LuxuryFour Seasons Resorts' Christian Clerc on the luxury market and Covid-era expansion.

Leaning into private retreats and contactless hospitality

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Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, which opened its doors in September, is part of the luxury hotel group's ongoing expansion plans amid the pandemic.
Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, which opened its doors in September, is part of the luxury hotel group's ongoing expansion plans amid the pandemic.

Long synonymous with luxury, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has continued to expand its footprint during the pandemic, in September opening the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi and the Four Seasons Hotel Madrid, and the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero in early October.

Travel Weekly's hotels editor Christina Jelski caught up with Four Seasons' president of global operations, Christian Clerc, to get up to speed on the company's latest developments.

TW: Where is Four Seasons on the recovery front, and in which markets is the company seeing the strongest comeback thus far?

Clerc: To date, nearly 80% of our portfolio is operating, with more than 90 of our 119 hotels and resorts open and welcoming guests. So far, we've seen the strongest recovery in China, where all our properties are open and showing the highest occupancy rates in our portfolio. Over the Labour Day holidays in May, our hotel in Hangzhou was full, and over October's Golden Week, many of our hotels in China were at full capacity.

TW: In addition to hotel accommodations, Four Seasons is also known for its Four Seasons Private Retreats concept, which offers a more isolated, residential-style stay. How do these Private Retreats differ from the core hotel product, and how are they faring in the pandemic era?

Clerc: Four Seasons Private Retreats are located in more than 20 destinations and have been part of our portfolio for many years. These luxury homes and villas offer multiple bedrooms, private kitchens and pools, more space and exclusivity and can be rented for weeks and months at a time. They're often distanced from the hotel or resort, but guests still have access to the services and amenities of the property, including the restaurants, bars, spa and fitness centre.

With many travellers working or studying remotely, our Private Retreats are [now popular] for extended stays for families looking for month-long trips away from their primary residence. Our Private Retreats will continue to grow post Covid-19, and we already have exciting additions in our pipeline, including at our upcoming resort in Napa Valley.

TW: Can you provide an update on the group's more recent post-pandemic expansion projects as well as plans for future growth?

Clerc: In the past two months, we've opened our second property in Tokyo, in the Otemachi neighborhood, our second property in San Francisco, in the California Center Building, and our first property in Spain, in the beautiful city of Madrid. Each of these properties was slightly delayed in its opening due to Covid-19 and had to quickly adapt to the changing environment. We're incredibly proud of the property teams for their hard work and dedication to open each hotel safely.

We're also looking ahead to the future with exciting new projects that will open in the next few years, including the conversion of the San Domenico Palace in Taormina, [Italy], into a Four Seasons experience; a beautiful new resort in Tamarindo, Mexico; and new openings in New Orleans, Napa Valley, Minneapolis and Nashville.

TW: Luxury hospitality has traditionally leaned heavily on person-to-person interaction. As contactless services and amenities come to the forefront, do you think they'll become a permanent fixture of the luxury landscape?

Clerc: There is always space for contactless service options, as this was becoming more popular even before the pandemic. When we launched the Four Seasons App in 2015, followed by Four Seasons Chat in 2017, it was because we knew our guests wanted more control, customisation and convenience out of their experience.

Our App and Chat are now key pillars of Lead With Care, [Four Seasons' enhanced global health and safety programme], providing guests contactless service options for checking in and out, requesting services and communicating with Four Seasons people on-property.

The best part of Chat is having a Four Seasons employee respond to your message, instead of a chatbot. We've seen how impactful this technology has been during this time. Our users, the number of messages we have received and awareness about our App and Chat have increased significantly. We have more than 200,000 users and have received 2.7 million messages.

Source: Travel Weekly

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