This morning began with seven meetings with eight heads of Four Seasons hotels around the world, and with several members of the corporate team. I’ll be writing up a long story about what they had to say later on, so for now, here are a couple quotes from the conversations:
Rene Beauchamp, General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Prague: We’re always innovating with new ideas. We try to set one big goal each year for something new. You can’t stay still. You have to see what’s happening around the world.
Cesare Rouchdy, Regional Director of Marketing—Egypt: Hotels in Cairo are seeing business in the teens. Sharm El Sheikh and Alexandria are seeing numbers in the 20s…Corporate business is trickling in. They’re looking to rebuild. Leisure business will take longer.
Michael Purtill, General Manager, Four Seasons Canary Wharf: London is moving east. People are looking for a unique experience, and the east end is innovative, young and edgy.
Jim FitzGibbon, President, Worldwide Hotel Operations: We’ve built a reputation for service, buildings and consistency. Now we need a brand personality…New markets need to establish style, and older ones need to establish consistency.
Charlie Parker, General Manager, Four Seasons Hampshire: I like hotels where people choose the hotel instead of the destination. You have their full attention. It’s a live interface—it’s not just breakfast. That’s what our industry is about.
Yves Giacometti, General Manager, Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest: I was previously based in Buenos Aires, a city of vibrant passion. Budapest is a more passive passion…It’s the Paris of central Europe.
Susan Helstab, Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing: Markets don’t control the brands anymore. It’s shifting to the consumer. It’s a power shift, so make sure that you exceed expectations…Guests have more platforms to voice their complaints, so you must check every medium for expressing opinions. Nothing is so valuable as a room-service person who mentions that a guest does or doesn’t want something.
After the meetings, we headed over to Westminster Abbey for a quick tour of the thousand-year-old building. Our guide, Peter Craggs, walked us through all of the different rooms and pointed out the many tombs and memorials of famous Britons, and even plenty of foreigners who have been honored with a plaque. (For example, Henry James, the American novelist, has a memorial, as does President Franklin Roosevelt.) The most notable tomb, of course, is not Queen Elizabeth I or Henry V or any of the other royals and legends who are buried in the abbey…but the poppy-covered Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the only tomb that no one ever steps on. If Kate Middleton follows tradition when she marries Prince William next month, rather than toss her bouquet to the single ladies in attendance, she will leave the flowers on the tomb.
Sadly, details about the upcoming wedding are rather scarce, so we didn’t get much gossip about who will be in attendance and what will happen at the ceremony. Be up bright and early on April 29 to watch the festivities on TV, and enjoy the arcitecture of the Abbey while you watch the nuptuals.
Oh, and in case you thought I was exaggerating about the size of my room's terrace, here are two photos: