Christopher Norton, General Manager of FOUR SEASONS GEORGE V in Paris shares the golden key to success for his legenday hotel. Mr Norton speaks exclusively to CPP-LUXURY.COM about competition, technology, innovations, the secrets behind the continued success of his hotel and the DNA of a successfull luxury hotel manager.
Paris luxury hospitality market has been one of the most competitive among all other major international metropolis. What do you think is the secret behind this continued success?
Paris is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, with a great offer in terms of fashion museums, art, antics markets, monuments…it also has that romantic image making it a top destination for special celebration such as honeymoons and weddings. Furthermore it remains a very busy city for business with an easy connection to all European capitals; it attracts as many business men as tourists all year long and from all over the globe.
With the completion of the full renovation of Le Bristol, the opening of Raffles and the opening of the new Mandarin Oriental this year, how do you see such increased competition?
Having new hotels implemented in the City of Light only confirm what a great destination Paris is. With a lot of new emerging markets from India, Brazil or China, Paris will definitely have a role to play in the years to come. Competition is going to be stimulating and will participate in promoting the city to an even larger scale, especially in developing Asian market.
Shall we witness changes in rates or marketing strategies?
At for Four Seasons Hotel George V, we have always had a long term strategy which we do not intend to change with the competition. We constantly strive to find perfection. We have never rested on our laurels and we continue our efforts to provide the best experience for our guests.
To what extent The Ritz is a directly competing hotel for the George V?
We have many competitors and the Ritz is part of them, however I feel that each hotel have its own identity and vision and in that sense, all attract different guests.
The impeccable level of services has been one of George V’s main competitive advantages. Do you think that the lack of a renovation / refurbishment will be a weak point in competing with other hotels?
We anticipated it already by starting in January a two years soft renovation project. It is key for us to maintain the hotel as the leader on the market. To do so, we insure we constantly innovate in terms of service and technology.
With the financial crisis, how has the profile of consumer changed for the George V?
What makes our guests stay with us has not changed, they are still looking for a home away from home with a top level service, great staff and most importantly an emotional experience. While some of the most price sensitive guests have found alternative options, we enjoy a return guest percentage above 65, which is an achievement on itself.
Your SPA has recently won a major award. What is the major competitive advantage of your SPA and how important is the SPA for your guests ?
Our Spa is not the biggest in Paris but it is for sure the most precious and well decorated, it is perfectly well balanced with our city heritage and customer experience. We have carefully selected the brands we work with to provide the best results to our guests. It is key for us to keep a diversified offer to appeal to hotel guests as well as locals who represent 40% of our clientele. We have made the choice not to have exclusivity with one brand which allows us to stay innovating and gives us the flexibility to constantly bring in new spa products and technologies.
Technology in luxury hotels has been developing at a very fast pace in the recent years (IPADS for guests to communicate with concierge, all in one remote to control temperature, curtains and TV). How do you see these technologies and when and if they will be implemented at the George V
We already lend out Ipads to our younger guests when having lunch or dinner in our “Galerie”. Our Sales Managers are using them to communicate about the hotel while on Sales calls. As far as technology is concerned, we are indeed on the right direction as we have started the renovation of our rooms and new technology is a big part of it.
Your hotel is one of the few palace hotels which does not have a celebrity starred Chef (brand). Will you implement such a strategy? If not, why?
It is not totally true as there is only one hotel with such Chef. In our case, we do not have a strategy to hire a brand named chef at the Four Seasons Hotel George V. We have one of the most famous Chef in France, Eric Briffard, who is doing an incredible job and is very talented. The most important for us is to keep guests at Le Cinq happy and enjoying a true memorable dining experience. Our guest’s feedback and patronage confirm it.
You have been among the longest serving General Managers at Four Seasons Hotels. What is the key to your own motivation and is there a Four Seasons DNA when it comes to people in top positions such as GM?
I am not the longest serving General Managers at Four Seasons. Some have been in the company for much longer than me! My motivation is the Four Seasons Golden Rule: “We aimed to treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves”, that’s the golden ticket to success. Apart of this true statement, I have a very exciting life, even thought it can be very hectic, keeping me busy, healthy and happy!
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