Esther Oh Kostecky
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 1999
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Front Desk Receptionist, Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
- Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia (formerly a Four Seasons hotel); Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti; Bilila Lodge, Serengeti National Park; Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel; Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto; Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco; The Pierre (formerly a Four Seasons hotel), New York; Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
- Seoul, Korea
- Bachelor of Science, Hotel Administration, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- Korean, English
Esther Oh Kostecky had an inkling that she’d end up at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul one day. More than that, she had encouragement. “I joined the company in 1999 after our Founder Isadore Sharp visited Korea and said he wanted to open a hotel when everything fell into place,” she remembers. During her initial job interview, Oh Kostecky was informed the company would be interested in placing Korean talent at the property, though the wait might be a couple of years. In the end, “It took 15 years. But actually, the timing ended up being perfect for me and my career,” says Oh Kostecky.
After getting her start in hospitality at the front desk of Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Oh Kostecky spent the intervening decade-and-a-half working her way up through Rooms Divisions. The first international posting, and most likely, most remotely, was the role of opening Director of Lodge Projects at Four Seasons first Safari Lodge in the Serengeti. She says, “the Serengeti project really opened my eyes to the bigger picture of how to position a property as the best utilising limited resources in an extremely remote location.”
Then in Seoul, Oh Kostecky joined the opening team as Director of Rooms. By summer 2016, she had been promoted Hotel Manager. “When the opportunity came, I took it,” she says. “I thought the position was the perfect way to challenge myself and go to the next level.”
As Hotel Manager, Oh Kostecky is responsible for all operations, including Rooms, Food and Beverage, Security and the Spa, as well the private membership of Four Seasons Club Seoul, which offers access to the Hotel’s world-class Health, Fitness and Lifestyle facilities plus members-only events. With her language skills, Kostecky is also a conduit between international and local staff, as well as a “cultural carrier,” promoting the company and its culture on the local hotel scene. “When we opened, Four Seasons was not well known in Korea, so our initial focus on brand recognition, spreading the message that working with Four Seasons means working with the best,” says Oh Kostecky.
Oh Kostecky believes that “the people element” is what differentiates Four Seasons from competitors in the market. Personal behavior, attitude and development are all part of training. “We do not do things with a scripted manual like many hotels here, but encourage our staff to think on their own,” she says. That is empowering for employees and, in the end, rewarding for staff and guests alike. “Many international guests comment that they feel our property is an oasis in Korea. They feel right at home here, and that really makes me feel good.”
Hospitality is an atypical career choice in Korea, says Oh Kostecky. “Everyone here really wants to be a doctor or a lawyer. My parents wanted the same for me, but I always wanted to do something no one else did.” While that may sound romantically rebellious, she actually fell into the industry by coincidence: “Hotel administration was first thing on the list of majors at school, so that is what I chose.” Her “one and only interview with Four Seasons” before receiving her diploma resulted in an offer, and she started at the Front Desk for Four Seasons in Beverly Hills immediately after graduation.
Asked to name her favourite aspect of Four Seasons Hotel Seoul, Oh Kostecky starts with the city view from the rooftop, but then quickly changes to the lobby. “I like to call it ‘my lobby,’” she says with a laugh. “That is where I get to interact with guests, and make sure that everyone gets to see the things that I love most about Seoul. The guest experience is my number one priority, and that is how the conversations start every day.”