Simon Casson, president of hotel operations in the Emea region for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, will be speaking with April Hutchinson for the next episode of In Conversation With ... TTG Luxury.
Casson oversees the group’s hotel operations across a portfolio that ranges from palace hotels in Europe to shining skyscrapers in the Middle East and a safari lodge in Africa.
Known for his huge focus on the people who work within the hotels, he has a well-earned reputation for developing talent and has been with the group since 1989, first starting as an assistant manager with what is now the Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane.
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Much like anyone, this year has been a rollercoaster for Casson and the hotels he oversees across the Emea region.
In May, the company was one of the first luxury groups to roll out a comprehensive Covid protocol initiative, Lead With Care, and has also since created Welcome Back, a centralised place to find the latest information about property reopenings and current availability, including any temporary changes to on-property experience.
Casson says he views his role, and that of every Four Seasons employee, as a brand ambassador, “exceeding the expectations of even the most well-travelled guests with the customised service and individual experiences that will continue to be the cornerstone of the company’s success”.
“The simple desire to make people happy is one of the most important attributes of a Four Seasons employee,” he says.
In 2005, Casson opened Four Seasons Hotel Doha, and was promoted to regional vice-president in 2011 before moving to Dubai for the brand’s first opening in UAE in 2014. He still lives in Dubai, having been promoted to his current position in 2016.
UK-born, he says that as a teen washing dishes in a busy restaurant kitchen in the north of England, he was always intrigued by what he saw through the swinging door. “I vowed then and there that I would be part of that world one day – not as a customer, but as someone who made that excitement happen.”
His educational path started out at Barry College of Catering and Hotel Administration in Wales, and includes the General Manager Program at Cornell University in New York, while he also has an honorary degree from Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland, and is a founding board member of the Enderun Hospitality Management school in the Philippines.
Under his watch this year, the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences Madrid opened in the summer. The long-anticipated Spanish debut for the brand is part of a collection of seven restored historic buildings in the heart of the capital, including a restaurant by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Dani Garcia.
Next year, the brand’s European activity includes unveiling a new version of San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel – a legendary hotel now under its management.
Other regional highlights include a new Anne-Sophie Pic restaurant for the Megeve hotel which will reopen later in January; a fresh look for Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet in Istanbul, a refresh at UK favourite Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, and fresh design work by Patricia Urquiola at the group’s Milan property.
“We have so much to talk about – I can’t even explain,” said April Hutchinson. “It’s fair to say that I am a career-long fan of this amazing brand, and having interviewed Simon at one of our events in the past, and knowing how much agents also love Four Seasons, I can’t wait to settle down with him for a wide ranging and interesting conversation; our last in this series for this very strange year!”