In an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM, Antoine Corinthios, President EMEA of FOUR SEASONS Hotels & Resorts speaks about his company’s expansion and the competitive edge of Four Seasons as a leading luxury hotel management company.
The Middle East and North Africa has been one of the most dynamic regions in terms of development for the Four Seasons Hotels – with hotels in Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Doha, Amman, Damascus, Riyadh and Marrakech. What are the timelines on the new openings in Doha (second hotel), Bahrain and Dubai?
In this part of the world it is difficult to make accurate estimates on actual opening times. We aim to have these hotels operational within the next three years.
What do you think about the potential of Casablanca as a destination to feature a Four Seasons hotel? Do you already have plans for further development in Morocco?
We have identified a location in Casablanca, however, I cannot provide any additional information, at this stage. Casablanca is indeed an important business destination in North Africa.
Four Seasons has been absent from key European markets such as Spain and Germany. What is your strategic approach related to these markets?
Unlike other luxury hotel chains, Four Seasons’ development strategy does not include leasing, which is very much a norm on the German market. We have been intensly reviewing properties in Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin however, we have not yet identified one to match Four Seasons’ criteria.
Four Seasons is already well established in Italy with two properties, in Milan and Florence. What is the current status of your developments in Rome and Venice?
The owner and developer of our property in Florence is indeed working on a location in Rome, however, as this is a heritage building I expect a longer time frame for concluding the authorizations and approvals process. As for Venice, we are no longer pursuing our project to convert a former historical hotel and we are looking at other opportunities.
The challenging international economic environment has been putting pressure on major luxury hotel operators such as Four Seasons. What is the Four Seasons competitive advantage set in the relationship with owners and developers in such a way to optimize business without compromising on service?
Our fifty year experience and focus on luxury hospitality have been part of our competitive set when it comes to our relationship with developers and owners. Our proven results, brand reputation, marketing and sales capabilities through our network worldwide have all contributed to our consistency in terms of service.
You recently opened a hotel in Guangzhou. Which do you think are the long term feasibility features of the Chinese luxury hospitality market?
This is not an area I cover, but I can tell you that China is a high priority market for both inbound and outbound. China is what Japan used to be many years ago, the growth in outbound travel is tremendous.
Which are the current ‘’hot spots’’ Four Seasons is considering for resort locations, worldwide?
We are looking at pristine locations, all over the world. In the region I cover, we are looking at Africa, especially for diversified locations, similarly to Thailand, where our guests can experience a safari and a secluded getaway at the same time. Southern Mediterranean is also an area we are reviewing several developments.
South America, in particular cities such as Sao Paolo and Bogota lack the presence of a luxury chain hotel. What is your view on the two capital cities and what are your expansion plans in South America?
We are looking at projects in Sao Paolo and several other major cities. For us, South America is a hot spot indeed.
You have been with the Four Seasons Hotels since mid 70s when the company was barely known outside Canada. Tell us what you enjoy most in your current position.
Opening a new hotel or resort is like finally giving birth to a baby you’ve developed and cared for and loved for a long time. Even better is watching the child grow up – a hotel’s personality really begins to emerge about a year after it opens, and from there, it will grow and flourish. In the future, Antoine looks forward to continued growth of a global portfolio that now includes more than 80 properties. Emerging destinations include Eastern Europe and Russia, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and Europe’s great cities, where developing new properties can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding.
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