Four Seasons’ Simon Casson on the luxury DNA in hospitality

A week before the official opening of Four Seasons’ first property in Dubai, I sat with the Regional Vice-President and General Manager, a veteran of the Canadian luxury chain which has maintained one of the highest standard in luxury hospitality service since it was set up 50 years ago.

I first met Simon 4 years ago, during his tenure at Four Seasons, Doha and I was impressed with his unique motivational skills, his immense passion to serve and his constant pursuit for perfection both in service and product. His appointment in Dubai did not happen by chance, but was rather a strategic decision by the hotel group to deploy one of the best GM’s for a property which aims for the leading position in Dubai, one of the world’s most competitive luxury markets.

My first day at the Four Seasons Dubai could not be more fulfilling. After my very late night arrival in Dubai, I woke up the other day, at noon. I simply walked around and ‘’all roads’’ magnetically took me to the spectacular outdoor pools and the private beach, a unique feature for a luxury hotel in Dubai. Without even having seen Simon, who happened to be out of the hotel for the morning, I was welcomed as if I was returning to my home in Dubai. Each and every staff could not be more genuine, attentive and intuitive.

The fact that over 60% of staff come from other Four Seasons properties helped a lot, but then, I could not help but wonder how Simon could achieve such a high level of service in less than a week from the actual opening day. Here is what he told me:

Rule no. 1 ‘Be yourself’

‘Authenticity of being is central, both for me and the whole team.  Not only do I meet each and every staff member during recruitment but during the 6 months before opening, we sat together often and had many discussions. I explained to them that they should act naturally, let their light and unique being shine. even when or if they make a mistake. Customers appreciate genuine, human service above all. The fact that we have some many nationalities is also of great help’

Rule no.2 ‘Treat guests like they were family’

‘Approach guests with confidence! Let them know you are happy to see them, that they are a welcome visitor and guest.  It is crucial that staff feel they can take responsibility and assume risks to deliver the best service. Whether they are lounging in the sun or dining in a restaurant, think of each and every guest as your grandparents or best friend – how would you treat them?  That can be transformational’

Rule no. 3 ‘Have a voice and know that you matter’

‘I want every single staff member to feel that they have a voice and that this voice has a value.  Often we change things based on what our employees tells us works best for them; they are closest to the guests after all.  As management and colleagues we should listen to the feedback each staff provides and be open to change. Also I want every employee to know and believe that they work in a meritocracy … no matter where they come form or what their background is, the singular factor that decides if they advance is their own talent, passion and ability to be the best in their job role.

Rule no. 4 ; ‘Relentless Pursuit of Excellence’

Excellence is not easily achieved; if it was every hotel would attain it and they don’t.  If is achieved though an obsessive focus on details, a driving passion to be the best we can be and relentless follow up and checking of every small touch point.  My job as the leader is to set an aspirational goal and to create an environment where there are no obstacles tot he employees being great

As for the positioning of Four Seasons in Dubai, Simon Casson told me: ‘This is a tremendous opportunity for us. Our unique competitive features are our irreplaceable location (15 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes from downtown), our private beach, creative restaurants and the fact we address equally leisure and corporate guests. One could opt to stay in a room overlooking the Dubai skyline or facing the sea and enjoy an authentic resort, secluded experience. However, above all, it is service & people that will make the defining difference’’

Oliver Petcu in London

Simon Casson, Regional Vice President – General Manager, Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach with Shahab Lutfi, CEO Bright Start, owning company