In an exclusive interview with CPP-LUXURY.COM, Christopher Norton, President Global Product & Operations of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts shares insights into his company’s exciting future perspectives.
Q: In such a highly global competitive luxury market, your company has also acted on renovating some of your properties. How important are these renovations and what is your strategic approach in terms of design, considering that in the past many of your properties used to be designed by the same architecture firm.
As we look to the future we know we must appeal to a new generation of luxury guests by providing more relevant and inspiring spaces than our competitors. It means taking a fresh approach to design to ensure the properties we are developing today are relevant tomorrow.
We have a very clear design vision for the brand, one that further recognizes the integral role of great design in elevating the guest experience and strives for the best representation of Four Seasons in every market where we operate, whether through new builds, conversions or renovations. Ensuring we have the right leadership and talent in place to realize this vision and support our growth plans around the world is essential. We recently made two new additions to our product team – John Miller, Senior Vice President, Design and Construction and Eileen Madigan, VP, Creative – a role that is focused on the guest touch points that play such an important role in transforming a space or experience.
I firmly believe that luxury is not only measured in dollars, but also in details. What makes a product or experience truly luxurious is the thoughtful touches that finish it off, creating both beauty and functionality.
We have also introduced many new A-list designers who are bringing our properties to life in fresh, innovative ways. Rather than a static list we are constantly looking to add new designers to our roster to match world-class talent with each project. Renovations are particularly powerful examples of how the right vision and the right designer can breathe new life into a space.
World-class designers, reimagined spaces and bustling bars and restaurants will set the tone for the future as we continue to expand our portfolio into the world’s best travel markets.
Q: The introduction of the Four Seasons App has been one of the highlights of the year, marking a milestone for the company. How important is the new App? How do you plan to entice guests to download the App?
The proliferation of smart phones and mobile technology is fundamentally changing the way consumers engage with luxury brands and for Four Seasons specifically, how we engage and serve our guests.
We know our guests are on the move and they’re using mobile application platforms to get there. The Four Seasons App allows our guests to access Four Seasons products, services and people on the go and on their own terms. Recognizing today’s world is one of choice and access, the Four Seasons App empowers our guests to tap into our legendary service in an entirely new way. It’s a digital manifestation of our commitment to service, helping guests make the most efficient use of their time through App-facilitated check-in and check-out, hotel services and bookings and discovering the destination from a Four Seasons curated selection of local highlights. Technology is creating unique opportunities to enhance the guest experience and empowering guests to engage with our products and services in ways unimaginable a few short years ago.
Q: The Four Seasons Signature Bed has been further enhanced, the new bed now being available at most of your hotels.
I think it’s fair to say that sleep is an obsession at Four Seasons. For us, providing our guests with a good night’s sleep is not negotiable and our bed has always played a central role in advancing our commitment to sleep. Today our legendary bed is dressed in all white linens, free from visual distraction and always in a state of perpetual sleep readiness.
Four Seasons was the first global luxury hotel brand to introduce a custom designed mattress in its rooms. And just last year, we introduced the next level of comfort with our very own customizable mattress, thanks to an interchangeable topper which makes it firmer, medium or plush. Our guests often end up purchasing the mattress, and pillows, sheets, duvet, from our hotels after getting such a restorative good night’s sleep.
Q: The huge turnover of staff in cities like London, New York and Dubai has been taking a toll on the quality of service for most luxury chains adding pressure financially. What has been your approach?
The war for top talent is among the most pressing issues impacting the luxury hospitality industry today, especially in key gateway cities. At Four Seasons our greatest asset and the key to our success is our people. We hire for attitude and train for skill and invest significantly against the recruitment process to ensure we hire the right people, those for whom hospitality is a genuine personal value and who truly care for our guests.
We are a purpose-driven brand, united around our founding philosophy – a single principle that transcends time and geography, religion and culture – The Golden Rule. This simple idea of treating others as you would have them treat you informs every aspect of our business.
The way our employees behave and respond to our guests brings this philosophy to life. It is their keen attention to detail and ability to intuitively navigate each guest interaction that creates true customization, building lifelong relationships with our guests. This is no easy feat and something we work hard to maintain.
Historically our turnover has been below industry average and we intend to keep it this way. We recruit and retain only the best, but recognize that the competition for top talent is fierce. This means we must treat our employees with respect, empower them to elevate the guest experience in their hotels and continue to offer opportunities for growth and professional advancement.
With 94 hotels and branded residences in 40 countries and a robust pipeline of new properties on the horizon, we continue to create opportunities for our employees to work in new destinations and encourage professional mobility and movement across the organization. We have many initiatives in place that actively support retention and promote staff development including cross-functional training and mentoring which are very attractive for young talent hoping to carve out a long-term career at Four Seasons.
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