Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg
- 1 Voznesensky Prospekt, 190000 St. Petersburg, Russia
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2000
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Director of Food and Beverage, Four Seasons Hotel Caracas (formerly a Four Seasons hotel)
- Four Seasons Hotel Damascus; Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo; Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, México; Four Seasons Hotel Caracas (formerly a Four Seasons Hotel); Hyatt International, Mexico and Argentina
- Innsbruck, Austria
- Modul Tourism College, Modul University, Vienna, Austria
- German, Spanish, English and French
Like a diamond in the rough, Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg heralds a new age of hospitality for Russia, and the man running it can barely contain his enthusiasm at being on the cutting edge. “First, this is one of the most beautiful hotels in the company,” says Martin Rhomberg, who was appointed opening General Manager of Four Seasons first Russian address in spring 2011. “There has been a huge expectation, with everyone anxiously awaiting the opening. It’ll be worth the wait on every level, of course.”
Of course. Rhomberg clicks off the many pleasing attributes that will bring new standards of hospitality to the country: “very strong food and beverage concepts” to stand out in an increasingly competitive city scene; “a very solid meeting operation that’ll be crucial during low season,” with six beautiful function spaces overseen by an experienced Four Seasons catering team; and a Spa – a real spa – to soothe the Russian soul whatever the temperature outside. “There are plenty of banyas in St. Petersburg, but no such thing as a spa,” Rhomberg observes. “The whole holistic and seamless-service experience we offer will be new here.”
Rest assured, Rhomberg could keep going: a state-of-the-art business centre; on-site limousine service; one-hour shirt pressing … click, click, click. “Russian business people and affluent travellers have the same needs all over the world. We’ll make them feel right at home wherever they’re from.”
Rhomberg was in the right place at the right time to hook up with Four Seasons. He was a hotel manager at the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires before Four Seasons rebranded it. “My focus was to provide quality service, and when I looked around there was only one company in the luxury hotel league that was engaging guests the way I always wanted.” Rather than keep Rhomberg in the Argentine capital, Four Seasons offered him a step down heading up food and beverage in Caracas. “They wanted to see if I could perform within their corporate culture. I took the offer without hesitation.”
His Four Seasons career has been a growing process ever since. In Punta Mita, Rhomberg embraced the resort experience, dazzling guests not just with service, but with “the sights, the smells, the textures of the beauty around them.” As a Resort Manager in Costa Rica, he honed his management skills developing into a well-rounded operations manager and business leader.
And in his first assignment as a General Manager, Rhomberg stepped lively into Damascus with wife along for the ride. “It was quite a departure from Central America, to be sure, but we somehow fell in love with that city from the start,” he says, recalling the intriguing souks, the welcoming warmth of the people and, for the hotel, success.
Growing up in Austria, Rhomberg considered following in his father’s corporate footsteps and a medical career, but found his heart wasn’t in either. “So I was chatting with my parents one day and they suggested tourism. I said, ‘Hey, why not?” Off he went: not to the grand palace hotels of Europe, but to an uncle’s wellness resort in the Austrian Alps that had him grinding out 16-hour days. “I loved every minute. The idea that you can make a guest’s day with a small gesture and be surrounded by beautiful things was so appealing. Most people never experience a world like that.”
Finding homegrown talent capable of delivering similar small gestures in Four Seasons style will be a key objective in St. Petersburg. Rhomberg says it’s out there. “Everywhere I go – to dinner, espresso shops, the grocery store – I see a few people with the right attitude. Those are the ones we need to sign on and make them feel their job is important from day one.” As Rhomberg gets Four Seasons off the ground in Russia, that almost goes without saying.