Good Seasons for the future
How the chain performed in the Middle East: In relative terms, the hotels in general performed very well, says David Crowl, vice-president sales and marketing. Europe, Middle East and Africa.
In the case of Cairo, Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence is the clear product and price leader. The same could be stated in relation to Sharm El Sheikh, which is having a terrific year.
Amman and Riyadh opened in late 2002 and early 2003 respectively. The markets were very challenged as a result of the conflict in Iraq and the region in general; nonetheless, the hotels have contributed greatly to their respective communities through the development of high quality hotels.
Strategy adopted to face up to the downturn in global economy: We will always be a product-driven company that is to say, we will create demand by offering high-quality experiences (either for business or leisure). As we open hotels, we engage in ‘trial programmes’ which would allow the target market to experience the product at a reasonable price point and understand the value of a Four Seasons experience before elevating the prices to appropriate levels.
Did things go according to plan? Given the war in Iraq, the on going conflict in the ‘West Bank’ as well as a ‘soft’ global economy in 2003 “things” didn’t go as planned. However, the perspective of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and our respective partners is to maintain a long-term view of these projects. Every destination where we have chosen to develop a hotel is of strategic importance to the region. Therefore, success is inevitable but one must be patient during these most interesting and unfortunate times.
Expansion plans: As noted, we are very committed to the region. We will open our second hotel in Cairo this year. In addition, we will open hotels in Doha (late 2004 or early 2005), Damascus, Beirut and Alexandria.
Strategy in the face of competition: Our strategy has always been consistent: develop a high quality, physical facility, providing spacious accommodations and luxurious public spaces; our Food and Beverage programme will be the finest in each given destination (either in restaurant or for a social catering experience); We will be the friendliest hotels in each respective community; and most importantly, our staff will provide a high quality oriented and intuitive service.
Is Four Seasons bullish about 2004 and, if yes, why? We are very encouraged about the improvement relative to the global economy. We believe that in late 2004, the region will benefit from an increase in European leisure demand. Since the opening of our first hotel in the Middle East, in Cairo 2000, the awareness within the region and business demand levels have steadily improved - and this will build momentum in 2004. Therefore, yes, we are bullish for 2004. “To sum up, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is highly committed to the Middle East and the strategic importance that the region will play in world affairs.”