For Enchantment Group’s Jim Root, Authenticity Is Key to Well-Being

SEDONA, AZ—Enchantment Group has named Jim Root as the director of well-being for the company’s portfolio, which includes Enchantment Resort; Mii Amo, a Destination Spa; and  Seven Canyons Golf Club—all located in Sedona, AZ; the Tides Inn in Irvington, VA; and The Cove, Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Each property is distinctive and embodies a sense of place, spirit of the destination and the native culture.

Root has been in the business of wellness for more than 40 years at notable luxury hotels and resorts around the world. In addition to overseeing the spa programming, operations and guest experience at Mii Amo, he will bring his extensive experience to other properties in the portfolio by providing strategic direction and oversight and creating destinations for well-being.

He grew up in hospitality and graduated from The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and then received an opportunity to work at the destination spa Rancho La Puerta. It was this particular resort that left an imprint and influenced how he delivers authentic moments of wellness to guests.

In a Q&A with Hotel Business, Root shares why it’s important for hoteliers to focus on the true core of wellness and eschew what he terms “wellness-washing” in the industry.

What is your wellness philosophy, and how do you integrate it into your work?

Wellness, I think, is a code word for luxury but that isn’t necessarily the real essence of well-being for us as individuals. I think that well-being is a timeless ideal; it’s not a trendy one. I applaud the Hotel Business magazine article on the technology side of things, but I’m more of a high-touch person versus a high-tech person. It absolutely has the right place, but I don’t think it can replace the one-on-one connection and the relationship of well-being that is co-created with the guest. If it doesn’t permeate the company, I don’t think it can be a brand standard, but it can be a core value that has to be practiced, not preached.

There’s “wellness washing” happening in the industry where companies are saying, “Look what we’re offering… look at our lights in the shower or you can workout in your room.” That’s well and good, and there’s a spa for everybody. If you’re trying to be like everybody else, you’re not going to be authentic. The offerings need to be based on where you are, what your resources are, and who you are. Otherwise, wellness is a trendy buzzword.

There’s a risk of being everything to everybody. I think that guests and organizations need to be in the mindset of co-creation versus just here’s what it is. If a guest isn’t engaged in the co-creation of the experience, they won’t own it and will just go through the motions.

Please tell me about your experience at Rancha La Puerta in Mexico. Why was it so profound?

Rancha La Puerto brought together a personal and career life for me. I grew up as an athlete and had no way to articulate that. The ranch gave me ways to really connect the dots, and it was about the mind/body/spirit connection. That’s where it all came together.

My journey brought me here to Mii Amo—where we sit in a sense of place and spirit that is powerful. Mii Amo means path or journey forward. Having come from traditional hospitality, we know our guests on such an intimate level here. Guests put their physical, emotional and energetic security in our hands.

If hospitality can tap into that kind of relationship and do less of the transactional or arm’s length hospitality, then there would be an emotional comfort. It’s a sense of “I’m letting my emotions go and acknowledging some things and releasing it.” We are here to receive it.

How do your teams strive to make a difference?

When onboarding new teammates, I’ll ask, “What business are we in?” Among the top three responses are usually hospitality, spa and massage. I say, “No, no and no. We are in the people business.” It’s about connecting one teammate and one guest at a time in that environment and with the confidence that your next teammate will embrace someone the same way. That’s our intention.

Is there such a thing as work/life balance?

What’s fun about this is that this is who I am. I brought my personal and professional life together. A long time ago, I developed what I call “The Wheel of Well-Being,” with the idea that a wheel is made of different parts and they’re not all in balance. It’s more that they’re integrated and together. It’s a fallacy to chase work/life balance because it is work/life integration. My wheel of well-being is the circle that never begins and never ends.

Here are what I call the spokes in my wheel of well-being:

Food: Take the time for good food. Pay attention to how it’s grown, prepared, harvested and shared or served.

Purpose: Find a deeper sense of purpose. Access spirituality in whatever format that might be, practice mindfulness and connection. Be kinder than necessary.

Fitness: It’s about keeping bodies healthy and fit by moving through space.

Relationships: Nurture relationships with yourself, loved ones and the world.

Knowledge: Welcome it and learn to grow, wherever it comes from.

Nature: Connect with nature. At Mii Amo, we have canyon bathing. The tradition goes back tens of thousands of years, and it’s about the connection that Native Americans have to the land.

Touch: Embrace the healing power of touch. It’s about connecting from the heart both emotionally and physically. It can be in the form of a hug or massage or whatever else. Make that connection.

It’s not about something new or trendy. A destination lifestyle program is not just services and amenities. It’s about the spectrum of offerings that people can tap into. We offer one journey—yours. Where the guest is today helps us and the guest co-create the reality.