Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2017
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa; Mactan Island Shangri-La Resort & Spa; Boathouse, Phuket; Trisara, Phuket; The Sukhothai Hotel, Bangkok; Peninsula Properties and Clubs - The Repulse Bay Hong Kong, Head Office Hong Kong and Shanghai; G’s Club Shanghai and Forty-One Hengshan Road, InterContinental Grand Stanford Harbour View, Hong Kong; The Bostonian, Hong Kong Renaissance Hotel
- Besancon, France
- Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Lausanne Hotel School, Switzerland
- French, English, Spanish, basic Mandarin
“There is really nothing else like it here at this time.” That’s Marie-Laure Fleury on the level of hospitality she helped introduce to Tunisia and now oversees as Hotel Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Tunis. One of the property’s three original team members, Fleury recalls the main concern of her first-ever opening experience was recruiting people with the talent, mindset and personality Four Seasons is renowned for. “We had to be tough and demanding, but it paid off. The people we’ve found are fantastic, with a lot of our applicants having had some international experience prior to joining us, which is a great asset, as it means they are open to new experiences, different cultures and are experienced in how other minds work.”
Her role, she continues, “is to ensure that the operation runs smoothly.” The training of talent has been key to that. “There is really no scrimping on training. But our recruits are hungry to learn, so there is no problem.” She describes her management style as “very communicative, demanding but fair,” and her personal style as “close.” Recognising that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, she endeavours to be available and never makes a decision without discussing it first unless operational urgency demands it. “I come from a food and beverage background, where people in charge tend to like things done their way, so sometimes I have to back off a bit. It’s more important for me to give people the opportunity to show what they can do with some gentle coercion from myself.”
Fleury pinpoints the dining outlets and spa as high points of the Hotel, noting in particular the worldly talents brought by the Executive Chef and the French Executive Pastry Chef. “I think we’re making a statement with the stunning architecture of the Hotel, our food and beverage concepts and the overall guest experience we provide” she says. “Being able to deliver a Four Seasons level of service throughout is the big differentiator for us.” Meanwhile, joining the team in Tunis was a dream come true for Fleury. Actually, “I have been dreaming of working for Four Seasons for years, and I would’ve gone anywhere for the opportunity.”
Born near the Swiss border in eastern France and raised in the capital of the Champagne-Ardenne, Fleury grew up intent upon a career in hospitality but had no idea what she wanted to do. One of her uncles who was a pastry chef suggested she try hotel school to figure it out. “I visited the school in Lausanne in Switzerland and loved it. I was completely sold on getting into management.”
One problem, however: every hotelier with a long-term plan for his or her children was sold as well. The school informed her there was a waiting list of many years as a result. “Honestly,” she recalls, “that just made me hungrier to get in!” Turns out, she needn’t have worried. Six months after her tour, the waiting list was cancelled and the school began admitting students via an exam.
The three-year program, which she completed in 1992, included a semester-long internship in the food and beverage department of a hotel in Beijing. “This was at a time when Westerners like myself didn’t know a lot about Beijing and vice versa,” she recalls. “There were many challenges, but in the end a great sense of achievement for me. I really loved being overseas: the colours, the culture and the people – everything was so different.” She stayed 25 years in Asia, with assorted management-level postings in food and beverage at highly rated properties in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia.
Now Fleury is right where she wants to be: engaged by her dream hotel company; close to her family, about half of whom reside in nearby Morocco; and enjoying discovering Tunis with her husband and two children. “This brought me back to my roots and closer to home,” she says, noting the near-European warmth she feels in the city. “It’s almost like being in France. There are so many beautiful spots. The people are warm and friendly. And the country is very liberal and open on many levels. I’m very happy here.”