Authentic Excellence
    Category: Forbes Life By : Yessar Rosendar Read : 850 Date : Thursday, August 11, 2016 - 17:56:57

    Santirta Martendano for Forbes Indonesia

    J. Allen Smith is the president and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, in charge of all aspects of the global luxury brand, which includes 99 hotels, resorts and residences. Since joining Four Seasons in 2013, Allen has overseen some important developments, such as the opening of the first Four Seasons in Russia, the launch of the world’s private hotel-owned private jet. Last year, the brand opened five new properties, stretching from Seoul to Bogota, and announced plans for its first hotel in Brazil. Prior to joining Four Seasons, Allen was the chief executive of Prudential Real Estate Investors, one of the world’s largest real estate investment managers. The following are edited remarks of an exclusive interview given to Forbes Indonesia during a visit to Jakarta in May to see the new Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, which officially opened on June 20.

    Can you tell us about the DNA of the brand?

    I had the good fortune of stepping into a leadership position of an extraordinary global brand, with tremendous strengths. My experience of Four Seasons prior to joining was that of a guest, and what really impressed me in joining the company was that the people were as authentic inside the company as they were outside. Authenticity is critical in what we do, because we serve, arguably, the world’s most discriminating customers.

    How do you view the industry’s consolidation?

    There has been consolidation—Marriott acquiring Starwood being the best example. You’ve also got Accor buying Fairmont. When you look at a company like Marriott, after they conclude the merger with Starwood, they’ll have something on the order of 75 million members in their loyalty program, and I believe 31 hotel brands across every segment in the industry. Arguably, they’ll clearly focus on a distribution game, from luxury to economy. So, for Four Seasons, which is a minnow in the pond, how do we compete in that environment? It goes back to our singular focus on what we do to differentiate ourselves: the quality of the product and the quality of our services.

    What does that focus translate into the guest experience?

    In the luxury segment, I would argue it’s very hard for others to compete with us at the level of service we provide, because it’s so personalized. For many of our guests, they feel like we are an extension of their home. They get to know our general managers, and they know our staff—it is a very personalized. The other part is continually innovating on service delivery, so that we evolve with the need for choice. The consumer is more empowered today than ever before, in terms of how they select their accommodations, the emergence of online travel agents and other aspects. They want to interact with us, for example, through mobile technology, so we’ve just launched an app to serve those customers.