Refining the product and looking east


Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have constructed many major properties in the MENA region. Manisha Koshy talks to David Crowl, vice president sales and marketing, Europe Middle East and Africa.

What are your plans for 2008?
In 2007, we opened our eighth hotel in the Middle East in Alexandria, Egypt. Since we opened our first hotel in Cairo in 2000, we have grown strategically and now with our new property in Alexandria, the market is beginning to understand the value of the Four Seasons experience.
We believe that this value is very relevant as well as the consistence, without being a cookie-cutter; we offer standards in terms of quality and product. Travellers can feel confident that if they stay at the Four Seasons in Cairo or Alexandria or Paris, their expectations will be met.
In 2008, we will not be opening any new hotels here in the region. Our business from the region has gone up exponentially over the last two to three years and this is because of our current presence. And what we want to do now is continue to refine our product and maintain this growth.

You announced privati-sation early this year, how much has that benefited?
So far so good. It is something new. We have partners who know our brand and understand our mission. We were a publicly traded company and by going private we now have resources to grow and expand.
We don’t have plans to open two or three or four star brands. We will follow one business model and that’s what we want to be. Our guests will want to stay with us because they feel like staying with us, and not for bonus points or miles.

In this context, you are trying to be different from a lot of the major hotel chains. Is it easy to be on this spot?
These are large organisa-tions that are looking at ways to increase their presence.
Personally we believe that in order to achieve our vision we need to focus on one thing. There are lots of opportunities for us and in the next 10 years we should strive to be no longer an enigma in any key market.

What do you think will break that enigma feel about the brand?
The Four Seasons experience, as we get more people to experience our product. This part of the world is famous for word of mouth communication and we have seen it. In 2007, our inter-regional demand increased dramatically.
When we opened in Cairo, we were warned about it being a mid market destination. We were the first new hotel in Damascus in 35 years, so we are cheating off the market share and in terms of revenue generated index, we are doing very well. We have proven to the industry that these destinations are not middle market and they want better hotel operations.

New source markets?
The Middle East is a new source market for us. Eastern Europe is becoming an emerging market. We are going to open a hotel in Mumbai by the end of 2008. We have further plans for hotels in Goa, New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad in the next three years. We are also looking to expand in the Chinese market.
The newly established Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus is the seventh hotel in the region for the group. The others are located in Amman, Cairo, Doha, Riyadh and Sharm El Sheikh.