Interview with Jeremy McCarthy, Group Director of Spa & Wellness, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Jeremy McCarthy is the Group Director of Spa & Wellness for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, leading their internationally-acclaimed luxury spa division featuring 24 world-class spas worldwide and several more under development. He has over 20 years of experience operating luxury spas in resort and hotel properties worldwide. McCarthy is also the author of The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing and hosts a blog about holistic wellbeing at http://psychologyofwellbeing.com. He also chairs the Digital Wellness initiative for the Global Wellness Institute.
What is the wellness concept of the Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hotels?
We take a holistic approach to wellness, considering five different dimensions that people need to be healthy and happy: nourishment, movement, stillness, connections, and wellbeing.
We incorporate these aspects into all of our services. Lately, for example, we have been very focused on “stillness,” thinking about how we help people to rest their minds from the over-consumption of technology in the modern age. Our spas have been offering digital detox retreats and services to help people disconnect and recover from too much technology use. This December, we will host a “Silent Night” in our spas, where all of our spas worldwide will encourage a night of quiet contemplation.
We also bring this wellness philosophy outside of the spa. We just launched our new Mindful Meetings program which brings nourishment, movement, stillness, connections and wellbeing into the meeting spaces. Most meetings are very unhealthy as we spend too much time sitting in chairs, too much time consuming information without time to reflect on it, and eating too many sugary foods and caffeinated beverages. The Mindful Meetings approach brings our wellness expertise into the meetings spaces with healthy foods, movement and meditation breaks, and tools to help people come out of their meetings feeling energized.
What new trends do you see in the global wellness sector?
I think there are three trends that are dramatically pushing the hospitality industry in new directions. The first is “experiential travel”. People don’t want only accommodation, they want a transformative experience. The hotel industry has to deliver more than beds and food. People need to feel like they improved somehow by having stayed with you.
The second is “dynamic use of resources.” We see this trend with the rise of new companies like AirBnB and Uber that find better ways to utilize resources. Hotels have to think about spaces that can be repurposed in different ways at different times. If you have a bar that is only busy at night, how could you activate that space during the day? If the spa is only busy on the weekends, how can you find a better use for the space during the week?
And the third is “wellness everywhere.” Consumers are prioritizing wellbeing and they want to stay with companies that support them in this endeavor. This trend is not limited to spa and wellness businesses. We can now see how Facebook and Google are scrambling to improve the wellbeing of their customers. This is truly “everywhere” and affects all industries.
How do you think luxury hotels can make better use of their spas?
For us it is first and foremost about quality, service and authenticity. But there is also the need to be innovative, and to offer things that nobody else in the market is doing. We work closely with our therapists to cultivate and foster their unique talents and deliver treatments that are not only personalized, but “personal.” To me, a “personal” spa experience is one that can never be duplicated as it is based on the unique bond between that particular therapist and that particular client.
How do you value the importance of sustainability for the hotel and spa industry?
I think there is too much elitism around sustainability. In other words, only a few brands position themselves as being truly green and they strive to be the best in this area as a unique selling proposition. This unfortunately discourages other brands from striving for greater sustainability because they don’t feel they can compete at the highest levels of the eco-retreat destinations. But in reality, this is an area where we can all improve. We have partnered with the Green Spa Network to create a sustainability assessment tool that larger and more urban hotel groups can use to assess their own sustainability practices and identify areas to improve. We are very interested in collaborating with our industry to develop better practices that are less taxing on our environment.