Canyon Ranch, Operator of the World’s Largest Day Spa, Reveals Its Next Location

Susan Docherty, CEO of Canyon Ranch, discusses how she brings a corporate background to a $4.2 trillion industry that’s all about escaping corporate life—and gives a sneak peek at what’s in store for the 40-year-old brand’s first California destination wellness retreat.

Four years ago, in summer 2014, John Goff of Goff Capital, who’d been an investor in Canyon Ranch for 20 years, met with the renowned wellness brand’s founder, Mel Zuckerman, then in his mid-80s, to discuss the future of the company. They determined they needed a CEO who had a deep history of brand marketing and experience building iconic brands that were relevant to multiple generations. Enter Susan Docherty.

“I was at GM at the time and was head hunted for the position,” says Docherty, who is now based in Fort Worth, Texas at the Canyon Ranch headquarters. “I had worked on Cadillac for six years, starting in December 1998, when the average customer age was 75. I launched the Escalade and the XTS and showed them how a brand could become relevant to people in their 30s and 40s without alienating their core customer who was buying a Seville.” Docherty also launched such game-changing cars for GM as the C7 Corvette, the Chevy Volt, and the Buick Enclave.

The Lenox property has a traditional feel and offers an array of wellness and medical-supervised treatments.

“When I thought about Canyon Ranch, I looked at it through the eyes of building another iconic brand. They stood out as a pioneer and were way ahead of their time,” she says.

Her first order of business: a deep understanding of what the brand had built over 35 years. She looked at all of the consumer research and data, then hired New York’s SS+K, which works with brands for strategic inflection.

“We ended up with hundreds of pages of data that we used to create the brand’s true north and purpose,” she says. “One of the most important things we did was create a common communication platform for how we talk about the brand and our experts, which we have recently named and trademarked ‘Canyon Ranch Wellness Architects™.’ Whether guests are on their 2nd or 22nd visit, we want them to leave with something new.”

The brand extends far beyond destination wellness resorts though. Both the Lenox, Mass., and Tucson properties have a real estate component, allowing patrons true immersion.

In Tucson, guests can learn a variety of health and wellness practices to bring home with them.

“In Tucson, we have 100 luxury homes priced up to $10M, and in Lenox, we built 19 luxury condos priced from $1.5M to $3.5M that have sold very well,” she says. “From a business standpoint, it’s a mistake to think of it as a healthy vacation. It’s much more than that.”

Beyond the anchoring destination resorts in Lenox and Tucson, Canyon Ranch operates the world’s largest day spa, at The Venetian Resort, which might perform as many as 1,000 massages in its 100 treatment rooms on any given Saturday. Canyon Ranch is also on 22 cruise lines, including Oceania, Regent, Celebrity, and Cunard. Recently, it signed on with Singapore Airlines to create in-flight exercise videos, wellness meal options, and ways to maximize sleep.

Later this summer, Canyon Ranch will open a new, 16-acre property in Woodside, Calif. Formerly a wellness venue named Skylonda Lodge, the site will now host Canyon Ranch’s first California presence, and it’s something special: 24 two-story treehouses with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, on stilts 50 feet in the air. There are 38 rooms in all, and the emphasis is on shorter stays and more communal experiences.

The brand’s first California property debuts this summer in Woodside.

“When we launched the website for Woodside, we let people opt into emails,” says Docherty. “We were surprised that 63 percent of them were brand new to Canyon Ranch. We couldn’t be more excited for this next chapter and to listen to the guests we haven’t met yet.”