To say that Sheila McCann is busy would be an understatement. The spa and wellness expert, who joined health and medical resort specialist Lanserhof in February, has been working hard to cement the group’s name in the UK as it expands its portfolio. The spa-style medical institution is based on the Lans Med concept of naturopathy and modern medicine and currently has three properties in Austria and Germany, with another opening in Sylt in Germany in 2020.
Taking up the post as general manager of its two UK sites, McCann has been spearheading change at renowned surrey destination Grayshott Health Spa while also overseeing the launch of Lanserhof at The Arts Club – the company’s first medical gym set within a private members’ club in London, due to open next year.
Having previously worked as corporate director of spa for Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and general manager for Thailand wellness destination Chiva-Som, McCann is no stranger to implementing change and driving growth in both large and small spa operations. But, with 35 years’ experience under her belt, we asked McCann, what drew you to Lanserhof?
“The burdens on the NHS are so strong at the moment. We’ve got to try to keep more people out of the healthcare system in order to move forward and I think the spa and wellness industry has a huge responsibility towards preventative healthcare and knowledge. We have to bring the two philosophies together,” she says.
“This is what impressed me about Lanserhof. It’s hard to marry the wellbeing environment with the preventative side of medicine but the group has integrated this well into its resort offering and with good results.”
Moving with the times
One of McCann’s biggest responsibilities is overseeing the refurbishment and operational changes at Grayshott, a 50-year-old property the group bought in 2017 in partnership with investment group London and Regional Properties. With 59 bedrooms and 36 treatment rooms, the destination spa is known for offering a wide range of programmes for cleansing, weight loss and regeneration after injury. Despite this stellar reputation, the location was in need of new leadership.
The burdens on the NHS are so strong at the moment. I think the spa and wellness industry has a huge responsibility towards preventative healthcare and knowledge
“When I came here, what I found was a slightly confused positioning and a lot of need for investment, some of which we’ve done and some we are weighing up – whether it needs a subtle rejuvenation or a full-scale refurbishment,” explains McCann. She is no stranger to the Grayshott property, having worked for the founding family back in the ‘90s as spa and leisure manager. “Back then, the essence of why the business was created and the therapeutic approach was prevalent in everything we did. However, the interim owners – between the founding family and Lanserhof – took the destination in a different direction and I’m not sure they completely understood what it was or what it could be. That’s why we’re looking at everything now. We want to find a balance between remaining relevant in the marketplace and having a nice, comfortable, functioning property that helps people.”
One of the biggest focuses for McCann is getting the property Care Quality Commission (CQC) registration so the spa can offer more medical services: “such as a wider range of blood testing, infusion therapies – although not a registerable service, a safer approach – and the ability to give advice beyond nutritional recommendation.” She adds, “This can be important where guests come in with complex pre-existing conditions. It can be good for managing risk and giving more detailed lifestyle information.”
McCann is hoping to gain certification by the end of January but admits the transition has been challenging, especially as it has involved setting up a lot of systems and procedures to the standard you would expect within an NHS operation.
“There are a lot of training elements. For example, you need a lead nurse for infection control, another for record keeping, and so on. It’s about getting familiar with the cultural, organisational approach from a medical perspective and marrying that together with what we do at Grayshott,” she says. “I’m working hard to get the organisational culture right. I’ve set up a forum for multidisciplinary teams where everyone understands their place and contribution.” The end goal? “To have the strongest medical wellness offering in the UK”. The other property under McCann’s remit is a new urban health centre in the heart of London, due to open on May 2, 2019. Lanserhof has teamed up with private members’ venue The Arts Club on Dover Street to open what McCann says will be the UK’s first medical gym in which members will undergo a series of functional diagnostic tests upon joining, including an MRI scan, to create an accurate body-composition analysis.
This set-up is designed to give a clear picture of clients’ health and fitness, including joint function and muscle balance, allowing the in-house medical team to create bespoke training programmes that will enhance the individual’s mobility and agreed goals. “At the helm will be medical director Dr Sebastian Kunz, a specialist in orthopaedics and trauma surgery, and he’s got very high-level care experience. He is very much on the injuryprevention side, which is a big part of Lanserhof’s ethos,” explains McCann.
This smaller, more accessible site is a new route for the group. Lanserhof does have an existing medical day spa, Lans Medicum, in Hamburg, but its core offering is larger resorts. McCann explains that this more accessible non-residential model presents a huge opportunity. “What you’re now seeing is the ability for Lanserhof to look after a growing UK population of guests who visit the resorts in Germany and Austria but can now ‘top up’ in London between their annual resort visit,” she says.
However, McCann admits partnering with The Arts Club has also been beneicial as it has given the group access to an existing population of people who want something as “distinctive” as what Lanserhof is offering overseas. Calling them a clientele of “super achievers” – people who excel in one aspect of life – McCann says “adding spa, massage, wellness and physiotherapy elements to this exercise offering will guide people on a different level of fitness engagement and get the results they want”.
Striking a balance
It’s an exciting time for the Lanserhof group and McCann feels at home driving its vision forward. “I’ve worked for big companies that are very good at developing systems – like Shangri-La, where I helped them replicate certain aspects and functions so they could open 20 new hotels – as well as small independent companies, like Chiva-Som, but I’m inding I prefer the latter,” she explains.
“Smaller properties don’t have that ‘paralysis by analysis’ that big corporate companies have, so they can be more nimble in the marketplace. Lanserhof is interesting because it is in that sweet spot between the two; it has established systems and a strong brand identity, but is willing to try new things and can be flexible. I’m hoping at Grayshott and Lanserhof at The Arts Club clients will embody, learn and engage with a new lifestyle.” PB
McCann joins Miralinder, Toronto, as day spa manager
Takes up post as spa and leisure manager at Grayshott Health Spa
Makes the move to spa director at Whitbread
Becomes director of spa at Spa Botanica, Sentosa Resort and Spa, Singapore
Joins Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts as corporate director of spa – brand quality
Takes on the role of general manager for Chiva-Som International Health Resorts
Appointed general manager for Lanserhof’s two UK sites, Grayshott Health Spa and Lanserhof at The Arts Club