Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
- Peninsula Papagayo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1999, 2003
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Assistant Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
- Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole; Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara; Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora; Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Sheraton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, French Polynesia; Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris; Four Seasons Hotel Chicago; Hotel du Rhône Geneva, Switzerland
- Nancy, France
- Hotel and Restaurant Management diploma, École Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland
- French, English, Spanish
When it comes to hospitality, Michael Mestraud is nothing if not a romantic, which made him the ideal choice to lead a Four Seasons resort that just got a little love. “This is a very special place: the property as well as the peninsula,” says Mestraud, who was appointed General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo at the start of a re-imagination at the end of summer 2017. “The owners really believe in the future of this resort and the community around it. We have reset the journey here, and there is a lot of excitement about the results.”
Costa Rica is the latest stop in a wide-ranging career that has seen Mestraud minding matters at urban hotels and far-flung resorts in Europe, the South Pacific, and across the United States. It may just be the most apt assignment for him yet.
A self-described “positive life lover” at once “dynamic, energetic and full of joy,” Mestraud sees himself as the embodiment of pura vida – “pure life” – the unofficial-yet-widely acknowledged slogan of Costa Rica. “I’m a strong believer in living life in balance,” he says, noting his passion for yoga, healthful eating, mindfulness and more. “The way life is lived here and the experience we’re offering just correspond perfectly to who I am.”
Though it was already the only Forbes Five Star address in Central and South America, an extensive re-imagination brought a striking new interpretation of modern eco-luxury to Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica. The USD 35 million project re-envisioned Resort accommodations as soothing retreats; redesigned the arrival experience; and created new culinary concepts led by locally sourced organic foods. The Resort’s signature pool area was also enhanced with new luxury cabanas, amenities and programming, and a new collection of activities and experiences was created to reconnect active families, nature enthusiasts and bold adventurers to themselves and the beauty of nature all around.
The re-imagination further launched a major transformation of the 1,400-acre (570 hectare) Peninsula Papagayo, with new amenities, immersive adventure and cultural experiences, as well as a new network of more than 8 miles (13 kilometres) of nature trails designed to reveal and preserve one of the most extraordinary biological corridors on the planet.
A little love, indeed.
Amid all of the enhancements, Mestraud sees his part as setting expectations and the tone of the new Resort experience. Nimbleness is key to his success, he says: “As a manager, I have to draw on my experience to sense what does and does not work, and quickly revisit the latter as necessary.”
Born and raised in a riverfront city in the northeast of France, Mestraud was originally inspired to hospitality by his mother, whose passion for entertaining saw her welcoming houseguests with touches such as luxury shower products, thoughtfully matched tabletops, and towels laid beautifully across beds “in hotel style.” At his parents encouragement he waited tables on summer breaks from school. “I realised early on that my personality is such that I get really excited making people happy.”
After earning a diploma in marketing, Mestraud headed for the Dominican Republic with dreams of opening a bar. Instead, he had a “very nasty” run in with the wheel of a motorbike and almost lost a leg. When gangrene set in, an American doctor urged him to return to France for treatment. After being whisked from the airport via ambulance, he spent three months in a hospital. “That event totally changed me. My sister was dating a guy who was going to École Hôtelière de Lausanne. I’d spent my whole life learning to take care of people. So I returned to school to study restaurant and hotel management.”
Mestraud started with Four Seasons in Chicago and Paris in the late 1990s before moving onto another international hotel group. He returned in 2003 to join openings first in Provence, then in Bora Bora. After a turn as Hotel Manager in Santa Barbara, he became General Manager of Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole in spring 2015.
Though with its towering peaks and snowy winters, Jackson Hole may seem the mirror opposite of Costa Rica, Mestraud insists the destinations actually have a lot in common. “They both offer opportunity to experience a pristine environment. They’re fresh and safe, with no pollution, down-to-earth people, and wildlife all over the place.”
Meanwhile, Mestraud’s family couldn’t be happier with the latest of his long list of assignments. “My wife is Tahitian – she never really took to Wyoming winters. And wherever we travel, my twin daughters are always their own best friends. Life is good here.”