Four Seasons Tenure
- Started 1988, now since 2000
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Housekeeping Assistant Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Boston
- Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore; Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla; Four Seasons Hotel Seattle; Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea; Four Seasons Hotel New York; Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta; Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, Stone Mountain; Marietta Conference Center; Four Seasons Hotel Boston; Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea; Four Seasons Hotel Boston
- North Olmstead, Ohio, USA
- Bachelor of Science, Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Massachusetts
Las Vegas is a city of many pursuits and a diverse collection of travellers. Some come to enjoy the destination’s premier attractions, dining and entertainment, while others attend to business, corporate events and citywide conventions. It is precisely that mix that attracted Regional Vice President and General Manager Ilse Harley to accept the position at the helm of Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas.
“This role combines my expertise with both urban and resort properties, with a Hotel offering attributes of each in a market unlike any other in the United States,” says Harley. “Las Vegas is a dynamic city with some of the west’s most diverse dining, entertainment and attractions. Four Seasons is positioned to offer the ‘best of both worlds’ experience to our guests, with a premier location on the famed Las Vegas Strip, coupled with a resort-like, non-gaming setting.”
Harley’s Four Seasons hospitality career has taken her far and wide. Following her start in Boston in 1988, she was on the opening team in Maui and then left the company for a spell before returning in Atlanta. She rose on the rooms side – “food and beverage is fun and creative, but I’ve always liked rooms because that’s what really makes the money” – through New York and then back to Hawaii again.
When she landed as General Manager in Seattle in 2011, Harley was one of only five women in the top management position in the company at the time. She didn’t think that was a big deal, but she sure turned out to be, overseeing a transformation of the Hotel’s signature restaurant and leading the property to the first-and-only Forbes Five-Star hotel rating in the state of Washington – a ranking that still stands. “I’ve always credited the team for that,” she says. “They acted on what guests told us, challenged themselves to be rated, and were super-charged in delivering the experience.”
Harley arrives in Las Vegas most recently from Baltimore, and prior to that, Anguilla, where she led a successful resort reflagging by emphasising exceptional service. The employees were able to adapt to Four Seasons culture very seamlessly, she remembers. “They not only embraced our standards, but they really enjoyed delivering the experience. That’s a recipe for success.”
Whatever the location, Harley’s management style is about encouraging employees to be themselves. There are hundreds of interactions at any moment at a hotel, she says, and managers can’t be the end-user in every situation. “So we give employees the tools, get them comfortable and confident, and then trust them to do the right thing.” Indeed, Harley believes her success was the result of managers giving her autonomy right out of the gate. “I believe very strongly that’s the way to instill confidence. People make mistakes. But letting them make and then correct them is the best way for them to learn.”
During her time in Baltimore, Harley was promoted to Regional Vice President, a role she maintains in Las Vegas. In this capacity, Harley lends guidance and support to managers of other Four Seasons properties including Miami, St. Louis, Baltimore and Atlanta, as well as acts as a conduit to the corporate office in Toronto. “We’re constantly examining new policies and procedures for what works and what doesn’t, making sure our talent has oversight and avenues to develop.”
Harley credits “a really great family situation” for her long-running success with Four Seasons, including and especially her husband Matt, who has long been confident and comfortable as primary caregiver for their son Sam. “Matt’s partnership has allowed me to be successful in a profession that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I am very fortunate.”
In Las Vegas, Harley is excited for the challenge of managing a fast-paced property catering to both business travellers and guests at leisure. She also looks forward to pursuing her love of adventure and the outdoors with her family, exploring the many natural wonders available within close proximity to the city.