by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | July 01, 2005

Kathleen Taylor

Kathleen Taylor

Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has launched an aggressive global growth strategy. Kathleen Taylor, president of worldwide business operations, recently spoke with M&C about the chain’s plans and challenges.

M&C: What expansion plans does Four Seasons have?
Taylor: The opportunities we are seeing for new development are very good. Right now we have 20 projects in construction and development. In the United States, we are moving into Baltimore, Seattle and Vail. Our overall goal is to develop five to seven properties a year, globally. Our focus is to locate in places where our guests need to travel for business and want to go for leisure. When we put our flag down, we want it to be there for the long term.

M&C: Can you reveal any international developments?
Taylor: China is an extremely busy market for us. We will open in Beijing in 2006, and in Hong Kong and Shanghai later this year. We also are building in Bora Bora [French Polynesia], Florence [Italy], Geneva and Moscow. We are actively looking at Barbados and participating in casino developments in Macau.

M&C: How much competition is there from the luxury independents?
Taylor: Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental are our competitors, but in certain markets, strong independents have taken up good positioning. The interesting thing about independents is that they can be very selective of where they want to go, but how that translates into international or even regional competition for the larger hotel companies remains to be seen.

M&C: In an increasingly crowded luxury market, what does it take to stand out?
Taylor: Guest experience is what it boils down to. “Wow” surroundings are already expected, because they are what people already have factored into their lifestyles. Luxury in the new age is about allowing people to make the most of their most precious asset their limited time. That means we have to focus our energy on the experience.
    That said, we spend our resources focusing on our 30,000 employees, by starting with the fundamentals of training and then building on that, because we have found there is no separation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.

M&C: As you know, Ritz-Carlton has partnered with Mercedes and Saks. Is Four Seasons looking at similar affiliations?
Taylor: Not in the same way they have. We have quiet strategic partners for tangibles, such as linens, amenities, TVs. They have to be compatible with us and be able to match customer expectations.