In keeping with our yearly tradition, based on our assessements, we are honoured to name Simon Casson, 2018 global luxury hotelier of the year (CPP-LUXURY.COM)
I met Simon in 2012 during his tenure as General Manager and Regional Vice President of Four Seasons Hotel Doha, Qatar. I was most impressed by his ‘on the floor’ style of management, unlike many GM who prefer the comfort of an office with a PA managing emails. He was everywhere, with an incessant and almost obsessive attention to detail.
He would actively be involved in every aspect of running the hotel, whether that meant meeting Royalty or overseeing one of the dining venues. And every single staff loved him! And he understood the importance of his role as an actual ambassador of the hotel, also making him a favourite of the media. He was one of those who inspired me to pursue my strategy to take CPP-LUXURY.COM beyond a blog format to a fully fledged luxury business online magazine.
One year later, he took over the landmark launching of the Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, with a beach-front property – a long delayed entry into the metropolis of the Middle East with a flagship property. The opening was met with raving reviews both by traveller but many locals who would spend the weekend. I stayed at the property within months from opening and everything was spot-on.
The departure of Christopher Norton presented Simon with a huge opportunity which he grabbed in 2016, taking over what seemed to be an overwhelming role, that of a President EMEA. Thanks to his innate talent and constant passion for challenges, he effortlessly embraced the position and still makes it look so easy.
Despite his promotion, he has remained hands-on – expect him to reply within hours to an email or a WhatApp message. He also understood, early on, the importance of social media and digital media, prioritising brilliantly among hundreds of so called influencers and bloggers, especially considering that Four Seasons Hotels relies on a relatively smaller advertising budget compared to its direct competitors.
But it is his enforcing of Four Seasons‘ DNA as a service centred luxury hotel brand that has been instrumental to his continued success. “The simple desire to make people happy is one of the most important attributes of a Four Seasons employee,” he says. At his most recent hotel assignment, Simon counted staff from 53 different countries, including a significant number who had never worked in a hotel before someone at Four Seasons saw a passion worth cultivating.
His approach and philosophy is simple: “The more we achieve, the more we attract the best people. By creating a fertile environment where our employees are given the freedom to make on-the-fly decisions and bring forward fresh ideas, we are able to deliver on our brand promise.”
Casson joined Four Seasons in 1989 as an Assistant Manager at what is now Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane. After further assignments in London as well as Washington, he returned to the same hotel as Hotel Manager in 2000.
A lifelong love of learning led to involvement in and an honorary degree from Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland, and Simon is a founding board member of the Enderun Hospitality Management school in the Philippines.
Simon often speaks to recent graduates and rookie employees, sharing his story of joining Four Seasons as a young man with little experience or education. “My hope is to encourage the next generation of hoteliers with my Four Seasons experience.”
He has recently successfully surpassed the challenge of a bulk poaching of some of his staff by Jumeirah Hotels, where Jose Silva, formerly Four Seasons George V Paris GM and RVP took over as CEO.
Four Seasons has been expanding in his region at a faster pace compared to the rest of the world, with new openings in London (Ten Trinity Square), Megeve, Dubrovnik, Athens, Madrid, Tunis, Kuwait.
Lesser known details – publicly available on his Instagram which is 90% followed by Four Seasons Hotels present and past employees (approx. 2,000 of a total of 5.400)
Casson is a keen luxury watch collector, enjoys singing and is learning to play the piano (he owns a Steinway baby grand). He also loves fashion, successfully mixing classic with a casual twist.
His latest less secretive passions include a public Instagram account, where he most enjoys posting group photos with the employees of each Four Seasons property he is visiting. But he is not shy of posting his beach biking in Dubai, motorbiking in Andalusia (he recently acquired a brand new luxury Harley-Davidson bike which has yet to reach Dubai), his new Ralph Lauren Purple line shoes, his new Gucci loafers, his luxury shopping bags while shopping outside Milan and his measurements being taken by a luxury tailor for a custom made suit.
He only travels First Class on Emirates frequently posting on his public Instagram account photos of his seat and posture while boarding or already in-flight – most of the the recent First Class Emirates flights are long-haul from Dubai to Toronto, the headquarters of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts (a return First Class ticket from Dubai to Toronto is at USD 14.400 – lowest fare in April 2019)
Other public photos include a capture of his yacht rides while on vacation at Four Seasons Resorts in Maldives, a private jet flight from Istanbul to Bodrum – some of the photos picturing his wife too, who is accompanying him to many company (corporate) events, including the recent strictly internal F&B Forum which took place earlier this month (March 2019) at the Four Seasons Hotel in Florence. There is also his Formula 1 attendance in Bahrain while being chauffeured in the Rolls-Royce car of the hotel.
Other top luxury hospitality executives also entertain Instagram accounts in their name, however, three CEOs we have been closely following, only post about business and are extremely discreet about their lifestyle and private life.
Watch here a recent video interview with Simon Casson.
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