Four Seasons' Simon Casson on the future of hospitality
The president of hotel operations - Europe, Middle East and Africa weighs in on the industry’s new normal
Four Seasons president of hotel operations EMEA Simon Casson speaks exclusively to Hotelier Middle East about enhancements, collaborations and his team's dedication to ensuring the highest saftey and service standards.
What are some new initiatives that you have implemented since reopening?
Our goal at Four Seasons is to provide guests, residents and employees with the confidence and assurance that their health and safety is our first priority. We recently announced a collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, whose experts will validate our enhanced global health and safety program, Lead With Care. Along with already-commonplace measures such as more sanitisers, masks and heightened cleaning and hygiene, Lead With Care is focused on providing care, confidence and comfort to all Four Seasons guests, employees and residents within the new COVID-19 environment. Through our work with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, our property teams will have access to leading international experts and real-time COVID-19 information, enhancing our tools and training to deliver an experience grounded in safety and trust. Together, we have also established a dedicated COVID-19 Advisory Board, bringing together Four Seasons leadership and top experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine International to inform health and safety decisions based on the latest scientific knowledge. Additionally, we’ve worked with Johns Hopkins to establish a joint Response Team where senior experts in infectious diseases will provide on-demand response and guidance to our global properties as required.
Have you made any changes to your product offering?
As we look ahead to the future of hospitality and travel, we are implementing full-scale enhancements to our already stringent health and safety procedures. Lead With Care kits are placed in each guest room, providing masks, hand sanitiser and sanitisation wipes. Social distancing measures are embedded in all services, including appropriately spaced fitness equipment, modified spa menu and housekeeping services, and contactless check-in. Additionally, our restaurants and bars are operating at reduced capacity to ensure socially distant set-up, with digital menus available wherever possible. In-room dining, using sustainable, single-use packaging is also offered with contactless delivery.
Within this new environment, the Four Seasons App and Four Seasons Chat will remain a key part of our service experience. As one of the only industry platforms powered by real people versus chatbots, our award-winning App and Chat will further allow guests to control how they engage with our employees – limiting face-to-face interactions while maintaining the highest levels of Four Seasons service that our guests know and love. With instant translation in 100+ languages, features include the ability to make and manage reservations, request luggage pickup, airport transfers, restaurant and spa reservations, in-room dining, and wait-free check-in / check-out.
What has been your biggest challenge during this time?
For so many of us, travel is a necessary and rewarding part of our lives. It brings us together and connects us to the people and places around us. While travel restrictions and the resulting hotel closures have been a necessary response to protect health and safety, they have had significant impacts on our people and our business. COVID-19 has impacted the travel and hospitality industry particularly hard, and our teams have been working together to manage through the crisis and prepare for reopening and recovery. While there is much more work ahead of us, we are confident we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.
As we look to recovery and reopening across the Middle East, we are extremely appreciative of the stringent efforts of all regional governments and healthcare authorities in helping to combat the pandemic, adopting rigorous testing as a key component of their strategies. This is working to support recovery across the region, from both a health and economic standpoint.
Have any positives come out of the situation?
It has been amazing to see our property teams around the globe respond in this crisis with the utmost care and compassion to our guests, each other and those fighting on the frontlines. Here in the Middle East, our hotel in Riyadh has been providing accommodations for frontline medical personnel. We’re incredibly proud of our teams here, as well as in New York and Mumbai, for their hard work in housing medical personnel during this difficult time. Along with the efforts of our property teams worldwide, we have been incredibly inspired by the dedication of Four Seasons people in the face of this uncertainty, and we are leveraging many of these learnings to shape how we move forward globally.
Have you received support or guidance from any organisations during this time?
We are proud to collaborate with the renowned experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine International, leveraging their global expertise to validate our new Lead With Care program. Our collaboration with Johns Hopkins will provide us with ongoing, real-time guidance on the evolving COVID-19 situation as well as access to its experts through an on-demand joint Response Team. By tapping into Johns Hopkins' extensive knowledge and expertise, we can continue to provide safe care and service to protect our guests, ensuring they feel safe and reassured at Four Seasons.
What do you think the long-term effects will be on your properties and the hospitality industry in general?
Although face-to-face interactions may be more limited, we will remain as connected as ever to our guests. Mobile-first technology like the Four Seasons App and Chat will be an important part of our new reality, providing a contactless and controlled experience that doesn’t compromise our signature service.
As we prepare to respond to changing guest expectations, our Lead With Care program will be reviewed and validated by Johns Hopkins Medicine experts and implemented by dedicated teams at Four Seasons properties around the world. In addition to more sanitisers, masks and heightened cleaning and hygiene, behind-the-scenes measures will also roll out through employee training, additional food handling protocols, and enhancements to ventilation systems and other back-of-the-house operations. Through our collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, we are focused on providing care, confidence and comfort to all Four Seasons guests, employees and residents within the new travel climate.
While the Four Seasons experience may look different in this new environment, it will ultimately feel the same – our dedicated people will continue to deliver the same intuitive service and personalised care for which Four Seasons is known and trusted for the world over.