Regional Vice President and General Manager
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1993
- First Four Seasons Position: Hotel Manager, The Regent Singapore (formerly a Four Seasons hotel)
- Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong; Four Seasons Hotel New York, The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta; The Regent Jakarta, Indonesia (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); The Regent Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); The Regent Singapore (formerly a Four Seasons hotel)
- Vienna, Austria
- Certificate of Hotel and Tourism Administration Academy, Salzburg, Austria
- English, French, German, Italian
Christoph Schmidinger has managed a lot of Four Seasons in a lot of places over his time with the company. But he had never introduced Four Seasons to a new country – until now. “In the past, I’ve fine-tuned. Here, I get to create the software, shape the guest experience, and bring the brand to Spain,” he says, near-bursting with excitement over his role as General Manager of Four Season Hotel Madrid. “I’ve been given the privilege of running an unbelievable landmark address. This hotel is making history.”
It’s also making present day, breathing new life into seven landmark buildings, including a former bank, and sparking a heart-of-the-city scene alive with new restaurants and bars, luxury shopping, and inviting outdoor spaces for visitors walk, settle in, and enjoy.
Madrid is a hotspot – literally, figuratively, and meteorologically: One of the sunniest and greenest cities in Europe, and an art capital dotted with lovely parks, well-preserved architecture, and impressive historical sites. Yet the hotel scene had been sleepy, with only one major international opening in about four decades before Four Seasons arrived.
Schmidinger is happy to note that, even without a property, Four Seasons was already well known and admired in Spain. That makes his job easier, but it also ratchets up the pressure. “I’ve been measured since the day I arrived,” he says. “The expectations are high. We’re here to elevate the city, and we have to show Spain and its people what a fine hotel business is.” Is he shrinking from it? “No, I’m motivated by it. We’re a big fish in small pond. Everyone is looking at us for inspiration, and we have plenty to see.”
Central to Schmidinger’s hospitality mission in Madrid is attracting Madrileños. He wants locals to see the property as “an experience, not just another hotel,” with services and nuances that make them realise how well it has been thought through.
Indeed, foremost among many lessons Schmidinger has learned over the years is “you can’t run an international hotel in any market when it’s not accepted by locals.” He recalls that during his previous Four Seasons assignment in Hong Kong, local clientele accounted for the vast majority of Hotel’s food & beverage and spa revenue. “What we did in Hong Kong was the epitome of that success,” he says. “When the local market supports you, you’ve got it made.”
Schmidinger got the travel gene early, growing up the son of an Austrian diplomat who relocated his family around Europe before settling in Austria. When it came time to choose a career of his own, Schmidinger set his sights on hospitality. “I always enjoyed contact with people, and hotel work is one of the few jobs that really offers that to any extent.” Diplomacy and hospitality are very similar, he adds: “Only you’re dealing with different characters and different aspects of quality.”
Schmidinger was drawn to the vibrancy and complex infrastructure of sizable properties from the start, working in management for major hotel groups in Asia before joining Four Seasons in Singapore. He transferred to the U.S. in 2000 to become General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, and four years later, following a turn in Chicago, he was appointed Regional Vice President and GM of Four Seasons Hotel New York.
He’s still a Regional Vice President, though his ‘region’ these days is basically Madrid. No complaints: “Four Seasons has well over 100 hotels around the world. They’re all nice, but some are considered ‘flagships’ because of what they bring to their locations. This one has ‘flagship’ written all over it.”
Along with the rewards of managing such an address, Schmidinger is thrilled to be back in Europe for the first time in his 30-plus-year hotel career. “My wife and I have had the pleasure and privilege of exploring the world. Now that we’re back on the Continent, we’re going to live it to its fullest.” He’s also going to focus on learning another language. “Spanish will be my fifth. That motivates me a lot.”