The ultimate place for all seasons

With 116 hotels under its belt, the group continues to grow with 1 mixed-use development opened last November in KL

By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By ARIF KARTONO

FOR the well-travelled, one of the most preferred hotels would certainly be the Four Seasons.

The Four Seasons Hotels Group, which had its beginning in Toronto, Canada, in 1960, has, in recent years, been on an expansion spree.

This year alone, the chain is expected to open nine hotels including one in Bangkok and Napa Valley, California.

With 116 hotels under its belt, the group continues to grow, and its presence in Malaysia is represented by one outlet in Langkawi and another in Kuala Lumpur (KL) which was opened last November.

The Four Seasons KL is part of the KL City Centre complex which encompasses 40ha of upscale shopping, dining and nightlife.

Four Seasons in Malaysia
GM Tom Roelens said the very first Four Seasons in Malaysia was opened in Langkawi about 14 years ago and has since become well-known in the hotel industry as an ultra-luxury destination hotel.

Roelens says the team is always on the lookout for new things, instead of tweaking something that has been done already

He told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a recent interview that the hotel in KL is the group’s 111th property.

“It’s really a worldwide expansion that is taking place for our group. We looked for the right developer and partners in KL and we are now able to open in a prime location,” he said.

Roelens said the mixed-use development is very unique because it features shopping and retail, luxury serviced apartments and residences which make it a very exciting property in the heart of the city.

“Our residences have been for sale since the launch of the project. About 80% have been bought and people are actively moving in now. At the same time, the luxury apartments are an extension of the hotel’s services,” Roelens said.

He said the apartments are fully fitted with a kitchen and laundry area for short- or long-term stays.

“Some guests have committed to a few years, basically calling Four Seasons home, with access to the pool, gym, spa and the dining offerings, making it nice and unique,” he said.

There are 27 serviced apartments and 242 private residences, while the hotel consists of 198 guest rooms and 11 suites.

According to Roelens, it’s been over four years since the foundations were laid, and the hotel officially opened its doors with 380 staff.

“We have seen strong adoption from the Malaysian market…truly a great first year. The occupancy rate has been very encouraging and we are actually ahead of projection in terms of room nights,” he said.

Roelens noted that Four Seasons KL’s No 1 audience are Malaysians, followed by guests from the Asean region.

“This tells us a lot and we are proud of that. Guests come here not just to stay, but also for dining. Since KL is traditionally a relatively corporate market, we’ve seen strong adoption from the banking world, oil and gas companies and others,” he said.

Dining
Roelens said Four Seasons KL’s eateries and dining spots became established in a relatively short time.

For instance, Bar Trigona had a great start, winning Asia’s most sustainable bar in Asia’s 50 Best Bars this year.

(The bar’s name is derived from the stingless Trigona species of bees).

“Winning an award within six months of opening is unheard of. So we are very happy about it. Other than that, the Executive Lounge has created a name for itself in terms of lunch and dinner, but in particular, afternoon tea.

“It has partnered different players in the luxury segment, but Afternoon Tea with Tiffany’s stands out. This was a first for the luxury jeweller to work with a brand outside of their own, marking it as a world premiere,” Roelens said.

Four Seasons has partnered different players in the luxury segment and 1 of them is Afternoon Tea with Tiffany’s

Meanwhile, Curate, an all-day buffet restaurant, has had a strong start in its lifestyle membership feature which was launched in KL this year.

“There are different tiers of membership that Four Seasons KL offers, in which guests are given certain discounts for restaurants. People are eager to enjoy these benefits and actively use us,” Roelens said.

Another restaurant, Yun House, has already garnered a number of awards for being the leading Cantonese-inspired restaurant in KL.

“There is a strong culinary team and we have many plans for an exclusive Michelin Star Week with Executive Chef Charles Cheung of Zi Yat Heen, the renowned Cantonese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Macao.

“Together they will be creating an indulgent gourmet feast this month,” he said.

Roelens said the hotel has been able to do things differently, thanks to its strong team.

“An example is the King of Cognac meal, The LOUIS XIII Experience, a menu pairing between the finest cognac and the legendary LOUIS XIII, and Yun House,” he said.

Roelens said the team is always on the lookout for new things, instead of tweaking something that has been done already.

“This translates to our offerings, food and beverages, wine, whiskey and our cocktail list. Our cocktails especially, cannot be found anywhere else. It is truly what our guests are looking for,” he said.

From Rooms to Jets
Roelens said the Four Seasons Private Jet, which was launched three years ago, was a result of all the direct feedback from guests from all over the world. It has also been successfully sold out multiple times for its itineraries.

“Guests told us they thoroughly enjoyed staying with Four Seasons but there was always a disconnect between flight and hotel, even on first and business classes.

“We listened and heard what people wanted. The idea is that you’re going around the world with Four Seasons along with our concierge, our chefs — our whole team.

“Not every destination will have a Four Seasons, but the whole experience still allows people to remain in that bubble and be taken care of,” Roelens said.

The next generation of a private jet is currently being built and will be launched next year, alongside a different range of itineraries which will include gorilla watching in Rwanda and visiting Easter Island in Polynesia, which is not easily accessible.

“It started off as an around the world trip, then Four Seasons Asia, Four Seasons America and they were all sold out. Different itineraries are being offered now, and we are positive.

“One of the best compliments the group has got is the return factor, where guests have done one trip and now come back with their kids or grandkids as well,” Roelens said.

Sustainability
Roelens said the hotel’s sustainability factors start from the building itself and how it is managed in terms of rooms and energy saving.

“For instance, a smart guest room will have certain settings depending on the usage and routine to conserve energy.

“Curtains may close, so sunlight is kept out and this would reduce heat and moderate air conditioning of the room,” he said.

He added that it is an aspect which is continuously being enhanced according to its structures while finding different ways to minimise impacts on the environment.

Branding for the Future
As an ultra-luxury brand, Roelens said the ultimate key to success is built on intuitive service and listening to what guests across the world want, before playing into it.

Bar Trigona won Asia’s most sustainable bar in Asia’s 50 Best Bars this year

“It’s about understanding why a guest may want to do something in a particular way and how to enhance that experience. For example, Four Seasons has one reservation team for both the KL and Langkawi hotels, making it a pit stop for bookings.

“We also launched a mobile app that allows guests to converse with the team in 100 different languages. Some guests may want to talk, so they can call us, but others may prefer minimal contacts, so texting is really great,”’ he said.

The hotel has also seen a number of wedding bookings since opening.

Roelens said the idea is to bring everyone, guests and staff alike, within the mold and culture of the brand, while staying focused on our guests and their experience throughout the stay.

“We always want to do better, whether it’s in service or offerings for food and beverages. We have been very excited to see the continuous growth with no stagnation, and we look forward to the exciting months ahead,” Roelens noted.