Four Seasons Hotel Beijing
- 48 LiangMaQiao Road, 100125 Beijing, Chaoyang District, China
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1996
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Health Club Supervisor, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney
- Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa; Four Seasons Hotel Damascus; Four Seasons Resort Langkawi; Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver; Four Seasons Hotel Toronto; Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas; Four Seasons Hotel Sydney; Pre-opening support at Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh; Four Seasons Hotel Amman; Four Seasons Hotel Prague; Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma (formerly a Four Seasons resort)
- Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Bachelor of Education, Australian College of Physical Education
- English, Sinhalese, basic German
Getting a hotel up and running is inarguably challenging, but the opening General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Beijing isn’t enamoured with that word. “I prefer to call it ‘intriguing,’” says Sanjiv Hulugalle, who finds himself in the top spot for Four Seasons in the Chinese capital. “Every day is different and you keep adjusting your thought process to suit the next. That’s when it becomes clear that an opening is not about yourself but about the team around you. My job is really to keep them motivated, on track, and true to Four Seasons culture.”
That last point is the most significant for Hulugalle, who has honed his managerial talents at 12 Four Seasons properties over the past 18 years. An “avid fan of what Four Seasons does,” Hulugalle believes that much of the competition has missed the big picture in Beijing. “This city is all about culture: the huge history, the depth of the dynasties, the strong character of food and its presentation, and the warmth of the people. For us, it’s about being relevant and sensitive. Our understanding of Beijing culture is what brings the community into this wonderful Hotel.”
Indeed. Four Seasons Hotel Beijing is positioned in a unique spot adjacent to the Central Business District and international embassies. It’s also the closest luxury-class hotel to the Great Wall and other historical treasures. Inside, the mix of corporate and leisure travellers will find welcoming residential warmth amid lavish settings.
“Everything needs to be the best in the city,” says Hulugalle, assuredly, noting that he has talented staff to deliver it. “We drew 2,600 people over two recruitment days in preparation for opening, and all of them were experienced. There’s the element of training, of course. But I truly believe the culture of the people in Beijing enables us to instill them with the culture of Four Seasons."
As interesting success stories so often begin, Hulugalle came to Four Seasons by coincidence. Working as a ride attendant at an amusement park to fund his tuition, he spotted an ad for an opening at a health club and clipped it for a friend. Instead, he went to the interview himself and was snapped up as a supervisor by Four Seasons Hotel Sydney. “Running my own gym had been a dream, but what sold me was Four Seasons service culture. The emphasis on how simple interactions and awareness can bring a smile from a guest was a revelation to me.”
His career continued across four continents, but the formula for success never changed. “At every hotel and every destination, I’ve always found it quite easy to adapt.” Most notable was his last stop before Beijing as General Manager of Four Seasons on Kuda Huraa in the Maldives, which under his leadership was voted “Best of the Best” in the world by the readers of Condé Nast Traveller UK. “The island was just 700 metres-by-400 metres (2,300 by 1,300 feet), and I was there with my wife and two small children for two years. That’s what being able to adapt and enjoy wherever you are is all about. From a personal perspective, the Maldives topped it.”
His new stage is much bigger, of course, but Hulugalle approaches it the same way. “I do sometimes behave like a clown – that’s from my days at the amusement park,” he says with a laugh, “but life is full of options and wherever I am I enjoy what I’m given.” As Beijing is about to find out, he has a lot to offer as well.