An interview with Mr. Jack Widagdo, General Manager of Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain
Renowned for its unique wellness philosophy, Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas aims to help guests reconnect with themselves, others and nature, and achieve mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing, by merging two platforms: wellness and sustainability. The first and currently only Six Senses property in China – Six Senses Qingcheng Mountain, is located at the gateway to the Taoist mountain Qing Cheng Mountain, a destination of pure nature and healing energy.
In order to understand more of the wellness philosophy of Qing Cheng Mountain, SpaChina interviewed Jack Widagdo, the General Manager of Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain. Jack has 22 years of hospitality experience, working with renowned hotels across Asia-Pacific. He is currently on his fourth assignment in China. He has held positions in 13 destinations in five countries, including several Four Seasons properties in Thailand; Capella in Singapore and Jimbaran, Bali; and most recently, the two Alila resorts in Zhejiang, China. Jack counts both his native Bali and Sydney, where he was educated, as home. He now promotes wellness and sustainability through local & crafted experiences within the Six Senses Qing Cheng Mountain resort.
Six Senses is well known for its wellness concept. Could you tell us more about Six Senses and about the philosophy and how that philosophy translates into revenue?
Six Senses, including our operating spa, are scattered in 13 different locations around the globe. Six senses Qingcheng Mountain in China is about 45 minutes from downtown, which makes it very convenient for all different markets and clientele.
Six Senses not just preaching wellness, but we also have sustainability locked into our wellness philosophy. For us, we believe it is not only being healthy, but also being happy, being well. And for different guests that means different needs. Since last year, we have seen the changes in trends and in guests’ needs. So how does that translate to revenue generation? We constantly evolve and with COVID-19, we had to evolve in our activities and in our guest experience programs. We have focused a lot more on the children since last year. If I highlight the philosophy of Six Senses, it is to help our guests reconnect with themselves, with people around them, their loved ones and with mother nature. Now through our children’s programs, for example, we want to inspire them to be able to recycle and retrieve for use. They go home with being knowledgeable. There is also a modern approach in what we do in terms of outdoor body movement in our organic farm. Does that translate into a lot of cash? Not yet, but we see the changing needs. We have a changing view. Also we can continue to learn from the market.
What do you think is the right approach to consumers in the resorts in the spa market? To what extent are you actively guiding or simply passively meeting the requirements of guests? Which way would you like to go?
We look for a balance. Our clientele features a very broad range, so we obviously cannot regiment programs. But we look for ways. For example, when they check in at the front desk, we will certainly ask them: “How much time do you have here?” Most of the guests might have three nights’ stay. They don’t have a lot of time. They may also have their own preset itinerary, such as to visit the Tao mountain, to take some rides or walks around. So it really depends. However, one thing that we do recommend to our guests is, before they do the spa, instead of choosing oils, we get them to make their own oil. This is all about reconnection. We have DIY classes in the spa where you learn how to make essential oils. Then you use it throughout the treatment. So for many of our guests, the experience comes alive. We don’t just let you come to the spa to fall asleep, it’s actually alive.
How do you see the modern interactive experience affecting the guest experience in China?
Our long-term goal has always been: Improving how we stay connected with our guests, to drive our vision of reconnection better now than ever before. Last year for example, we ramped up our WeChat Official Account with various news from the property. It is a mixture of sustainability articles, Wellness & Spa offerings, Fun & Quirky spotlights, and Hosts Profile storylines: including mine last month. We also introduce various Hosts-to-Guests interactive programs via WeChat, where the same Hosts will target and follow up on specific guests from start to post-completion of their stay. This has proven very successful and not only Online Reviews help but their direct feedback to management via such a channel immediately gets my management team’s attention. The feeling of being important (from the guests’ perspective) and our mutual feeling of being in better control of the guests at every touch point during their stay (from our perspective). WeChat (Video) Channel + Little Red Book are another 2 popular channels that we are currently exploring to bring in video content and real guest stay experience to the joy to other future guests as a way of show / tell / research.
How do you manage the guests’ profile, in order to provide better wellness service and follow up?
Six Senses places Wellness and Sustainability at the heart of our brand by understanding that each guest requires personalized crafted experiences. Safety is key to wellness and we need to know more about each guest to provide Out of the Ordinary experiences matching their needs. On arrival at the gate, we require guests to scan at least 2 QR codes + a computerized body-temperature check. Only GREEN is allowed entry if proven, so via a code validator (so it is no longer a manual check). At check in, we further require Disclaimer Form for guests to abide based on their recent travel patterns & body conditions. We assign the Target Host to follow ups on the well-being of the guests throughout their stay, the same Host is for guests ease of communication for anything that they need throughout stay including recommending a reconnecting session with nature and others through classes of Qing Cheng Tai Chi, Culture Talk, Mushroom Talk, Happy Farm Tour and various DIY Classes for both adults and younger guests at Earth Lab, Grow with Six Senses (our Kids Club) and Six Senses Spa’s Alchemy Bar.
What new technologies is Six Senses using in its current operations?
In 2021, as with other Six Senses properties globally, we are introducing our own App via a pairing code when guests arrive. The App takes it to the next level including statistical reports, complaint escalation, delay in speed etc. It allows guests to book various products and programs including Spa Treatment, In Villa Dining etc. The app allows the guest to have direct connection with our hosts to request anything at any time with the GM & Management Team on alert with Live updates from the convenience of their phone.
What is the development plan of Six Senses for the near future? At present, we have one Six Senses property in China. Obviously after COVID-19, we are seeing a lot more developments coming faster. We want to develop Six Senses in other parts of China. The population is so big in China. Chinese people are well-traveled, but now you’re not able to travel abroad. So there is an urge to have more resorts and hotels. In the children’s market, for example, when resorts don’t have enough rooms, customers go to city hotels. So we must ensure that we can meet the requirements as this trend will continue.