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SPOTLIGHT ON Julie Oliff, General Manager, Sensei Porcupine Creek

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
12 October 2022
6 min read
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Julie Oliff is heading up the latest wellbeing retreat of Larry Ellison, co-founder, Oracle and Dr. David Agus, well-known physician and scientist. She shares how their innovative tech-forward approach can help guests lead healthier lives.

Congratulations on your upcoming opening. Can you tell us about the wellness philosophy behind Sensei Porcupine Creek?

Thank you, the team and I could not be more excited to share Sensei Porcupine Creek with the world. The philosophy of the Sensei Way informs everything that Sensei creates, from our first property on Lanai to Porcupine Creek in California, which opens Nov. 1. From our training and standard operating procedures to how the guest experience unfolds, “Move, Nourish, Rest” are our brand touchstones.

Julie Oliff, General Manager, Sensei Porcupine Creek

Sensei was founded by Larry Ellison, technology pioneer and co-founder of Oracle, and Dr. David Agus, a world-leading physician and scientist, The New York Times best-selling author and CBS News contributor. These two leading innovators were brought together by the loss of a close friend, and motivated by a shared purpose: to help people live longer, healthier lives through the most current, evidence-led knowledge and a fresh philosophy on food, health and lifestyle.

From that founding drive, Sensei has become a sought-after wellbeing brand that applies data-driven health knowledge and utilizes technology in its programs and services to encourage preventative care and healthy lifestyle practices. Currently, this mission can be experienced at Sensei Lānaʻi, A Four Seasons Resort. Sensei Porcupine Creek will offer experiences crafted from the same DNA. Everything our guests will enjoy embodies the Sensei Way, which distills preventive health science, data and research into three simple paths for everyday life. Movement is how we interact with our environment, nourishment is what fuels us, and rest is how we recover and grow.

 How has that influenced programming and guest experience at your resort?

The heart of what we do at Sensei is building and curating programs that are health and data-driven rather than trend-based. We offer programs that have been thoroughly vetted and whenever possible, backed by empirical-data and research. One of the most fascinating aspects of the resort is that we have an entire Wellness Science division, led by Dr. Vishal Patel, who is responsible for ensuring everything we offer at the property ladders up to the Sensei Way philosophy.

The Optimal Wellbeing Program – our most in-depth package that dives into health data – provides guests with the tools to interpret and utilize that data to improve their overall wellbeing. We have also introduced two new facets of that program focused on tennis and golf, which help athletes and experienced recreational players step up their game. This program has allowed guests to reconnect with their passion for sports, learning valuable takeaways to improve their health and their skills.

 What can guests expect when they visit Sensei Porcupine Creek? What innovative wellness treatments can they choose from?

Sensei Porcupine Creek will open on November 1 as Sensei’s first stand-alone retreat and the first on the United States mainland. Nestled against the Santa Rosa mountains in Rancho Mirage, California, the 230-acre property is being converted from a private estate into a luxurious wellbeing Retreat. The tranquil and ravishingly beautiful setting will feature a small number of traditional guest rooms in the former Estate House, as well as private villas and suites clustered throughout the lushly landscaped property. Porcupine Creek has long been renowned for its private golf course and world-class tennis facilities; its next iteration makes these accessible to an intimate few.

Sensei Porcupine Creek will offer similar spa, nutrition, movement, and sports programs found at its sister facility in Lanai. The property will also continue to collaborate with Nobu for its signature Sensei by Nobu restaurant, and will introduce a mouth-watering omakase experience in the Sushi Bar.

Porcupine Creek differs from Lanai in one key element, as it is the first property fully operated by Sensei, allowing us to solely offer wellness experience packages. The end result is that all guests share a common goal – improved health and wellbeing.At Porcupine Creek, we focus on how our spa treatments can compliment the larger guest experience. For example, the “Move – Sports Recovery Experience” is centered around recovery after strenuous exercise or sports activity, as many of our guests will be active with golf, tennis, yoga and other fitness activities while on property. This full-body massage aims to reduce soreness, increase circulation and improve range of motion more quickly by restoring blood flow and fascial pliability. Using a combination of myofascial release, neuromuscular therapy, stretching, percussive device and other related techniques, this therapeutic massage assists in the body’s soft tissue recovery. Guests will learn methods for self-massage and fascia rolling for ongoing recovery long after they return home.

What have been some of the challenges preparing your team for the opening?

Porcupine Creek is Sensei’s first fully owned and operated property, as our Lanai property is in partnership with Four Seasons. This has presented an incredible opportunity and challenge for us to define who we are in the luxury hospitality space, while still being centered on delivering the wellbeing practices and programs that our guests have come to love.

Building a hospitality brand where wellness is the centerpoint has been a thrilling experience and a major milestone for the growth of the Sensei brand.

Do you believe the trend in luxury hotel wellness is here to stay?

We’re really excited about the magnitude of interest in wellness right now, and certainly believe in its permanent place in the luxury hospitality sector. More people than ever want to incorporate health and wellness into their daily lives, both at home and on vacation – and this interest has only increased as the pandemic becomes endemic.

Today’s luxury traveler is looking for deeper and more meaningful experiences. They want to go beyond a massage or lounging by the pool, (however delightful both these things are!), and look to enjoy life-changing practices and memories. The pandemic helped many of us realize the importance of wellbeing, and how making it the focus of our family and daily life is key – whether we are on a much-needed vacation or making our way through the wide world.

With so much health data and statistics being thrown at us daily, we’re all seeking a way to interpret that information and apply it meaningfully to our daily lives. Sensei’s goal is to provide a solution to that problem, by breaking down complex and personalized information through 1-on-1 coaching. Living a healthy, happy and joyful life does not have to be a trend – like all other habits, our founders believe that science, nature and experiences offer us a path to greater wellbeing. We look forward to the road less traveled.

Sensei Porcupine Creek photo credit: Tanveer Badal