The Story of Four Seasons
How did a company – whose first property was a modest motor hotel in downtown Toronto – evolve into the world’s leading operator of luxury hotels?
The story of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is a tale of continuous innovation, remarkable expansion and a single-minded dedication to the highest of standards. For more than 50 years, the Canadian-based company has transformed the global hospitality industry by combining caring service with the very best in international hotel keeping. In the process, Four Seasons has re-defined hospitality for the modern traveller.
The Story of Four Seasons
In 1961, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts opened its first property, a motor hotel in downtown Toronto, Canada. Designed to serve a new generation of international business travellers, the Hotel’s modest exterior belied its revolutionary offering: personalised service geared to easing the stress of business travel. The brainchild of Isadore Sharp, the company’s Founder and Chairman, the property set the stage for a new type of hotel experience.
The success of the company’s first hotel in Europe, the Inn on the Park – now known as Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane – cemented the company’s future course. Having entered a market dominated by large, traditional establishments, the Hotel’s intimate size, spacious rooms and friendly staff attending to every wish made it an instant success. Four Seasons had found its niche: mid-size hotels of exceptional quality offering distinctive service.
As it expanded, Four Seasons became the first hotel company in North America to introduce now-standard items such as bath amenities, robes and hair dryers. It was also the first to provide European-style concierge services and 24/7 in-room dining. Twice-daily housekeeping, one-hour pressing and round-the-clock laundry and dry cleaning are additional guest services introduced by Four Seasons long before any other luxury hotel operators, and still unique in many of the destinations where it operates.
The first custom made Four Seasons mattress debuted in 1984, and has been the standard bearer for a night of perfect rest in all of Four Seasons hotels since then. In 2014, Four Seasons further innovated their sleep experience by introducing a fully customisable mattress that allows guests to choose the firmness of their hotel bed.
In 1985, the company launched Four Seasons residential options, including Private Residences and Residential Rentals in both global gateway cities and resort destinations, combining the comforts of home with the personalised service of a Four Seasons hotel. With the success of these residential offerings, the company has demonstrated the same ability to set service standards in residential ownership as it has in hotels and resorts. Today, Four Seasons is the recognised leader and largest operator of luxury branded residential properties in the world, and more than three quarters of new projects under development contain a residential component. Four Seasons will debut its first ever standalone residential project in London at the historical Twenty Grosvenor Square.
In 2012, the brand took its service model to the skies with the introduction of private jet tours, and in 2015, the hotel industry's first fully branded private jet - the Four Seasons Jet - began transporting guests around-the-world on themed regional tours, with stays at Four Seasons hotels and resorts. Each year a new itinerary is announced, with explorations in new parts of the world and offering a range of Extraordinary Experiences.
Also in 2015, Four Seasons introduced its official App, making it easier for guests to check-in and out, book airport transfers and make dining reservations, all by the touch of a phone. In 2017, the mobile experience was further enhanced through the introduction of Four Seasons Chat, an award-winning platform that allows guests to connect with Four Seasons staff on their preferred messaging platform before, during, and after their stay, in more than 100 languages. Powered by Four Seasons people rather than a chatbot, Four Seasons Chat combines high-tech capabilities with high-touch service to deliver a personalised experience at all stages of the guest journey.
A first in the global portfolio, Four Seasons introduced the Maldives private island in 2016, joining existing properties at Kuda Huraa, Landaa Giraavaru, and Four Seasons Explorer, a three-deck catamaran that embarks on overnight cruises, exploring the beautiful undiscovered waters of the Maldives.
The Secret of Success
The company’s finest achievement is the people it attracts: “Early in the company’s history we decided to focus on redefining luxury as service, and that became our strategic edge,” explains Sharp. “To deliver on that promise, we realised we needed to harness the ‘best of the best’ – employees who are dedicated, committed and inspired to deliver great service.”
Several decades ago, Four Seasons introduced a mission statement based on The Golden Rule: To treat others as we’d wish to be treated ourselves. “The Golden Rule guides our interactions with our guests, our business partners and investors, but most importantly – with each other,” says Sharp. “We also believe in investing in our employees and promoting from within. Many of our senior managers began their careers with Four Seasons and continue to be culture ambassadors.”
As a result, Four Seasons has been included in FORTUNE magazine’s ranking of the best companies to work for in America for 21 consecutive years. Four Seasons was also named a “Great Place to Work Legend,” having been recognised on the list every year since its inception in 1998. The company consistently earns top rankings in traveller and industry surveys, reviews and awards, including the Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards; Condé Nast Traveler and Condé Nast Traveller UK, China, and Middle East Awards, Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star designation; and DestinAsian Reader’s Choice Awards.