Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff Johannesburg
- 67 Jan Smuts Avenue P.O. Box 2700, Johannesburg, Saxonwold 2132, South Africa
Regional Vice President and General Manager
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2003
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Hotel Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
- Four Seasons Resort Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt; Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora; Four Seasons Resort Provence at Terre Blanche (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC; Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square; La Plantation Resort & Spa, Mauritius
- Lyon, France
- Hotel and Tourism Management Degree, Institut Vatel, Lyon, France
- French, English
“First and foremost, it’s all about making everyone feel welcome,” says Sebastien Carre of the vision of hospitality he is focused on as Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff Johannesburg. Very distinct from its competition, the Hotel is carefully curated to lavish guests with luxuries and comforts while simultaneously celebrating the city beyond. “We think very differently,” he adds. “It is part of our brand DNA.”
Key to that thinking is the sheer diversity of Hotel offerings designed to create a wide spectrum of connectivity with Johannesburg. Whether they’re international travellers, South African domestic travellers or Johannesburg residents popping by on a regular basis, guests and visitors enjoy experiences designed to get them excited about the destination.
This includes restaurants ranging from fine-dining, to casual and a street side deli, exceptional indoor and outdoor events venues, all serving fresh seasonal ingredients complemented by a richly curated wine list; a rooftop bar with panoramic views across the city; and a leading destination spa drawing inspiration from the authentic beauty of nature around it.
“The creative journey of a hotel is never over,” says Carre. “It must continually reinvent itself and experiment with new touch points for guests to experience its hospitality, and the emotional content of the destination in which it lives.” He points, by way of example, to the Hotel’s city acclaimed Art on the Hill conservancy for the visual and performing arts, which delights throughout the year with bespoke and curated events showcasing the best artists in South Africa.
Joburg’s reputation as a destination has been transformed since the property opened in late 2014. Security issues that clouded the city’s image decades ago have given way to urban rejuvenation. These days, guests will find a sophisticated, green and creative metropolis with a growing middle class; vibrant homegrown arts, music and fashion scenes; all within easy proximity to safari experiences in Africa.
Observing at the onset that Johannesburg had been “very underrepresented in the media globally,” Carre and his management team set out back in 2013 to share the real and captivating story of its evolution, and have invited literally several hundreds of journalists from all over the world to come experience it first hand, and share their story. “We’re disrupters in that way,” he says, with satisfaction. “The media was first intrigued by our efforts to promote 'the new Jozi,' and then absolutely seduced by the vibrant world city it has become, unknown to many still. So it made a lot of sense to position our Hotel to take advantage of this new reality.”
Hospitality runs in Carre’s blood. Born in Lyon, France, he hails from a long line of chefs and was encouraged by his parents – one a talented cook, the other an architect – to pursue a hotel career. Following graduation from the prestigious hotel business school in his hometown, Carre looped around the globe taking assignments at iconic properties along the French Riviera as well as in Seattle, San Francisco, Tahiti, Mauritius and London.
He got his start with Four Seasons in 2003, leading a complete renovation and repositioning of Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC, which became the first and only Forbes Five-Star hotel in the US nation’s capital - a defining accolade that it has held ever since.
Arriving in Johannesburg in 2013, Carre oversaw a complete conversion and re-branding of the landmark property he now oversees. “The existing hotel we took over had been very secluded, almost introverted – it displayed very little interest in connecting its guests to the city. So the first thing we did was to reverse this mindset completely, by creating a welcoming urban resort, of the city and for the city, quadrupling its restaurants and bars offerings, building a huge spa that wasn’t here before.”
The goal, he continues, remains to this day “to create a destination that people from Johannesburg would actually use.” It worked: the vast majority of patrons of the Hotel’s restaurants and spa hail from the city. “Bringing in locals adds to the atmosphere and ambiance we want our international guests to experience here.”
More recently, in 2018, Carre was tapped by Four Seasons to become Regional Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa and Indian Ocean– a promotion that not only acknowledges his success in Johannesburg but the brand’s growth strategy throughout the region.
“We’re living in a very mature world right now, and Africa is the last frontier,” he says, noting that the changing economics and demographics of the continent have encouraged the entry of many luxury brands. “It has always been in the DNA of Four Seasons to venture into new regions, and emerging market before everyone else,” he adds. “The company has high hopes for expansion in Africa. Johannesburg was just the start.”