In Search of Hotel Excellence: Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney

Midway through a whirlwind tour of Oceania, I find myself lodged in downtown Sydney, Australia for a couple nights to visit my wife’s family. Forgoing complimentary accommodations with the relatives, I opted for one of the city’s hotel marvels, the Four Seasons Hotel, which stands as both a pinnacle of urban luxury and an oddity within the FS brand. At 531 rooms, it far exceeds the usual 175-225 rooms one expects in a Four Seasons.

And yet, the general manager, Rudolf van Dijk, assured me during our brief morning chat that the property’s size has not stopped them from delivering a flawless guest experience. Traveling the world with his family under the Four Seasons banner, Mr. van Dijk is adamant that the key to success at the luxury level always boils down to a team that is motivated, engaged and passionate, regardless of the hotel’s size. With that as lead in, I had a few more questions to help hoteliers understand how this property excels.

FS-Sydney2How important is F&B to the operation of a luxury property?
Our F&B outlets provide another way for guests to enjoy our product and service in-house, so it’s absolutely essential that we are providing the best possible experience for them – both food and service wise. Pei Modern opened in late 2014, and since then we’ve had some incredible feedback from our guests who not only enjoy the quality local and seasonal Modern Australian food, but also the intimate space and high level of service. Our bar, Grain, has been performing consistently since it opened in 2012 and has won ‘Bar of the Year’ two years in a row by Tourism Accommodation Australia. It’s popular not only among our hotel guests, but also local Sydneysiders who have embraced it as one of Sydney’s small local bars in The Rocks.

And yet FS Sydney has only one restaurant. Do you find this at odds with the traditional luxury hotel which sees a good and a great (typically special occasion) outlet?
Our location, in the heart of Sydney’s historical district of The Rocks, boasts a number of very high quality restaurants right outside our doorstep. Because of our location and our market, I don’t believe we need more than one restaurant in the hotel. Our guests also make use of our international room service menu, which is convenient for business travelers.

Do you utilize the OTAs?
We do utilize OTAs and they are an important partner for us in this game. Our strategy has always been to work cooperatively with OTAs as we know a lot of our guests use these sites to book their accommodation. However, we do prefer our guests to book through our website and, to that end, we have made enhancements to our website to make it very easy to book direct. We have also created some special occasion packages that are only bookable through the Four Seasons website and enhance the guest experience through prominent value-adds.

Do you see Airbnb having an impact on the luxury marketplace in Sydney?
I believe Airbnb appeals to a market that is quite different from the market that looks for a hotel stay. Their needs and wants are different. Both Airbnb and hotels have a place in the overall lodging industry.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in eHotelier on August 14, 2015)

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