Iconic Canyon Ranch gets new leadership, sparking evolution

TUCSON, AZ—What does it mean to live in the realm of possibility? When you can think it, see it and then go out and achieve it, that sure is powerful. It can be life changing in many ways, too. For 38 years under the leadership of co-founders Mel and Enid Zuckerman and Jerry Cohen, Canyon Ranch’s vision has been just that: a long-standing embodiment of the power of possibility.

Over the last four decades, the wellness industry has grown and evolved; the time is ripe to see what new avenues are waiting to be uncovered and embraced. With that in mind, the co-founders recently announced plans to retire and, as such, a new crop of leaders is taking the helm to bring the wellness company into the future, while maintaining its original spirit.

“I came on board a year ago. I was in the hospitality industry for the last 36 years with brands like Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt, and I have international experience. In this space, what I found really interesting was taking what Mel, Enid and Jerry built up to what it is today—and they were really careful to hand the baton over,” said Tom Klein, COO, Canyon Ranch. “Canyon Ranch is really transformational. It’s not a spa or just about wellness. It’s a mission-based company.”

As part of the change in leadership, Canyon Ranch appointed Susan E. Docherty as the company’s new CEO. She previously spent nearly three decades at General Motors where she held numerous senior executive positions. She is now the driving force behind preserving the history and mission, and taking the brand into the future without compromising its roots. In 2016, Tom Klein was brought on as COO. He directs the operations of the company’s brand extensions, including Canyon Ranch here; Canyon Ranch in Lenox, MA; SpaClub Las Vegas at the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels in Las Vegas; and SpaClubs at Sea on board 20 cruise ships.

“John Goff [chairman and CEO of Crescent Real Estate Holdings, owner of Canyon Ranch]has been with Canyon Ranch for 20-plus years, so it’s not changing hands. It’s really about making sure the mission stays true and we become relevant to consumers today and into the future. There’s a lot behind that statement and it’s really critical for us to focus as we step into a $4-trillion dollar business,” said Klein. “Thirty years ago, you could put wellness up on a flip chart and the only name was Canyon Ranch. Now, there are other brands trying to play in our space and some of them do it OK. With a high degree of humility, no one does it as holistically as we do. We embody that true wellness experience that is something our Wellspring Resorts will not change—and we’ll stay true to that as we continue to grow the brand.”

Canyon Ranch Resort’s founders Mel and Enid Zuckerman

Expansion is a key focus for the brand, with plans to open 19 residences at the Canyon Ranch in Lennox, MA, in response to consumers’ desire to be in close proximity to a wellness experience and buy into the residential component, gaining access to all of the amenities and services of the resort. The Tucson resort already has 100 on-site residences. The wellness brand is also looking at various brand dimensions to bring the Canyon Ranch experience to more locations and more people.

In addition, a younger crowd is emerging as a viable audience for Canyon Ranch, and the brand is set on capturing that demographic. There’s this notion that wellness is a solution to resolve an already existing problem, such as stress, sleep disorders, weight management, etc. But Klein explained that the new leadership team is ready to change this way of thinking on a broader scale.

“Part of our mission is not to wait until you have an issue. We want to catch you at a younger age. This is different than our history has been for us,” he said. “In Tucson, I met a gentleman in his early 30s and this poor fellow was stressed, not in good physical condition and came out for two weeks to meet with our health professionals. He was a different person and extended his stay from two weeks to four weeks. What’s happening is the hustle and bustle of corporate America—and there is this all-encompassing stress level where we’re all so fast-paced. The value proposition is good health.”

Canyon Ranch’s cruise ship business—SpaClub at Sea—on board the Queen Mary 2,  Regent Seven Sea, Oceana Cruises and Celebrity Cruises—will continue to evolve and grow. As with other hospitality companies, there’s also increased emphasis on technology and how it enables the business to remain top of mind with guests.

“We have been doing it a long time—38 years. In order to remain competitive, we have to evolve. I think you cannot ignore technology and what role that plays in terms of connecting with guests,” said Klein. “It’s not about getting a treatment. You go to our physicians and you’ll spend 45 minutes with a professional; you don’t do that with your own doctors. Today, with technology, we can stay connected with guests but also give them additional wellness advice and guidance. We’re in the business of building wellness relationships with the consumer, and it’s important for us. It’s a lifelong relationship. Before you arrive, we like to understand who you are as an individual to fulfill that purpose when visiting us. It is this relationship that separates us from competitors.”

Leaving no stone unturned, Canyon Ranch also sees corporate lectures as another entry point for spreading the brand’s time-honed toolkit of integrated health and wellness. The benefits of self-care impact every aspect of daily life—personal and career.

“If you take care of yourself, you take care of your family and you’re a better executive. It’s a win-win-win situation,” he said. “It’s not just weight loss, sleep disorders are huge—if you don’t sleep right, you don’t live right. You must touch on emotions to get to a sense of self and bring value to yourself. Once you really take care of you, you become a well-rounded person. It’s fascinating to watch that work in real life. That’s what we’re going to continue to do.” HB

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