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
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
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
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