An interview with Ms. Luisa Anderson, Regional Director of Spa, Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Bali, Langkawi, Maldives
Crystal singing bowls and sweet songs quietly flowing, people are attentively writing their letter of love to the earth. They place the letter into colorful paper lanterns on the water which takes their heart far into the depth of nature. This is not a film scene, but the “Goodnight Kiss to the Earth” ceremony at Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai Hoi An.
Unique characters and transformational experience is what Four Seasons always want to deliver to the guests. Joining Four Seasons in 2001, Ms. Luisa Anderson is now in charge of the spas of Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Bali, Langkawi, Maldives. To help guests regain a connection with the earth, and inner peace and joy is her unchanged goal. Luisa not only has rich experience in hospitality and spa industry, but also masters a variety of healing methods and massage techniques, such as Swedish massage, breath therapy, Reiki, Ayurvedic, Chi Nei Tsang, to name just a few.
What are the new trends and concepts for global wellness? Today, what kind of spa and wellness experiences are the hotel costumers seeking?
People recognize that industrialization changed the way we live and travel, but it created greater stress on wellbeing. We became busier, life became noisier. So we observe, today’s guests desire to appreciate the simple things, return to wholeness, experience peace, open to greater levels of consciousness. They are going back to ancient remedies and traditional wellbeing practices and enjoying the simple life and wisdom of Eastern cultures.
Meanwhile, we also see a blending of science and traditional wellbeing practices. It’s so fascinating to see things like DNA health testing telling the exact same story as an Ayurvedic Doctor would tell from pulse diagnosis and consultation.
Based on the trends mentioned above, how do your spas at Four Seasons (Asia-Pacific) meet guests’ needs? What new programs are you launching recently?
To meet today’s guests’ needs, we invite people to slow down and connect with each other, and with the world around them through holistic treatments. For example, the Blessings of Bali spa ritual at Four Seasons Resort Bali Jimbaran Bay, which starts with yoga (physical), massage and sound therapy (emotional) and ends with a water blessing by a Balinese priest (spiritual).
In addition, a lot of people do not sleep well and we have specific treatments to aid them. At Four Seasons Resorts Bali, we have launched new Night Spa rituals, and we have a Sacred Nap amidst the rice fields with our wellness mentor Ibu Fera at Four Seasons Sayan.
In Landaa Giraavaru in the Maldives, we have extensive Ayurveda sitting alongside high-tech wellness. For example a guest might choose Verju green laser for fat loss and supplement with Udvartana (dry herbal powder massage) and end the day with yog nidra (sleep yoga).
You have designed the Spa at Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai Hoi An. Why do you name it “The Heart of the Earth”? What core experience do you want to deliver to the guests?
When I was creating the experiences at The Nam Hai, I was inspired by the writings of Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh – a global spiritual teacher, poet, writer and peace activist. He has written prolifically and one book that really touched me was Love Letter to the Earth. In this book he talks about three lessons we can learn from the Earth – Stability, Creativity and Non Judgment. Of special note is this quote: “We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet”. He also talks about not seeing ourselves separate from the Earth but uniting in heart. So all this was the inspiration for the name of and experiences in the spa.
There are two key experiences in The Heart of the Earth Spa. The first is a ceremony held every single evening by our spa staff and open to all guests. It is called the “Goodnight Kiss to the Earth”. Guests are invited to sit and write a personal letter to Mother Earth whilst the therapists sing some special sweet and mindful songs and play huge crystal singing bowls. Guests fold their letter and place it inside a colourful paper lantern which is then floated on the spa lagoon with a candle. It is always an emotional experience for guests. Tears of joy and gratefulness are common during this ceremony.
The second is our signature treatment called The Nam Hai Earth Song, which has a profound effect through the use of 8 crystal singing bowls, often taking guests to a ‘place’ they have never been before. Bathe self and senses in healing vibrations and align the internal rhythm to the “song” of the Earth. Incredible whether experienced alone or as a couple, this beautiful treatment will connect guests back to themselves and inspire a deeper connection to the Earth, featuring the warm spicy cleansing smoke of sustainable Hoi An agarwood, a Heart of the Earth sound and breath ritual, Vietnamese scrub and bath (featuring herbs from our own farm), a deep pressure massage incorporating balancing gem-tipped tuning forks, and a fully immersive sound bath.
What are the current situation of hotel spas worldwide, doing good or not? Do you have any suggestions?
Within our portfolio the spas are doing very well and have shown growth from 2017 to 2018. We continue to develop, innovate, renovate and build. Wellness is a real focus for Four Seasons globally as a hotel company. We celebrate talent and tell the story of our people and spas.
My thoughts are that we should continue to connect authentically to our guests, to always remember the human element and understand more deeply the components of wellness. We should be recognised as masters of integrating tradition, authenticity, science and technology.
Why does hotel need wellness?
Wellness is a $4.2 trillion industry and it’s not going away. The internet has opened up knowledge and we are bombarded with health and wellness information, which inspires people to take better care of themselves.
The other thing is that wellness has become a large part of travellers’ trips. People are travelling more for business than ever before but it is challenging – sleep, exercise, food etc can all suffer on a business trip. And it doesn’t need to be that way. Many hotels now provide wellness services and amenities not only for the dedicated wellness market, but for all guests – they are a normal part of a hotel not a special add on.
Do you give wellness education to your team members? What have you done?
Yes, of course! We are constantly educating our teams. Here are a few examples: In Landaa Giraavaru we have 3 Ayurvedic Doctors, Acupuncturist, Naturopath and 5 yoga teachers. Between them they have weekly sessions with the team on related subjects and they meditate or chant together during every morning briefing.
In Bali we also have ongoing education and extra special sessions with every guest practitioner who comes to the resort (8-10 a year). These specialist practitioners introduce the teams to so many modalities from astrology to clairvoyance, reiki to colour therapy. We do group classes and also some individual sessions for our staff, who can then take on new skills as part of their wisdom shared with guests. This way their learning is very experiential.
Currently, more and more hotels are transforming to wellness hotels. What are your opinions to this?
It’s great to see wellness becoming ‘mainstream’. People now have easy access to retreats and choose one that offers a very strict program, diet and activity schedule. Others can choose a more relaxed destination like Four Seasons Resorts Bali, Nam Hai or Landaa Giraavaru where they can join as many activities as they like and eat well, without having to follow a set program.
From your perspective, what is the ultimate goal of wellness? How do you make it happen in your personal life?
For me, Health and Wellness is about the interconnectedness of all things and access to the infinite field of intelligence, the union of body, mind, senses and spirit. It is a higher state of consciousness that allows VITALITY, WELLBEING, CREATIVITY and JOY to flow in your life; whereas disease is an alienation from the field of intelligence, the final expression of a disruption in the mind-body physiology.
I think the ultimate goal of Wellness is to live with joy and know your divine nature. For me, state of mind has the biggest impact on my health but all aspects are important. The ancient yogis practiced asanas not to achieve Olympic fitness but to enable them to sit for long periods of meditation and to free stiffness in the body after long periods of sitting. They also used yoga asana, pranayama and other cleansing practices to clear the energy channels of the body and allow the flow of ‘energy’.
When energy is free flowing, unimpeded by thoughts, attachments, toxins, I am well and happy.