President, Hotel Operations - Europe, Middle East and Africa
Simon Casson oversees Four Seasons hotel operations across a portfolio that ranges from palace hotels in Europe to glittering skyscrapers in the Middle East and hideaway beach resorts (and one luxurious safari lodge) in Africa.
Each project brings something new, whether it’s a ground-up build, a careful restoration or conversion of an established hotel to the Four Seasons brand. Simon works collaboratively with hotel owners and Four Seasons corporate and hotel teams to ensure that each property’s unique attributes and each destination’s culture are reflected in everything from guest room design to restaurant concepts, spa experiences, event spaces and more.
Incredible properties attract guests, but it’s what happens inside that brings the story of Four Seasons to life. Simon views his role, and that of every Four Seasons employee, as a brand ambassador, exceeding the expectations of even the most well-travelled guests with the customised service and individual experiences that will continue to be the cornerstone of the company’s success.
Simon supports all hotels in the region in this mission, and has a well-earned reputation for developing talent. With several decades of service with Four Seasons himself, he’s adept at bringing the best out of the people who are the company’s greatest assets.
“The simple desire to make people happy is one of the most important attributes of a Four Seasons employee,” he says. At his most recent hotel assignment, Simon counted staff from 53 different countries, including a significant number who had never worked in a hotel before someone at Four Seasons saw a passion worth cultivating.
“The more we achieve, the more we attract the best people. By creating a fertile environment where our employees are given the freedom to make on-the-fly decisions and bring forward fresh ideas, we are able to deliver on our brand promise.”
- At Four Seasons: Joined the company in 1989, as an assistant manager at what is now Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane. After further assignments in London as well as Washington, he returned to the same hotel as Hotel Manager in 2000. In 2005, he opened Four Seasons Hotel Doha, and was promoted to Regional Vice President in 2011 before moving to Dubai for the brand’s first opening in UAE in 2014. During this time he also led the company’s Global Spa Task Force. Simon was promoted to his current position in 2016, and is based in Dubai.
- On the side: A lifelong love of learning led to involvement in and an honorary degree from Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland, and Simon is a founding board member of the Enderun Hospitality Management school in the Philippines.
- Education: Barry College of Catering and Hotel Administration, Wales; General Manager Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
- A glimpse into the future: As a teen washing dishes in a busy kitchen in northern England, Simon was always intrigued by what he saw through the swinging door to the restaurant. “I vowed then and there that I would be part of that world one day – not as a customer, but as someone who made that excitement happen.”
- Playing it forward: Simon often speaks to recent graduates and rookie employees, sharing his story of joining Four Seasons as a young man with little experience or education. “Here I found a culture of learning, with mentors who coached me to stretch myself and continually raise the bar on our product and service to our guests. My hope is to encourage the next generation of hoteliers with my Four Seasons experience.”
- Secret talent: As friends and colleagues know, Simon sings, and he’s recently taken up the piano. “I bought a Steinway baby grand without a clue how to play it. I’ve got a teacher now, and I’m going to master it.”
- Next travel destination: Simon’s immediate answer is motorbiking through Croatia and Greece, and eventually, he wants to go “everywhere. The more I travel, the more I realise how little of the world I’ve actually seen.”