my eyes were opened to the power Ayurveda, the depth of Yoga and Indian philosophy. I developed a curiosity around connecting modern science to traditional medicines and practices. I personally gained so much from this, and realised how so many could benefit from knowledge we either had not seen before or had forgotten over generations.
What does ‘wellness’ mean to you, both personally and professionally?
Wellness is making choices, decisions or having habits which lead to holistic health. The key for me is that it there is a deliberate intention, not passively allowing wellness to be bestowed. Now this does mean the individual has some responsibility … you decide what you eat, when you go to sleep, what you consume, when and how you exercise, whether you journal or meditate. Personally, I love getting to try, explore and study different experts or protocols – to develop better habits for myself, my family and my day job.
Professionally we have a responsibility to cut through the fluff, connect to the science and validate our approach. All whilst making it fun and accessible.
Do you think there are any stand-out, wellness trends that are emerging, and which ones do you think will stand the test of time?
The ones that will stand the test of time will be the ones that work…. with that in mind, those that are able to be scientifically studied and reviewed, are most likely to have a longer lasting presence. Heat exposure, cold exposure (whether ice baths, cold showers or cryotherapy) all have rock solid science showing how these micro stressors improve health span. Breathwork is again so simple and effective at getting us back to a sense of calm. Traditional forms of medicine being connected to modern science, validated much like Dr Mark Hyman, renowned functional medicine expert talking about food as medicine, something Ayurvedic doctors would smile and agree with.
Do you think there is a danger of the word ‘wellness’ being misused?
The term is often misrepresented as a buzzword to re-market a product or service. So yes, there is a real danger of it continuing to be misused.
Tell us about the new concept of Longevity with RoseBar, at the Six Senses Ibiza?
RoseBar is a new longevity club and age-defying wellness program at Six Senses Ibiza that introduces longevity with medical- grade personalised longevity treatments. Combining the powers of science and spiritual well-being to enhance human health and lengthen lifespan.
The program provides guests insight, tools, and a plan to reverse the aging processes and achieve long-term well-being by enhancing the body’s natural repair systems. Advanced diagnostics looking at epigenetics and Functional Medicine consultations to personalize programs. Supported by some high-tech equipment, Cryotherapy, Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber, IV Infusions, Regenerative Ozone Therapy, Red Light Therapy, Infrared Sauna and Cold Plunge.
Energy medicine helps the spiritual side with Shamanic Healing and Somatic Therapy. Six Senses Spa treatments, wellness activities, sleep tracking and coaching further support the guest’s journey.
What do you think the biggest changes have been in the industry within the years you’ve been working with Six Senses?
I am happy that the industry has broadened from spas, gyms and pools to mental wellbeing, spirituality, and mindfulness. From fitness, spa or health to a wellbeing industry, as more regulations and qualifications have been established the basic standards have improved.
What are the key challenges and opportunities in the medium and long term for spas?
I see the industry really struggling with recruitment and adapting to the shift many have made during the pandemic. There has been a real reduction in available talent with many leaving the industry totally. The key opportunity is to allow for a natural realignment of compensation vs. roles within spas that have not tracked in line with growth of other industries. There are many more opportunities for spas to evolve, further blurring the lines between health care, fitness and mental wellbeing. I am sure AI provides as many advantages as it does the scary Doom’s Day disadvantages … but in the end the spa industry is one where touch, connection and people cannot be totally replaced.
What is a project that you’re proud of or has really inspired you in the last 12 months?
I really am proud of Six Senses Vana, how we sensitively adapted their original approach remaining true to the owner’s original vision and bringing to the fore Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine and Yoga. The addition of Sleep with Six Senses our wellness screening helps the many great experts Six Senses Vana has to communicate their advice really clearly. Whilst we have Six Senses Ibiza with RoseBar’s longevity and high-tech epigenetic diagnostics, gently adapting this wellness retreat allows us to showcase traditional forms of medicine. The food is really incredible and getting away from your phones on a digital break is really powerful.
How do you continue to be so creative and what do you find inspires you?
I am surrounded by inspiring people through work and my group of friends and family. Genuine curiosity and a desire to learn more helps. Not being wielded to my ideas and being open to changing my view. Within Six Senses our wellness innovation team is a group that get together and work on projects, brainstorm ideas, work with design thinking processes and who are not scared to make mistakes. We are very lucky to have leadership that allows us that space to explore, test and refine ideas. It is really humbling to be connected to experts like Dr Mark Hyman, Dr Alberto Villoldo and of course, Dr Michael Breus, who helped us develop Sleep with Six Senses.