An interview with Ms. Niamh O’Connell, Vice President of Wellbeing,
Group and Corporate, Jumeirah Group
Founded in 1997, Jumeirah Group is a luxury hospitality company and a member of Dubai Holding. With a portfolio of hotels, resorts, and residences in top destinations worldwide, the group has become a prominent player in the luxury hospitality industry. Its flagship property, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, is known as one of the world’s most luxurious hotels. Jumeirah Group also manages other notable properties such as Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
Jumeirah Group offers wellness experiences at various properties, including island sanctuaries and city getaways. Their award-winning spas, like Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, provide serene environments for self-discovery and rejuvenation. Guests can make positive lifestyle changes through personalized treatments and experiences encompassing nutrition, exercise, alternative therapies, and mind-body wellness.
Recently, Jumeirah Group has announced the appointment of Niamh O’Connell as its first Vice President of Wellbeing, Group and Corporate. The move is part of the Group’s renewed focus to elevate the wellness offering across its portfolio and craft distinctive experiences that meet the needs of today’s discerning luxury traveller. Ms Niamh O’Connell brings three decades of luxury wellness and hospitality experience. She will collaborate with Jumeirah’s teams to develop a comprehensive wellbeing strategy, including spa services, fitness programs, therapies, branding, and design. Niamh’s extensive experience includes leadership roles at Hyatt International Hotels & Resorts and Rosewood Hotel Group. She is known for her strategic brand vision and delivering exceptional guest experiences.
SpaChina interviewed her.
Could you tell us more about your role as the Vice President of Wellbeing at Jumeirah Group and what your main responsibilities entail?
I am thrilled to join Jumeirah Group at this pivotal moment in the brand’s journey. Together with the talented teams at Jumeirah’s hotels and resorts, I am confident we will cultivate innovation, excellence and lasting impact in the wellness arena.
I will work alongside the Group’s hotel and operations teams to build on the brand’s award-winning Talise Spa concept to craft an all-encompassing wellbeing strategy with the ultimate aim of enhancing the wellness offering across the portfolio. My focus will be curating exceptional guest experiences and unique touchpoints across the guest journey, implementing everything from new spa services, fitness offerings, longevity treatments, and holistic wellness rituals as well as overseeing branding, design and programming.
What motivated Jumeirah Group to create this new position of Vice President of Wellbeing and prioritize the elevation of their wellness offerings?
The relationship our guests have with wellness and wellbeing today has transcended from isolated treatments offering a functional fix, to an all-encompassing guided approach to longevity, life balance and self-care.
This position of Vice President of Wellbeing is an entirely new role, deemed essential as Jumeirah Group begin to invest strongly in advancing the wellbeing offering through new concepts, therapies and partnerships, designed to enrich the life and wellness experience of guests.
How do you plan to craft an all-encompassing wellbeing strategy for Jumeirah Group’s portfolio of hotels and resorts?
Over the past three years, there has been a remarkable shift in the wellbeing landscape, and now the industry stands on the brink of an exhilarating transformation. I look forward to inspiring a new approach to wellbeing across our hotels and resorts, guided by the principles of lifelong learning, longevity, and inclusivity. By adopting this approach, my aim is to ensure we empower our guests to enhance their physical and emotional wellbeing through sustainable wellness practices.
Could you elaborate on the specific elements that will be included in the wellbeing strategy, such as spa services, fitness offerings, or any other holistic wellness practices etc.?
Responding to the evolving consumer trends towards holistic and sustainable wellness, our strategy will consider all the elements that define a person’s lifestyle – nutrition, exercise and fitness, alternative therapies, traditional spa treatments, as well as mind and body therapies.
Personalisation remains a priority for the discerning high-net-worth individual and Jumeirah’s wellbeing strategy will continue to provide positive lifestyle-change through a selection of bespoke programmes. We’ll launch new tailored wellness experiences that promote harmony between body and mind and help to build a strong foundation of health with effective techniques and movements across our portfolio.
In Dubai, Jumeirah Al Qasr’s Talise Spa is already making strides in this space with the launch of a brand new 360-degree programme, Talise Wellness. Inspired by sustainable wellness practices, the programme offers flexible therapies, cognitive health assessments and wholesome meals – all designed to meet guests’ fitness, mindfulness and nutritional goals. The unique wellness programme aims to restore physical, mental and emotional balance without restricting exercise or nutrition. Developed by industry practitioners, the Talise Wellness programme encompasses four crucial pillars of wellness – Mental Wellness, Mindful Movement, Internal Wellbeing and Restore – with each pillar covering a wide range of therapies, treatments, nutritional eating, and meditation.
Jumeirah Group has properties in various regions, including China. Can you discuss the company’s strategy for the Chinese market and how it aligns with the overall wellbeing focus? Are there any specific initiatives or plans in place to cater to the unique preferences and needs of wellness-seeking guests in China?
China is an important market for Jumeriah Group and increasingly we’re seeing the discerning Chinese guest seek wellness experiences at our hotels in Guangzhou, Nanjing and further afield, in a bid to take more ownership of their wellbeing.
Today, Chinese guests are more aware and eager to improve their physical, emotional, social, and even spiritual health. In recent years, spa experiences in China have evolved beyond the treatment and have become part of a wellness ecosystem that nurtures the human experience. In line with our goal to create an all-encompassing guided approach to longevity, life balance and self-care, our spas will continue to offer nourishment for mind, body and soul to support guests on their journey to achieving a healthy wellness ecosystem.
While the traditional spa mindset centered upon the physical and emotional dimension of wellness, a more evolved viewpoint has shifted the focus towards awareness, knowledge, and empowerment, which creates transformative experiences that deepen personal practices, including mindfulness and spirituality. In the future, we aim to create more customised and spiritual wellness experiences for Chinese guests to fulfill diversified needs, leaning into the vast practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Could you share any insights into the potential future developments or expansion plans for Jumeirah Group globally?
Jumeirah Group continue on a journey of sustainable growth, with plans to open properties in Saudi Arabia this year, as well as a 13th property in Dubai – Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab. Europe is also an important focus, and the aim is to build our brand profile in major European cities. The recent announcement of the acquisition of Le Richemond in Geneva is just the start.
How does Jumeirah Group envision integrating sustainability and wellness practices in its future development plans?
Jumeirah Group strives to uphold sustainable and inclusive practices across the business, to shape the best possible future where everyone can thrive. From luxury beachfront resorts and idyllic island destinations to vibrant city hotels and coastal cliff-top retreats, the Jumeirah promise of “Stay Different” is more than just a guest experience; it’s the product of the commitments we make to our people, our planet and the communities around the world that serve our industry.
In terms of the wellness practices at our properties, we have always tried to apply authenticity and locality by using regional wellness methods and locally sourced ingredients to offer treatments with connections to the destination each hotel resides.
To give you an example, Talise Spa at Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa uses the nourishing properties of local Mallorcan olive, almond and citrus fruits to leave skin silky-soft and smooth while at Jumeirah Maldives Olhahali Island, expert spa therapists use the oil from local hand-harvested coconuts, among other exclusive products.
Overlooking the soft beach of the Gulf of Oman and the extraordinary backdrop of the Al Hajar Mountains, guests at Talise Spa at Jumeirah Muscat Bay can soak in the power of the sea and the mountains with the Essence of Oman treatment, which uses traditional incense and sea salt to renew the soul the Omani way.
Whether guests are in search of pampering or rejuvenation, each Jumeirah spa offers a unique and personalised experience that supports and empowers the local community, in turn, capturing the spirit of its location.