Could you tell us about Four Seasons’ expansion strategy in Asia?
We look at where our customers are going, making sure that wherever they travel to, whatever is on their list, ideally they have an opportunity yet again to stay loyal to our brand. We have a relatively strong resort portfolio and we continue to build that, and at the same time we’re clearly strengthening our presence in gateway cities. For example, we’ll open our second hotel in Tokyo – Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi – in 2020, in time for the Olympics. We are looking at other gateway cities where we can have more than one, possible two, maybe three hotels in strategic locations within the city.
How does the brand meet the growing demand for ‘experiential’ travel?
It’s important for us to give our customers experiences that they couldn’t achieve otherwise – not for lack of money but for a lack of access. For instance, we are now the first and only hotel brand in Beijing that affords you a helicopter ride over the Great Wall, and there’s a meal prepared for you personally. But there are also the experiences that are simply part of a stay. Take Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle in Thailand, where taking a long, outdoor shower means having elephants below you while hearing sounds of nature.
When choosing a hotel location, what role does heritage play?
Heritage is something you cannot reproduce. It’s why people go to Europe. The buildings housing the Four Seasons hotels in Paris, Geneva and Istanbul’s Sultanahmet, for instance, are truly unique. I think the value of that will only go up.
What are some global lifestyle trends that are affecting hospitality?
People are getting older but retain a younger mindset for longer. Until a decade ago, it was the younger learning more from the older generation. Today it is often the oldest learning and adapting to the youngest. We clearly see that people live longer, stay younger, stay more active, with health playing an inclusive, important role. With that, they work longer, and work and leisure mix more and more.
How will technology change hospitality in 10 years?
I am convinced that technology will make us better. I believe technology will replace, to some extent, chores that either we do unproductively today or ones that are hard to do right, such as services in the middle of the night. Yet at Four Seasons, we don’t want to commoditise what we deliver, and I think the human touch, human emotions, human connections – offering all that as a skilled craft – will ultimately make a difference. And I think industries and brands across the globe are realising this.
What is a piece of advice that you live by?
Never have too much self-importance. It allows you to put things into perspective, realise problems are not the end of the world and that other people may do stuff just as well as you do. Stay passionate, stay involved, be ambitious and driven, have clear goals – but don’t get too uptight or self-important about it.