Wellness Travel and Larry Ellison’s Sensei

Feb 1, 2021 | General Information

Travel publications these days all have articles on the topic of wellness travel. Basically wellness travel to any destination is for the purpose of rejuvenation. But the new wellness travel trend, as described, for example, in the March issue of Travel & Leisure, involves much more: people “reinventing themselves” in “life-renewing destinations.” Perhaps T&L is indulging in a bit of hyperbole. But the travel publication’s intention is to inform, and educate, travelers about the next generations of wellness and fitness-centric travel. T&L’s message is that travel for health purposes can – and should — include new kinds of body-and-mind elevating experiences. Design of these experiences draws on science and leverages technology.

Of course getting back to nature is a very popular subject. Not just walks in the woods but finding retreats in various destinations that focus on combinations of nature, adventure, exercise, play, nutrition, mindfulness and more, of course in marvelous natural surroundings. Some venues also offer immersive wildlife experiences. For both men and women, all of these venues stress the mental and emotional benefits, contributions to healthy lifestyles, and learning ways to reconnect with neglected inner selves.

Unplug, rewind, detox, switch off or on – wellness travel suggestions all include and encourage these elements. Even the most ordinary vacation spots are portraying themselves as “retreats.” For people with overstressed and overworked lives, almost all of these wellness vacation options include breaking digital screen habits. Along with switch off and digital detox, wellness venues talk about decompression benefits when people go back home. In other words, increasing happy and healthy times ahead.

Reports on wellness travel trends cover a remarkable range of things to do and avoid as well as initiatives in the tourism industry. In response to increasing environmental concerns, many hotels are adopting ways to avoid using conventional chemicals for cleaning. Instead they are using organic products and striving to reduce carbon footprints and increase recycling programs.

No surprise, billionaire Larry Ellison decided to put all of the elements of wellness travel together in his Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele on Lanai. Ellison formed a partnership between the Four Seasons and Sensei, a wellness company founded by Ellison and longtime friend, David Agus. Agus is an oncologist, professor of medicine at USC and founding director of the university’s Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine.

According to Sensei’s president, Dan Gruneberg, Ellison and Agus came up with the idea of starting a wellness company when a close mutual friend of the two was dying, which brought them together. Watching their friend’s health deteriorate, they decided to do something about it that would have worldwide wellness significance.

Founded on three central tenets – Move, Nourish and Rest – in addition to a complete remodel of the hotel, the first step in this ambitious wellness venture was to build a hydroponic farm on Lanai. A previous Tom Barefoot’s Tours article describes Ellison’s hydroponic farm project on Lanai. It will take time for the Sensei team to produce fruits and vegetables on Sensei Farms. But the Sensei business goal of growing plants in water, rather than in soil, is after a huge global agricultural tech market opportunity. About $700 million was invested in agricultural tech worldwide in 2019, roughly double what was invested in previous years. Estimates by the United Nations and other sources say that, by 2050, agricultural production will have to rise by 70 percent worldwide to meet projected demand. Ellison, Sensei and little Lanai will be right in the middle of it.

In the meantime, even before guests arrive at the Four Seasons Hotel Lanai, they receive guidance for their visit from their own Sensei guide. After arrival, tech tools are used for movement and fitness testing. Therapists and instructors share these digital fitness insights to plan each guests’ Move-Nourish-and Rest’ wellness program. In addition, fronting the Four Seasons Hotel on the southern coast of Lanai, fantastic snorkeling and large tide pools await wellness guests at Hulopoe Beach. A but harder to reach, two more miles of pristine beaches await at Polihua. Golf, tennis, horseback riding, 4-wheeling on the beautiful Munro Trail and other pleasures also await wellness guests on Lanai