In an opulent realm of luxury hospitality, where every detail is meticulously curated and elegance knows no bounds, there emerges a luminary who effortlessly embodies the essence of sophistication and excellence. Meet Adrian Messerli, President of Hotel Operations, EMEA, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, a visionary at the helm of one of the world's most renowned and opulent hotel brands. From palace hotels in Europe to glittering skyscrapers in the Middle East to hideaway beach resorts in Africa, he is tasked with overseeing Four Seasons hotel operations across a diverse portfolio of more than 40 operating properties and 20 under development.
A journey that started in 2005 with Four Seasons, Adrian's experience has been a tapestry woven with threads of passion, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to redefine hospitality and how it is crafted for each person at Four Seasons. Adrian's 18-year sojourn transcends a mere professional trajectory; it's a narrative of belonging and contribution. "Our company offers more than just a job; it provides a sense of belonging," he affirms.
Adrian has been a maestro in in orchestrating unparalleled guest experiences, he navigates the brand with a finesse that mirrors Four Season’s iconic commitment to perfection. Under his stewardship, FS has become synonymous with a lifestyle that transcends the ordinary, offering a sanctuary where every moment is well-crafted.
Adrian is a connoisseur of the finer things in life, seamlessly blending an appreciation for art, culture, and fashion and it is quite evident from the way he talks about the brand and that’s “all about people”. In an exclusive conversation we explore the the inspirations that fuel his vision, the nuances that define the Four Seasons experience, and the secrets behind crafting a world where luxury becomes a way of life.
You have had a remarkable career with Four Seasons, spanning various regions globally. Could you share more insights into your journey within the company, and what qualities make you well- suited for the role of President, Hotel Operations – EMEA?
After 18 years with Four Seasons, the one thing that is most clear to me is that our company offers more than just a job; it provides a sense of belonging, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to strengthening an already firmly built foundation.
Our employees, and their dedication to genuine care, makes all the difference in luxury hospitality and I am incredibly proud and energized to be taking on this new leadership role across EMEA.
Over the past almost two decades with Four Seasons, I’ve been privileged to work across all three regions: EMEA, the Americas, and Asia Pacific, gaining experience in wide-ranging properties – from palace hotels in Europe to glittering skyscrapers in the Middle East to hideaway beach resorts in Africa. Most recently, I led the opening of Four Seasons Hotel Madrid – our first property in Spain, in addition to oversight of several of our hotels in the region.
EMEA is such an incredibly diverse region and I hope that my experience at our properties in Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Seychelles, Lisbon, and Madrid, combined with the opportunity I have had to work with our teams, guests, and owners around the world will allow me to continue to help advance and support the amazing people who bring the Four Seasons experience to life each day.
In such a leadership role, I have the opportunity to work with so many specialists – all of whom are experts in their craft and operate at a completely different level. It’s my role to bring everyone together and make sure the word on the street reflects the true talent of our team.
With 60+ years of experience delivering highly personalized experiences and a service culture grounded in empathy and compassion, Four Seasons is well-equipped to deliver a standard of luxury defined by humanity, generosity, and emotion.
What is the main driver of hospitality?
Hospitality is broadly known as a service industry, yet for Four Seasons, hospitality is a people industry – Four Seasons is a brand powered by our people.
In August 2022, we launched a new creative platform – Based on a True Stay – that represents an authentic evolution of the brand. Inspired by true acts of unscripted care and generosity that have taken place at properties worldwide, it articulates who we are today and where we are going tomorrow. With this new creative, we are leaning into our brand ethos and communicating it in a heightened and surprising way.
Our Based on a True Stay creative perfectly blends real-life guest experiences with the flair and imagination of our brand, evoking the feeling of luxury with genuine heart that remains at the core of every Four Seasons experience. It is a campaign developed from our guest insights that reveal genuine heart as the key driver in guest feedback.
At Four Seasons, our philosophy is that the guest should be at the center of all decision-making.
True "luxury" has markedly changed. It is not about stuffy, impersonal service and over-the-top opulence. It is now about an unabashed focus on how people want to be treated, on the simple elegance of radical empathy - consumers are craving connections to companies whose business is rooted authentically in their brand purpose.
The luxury customer is changing in both demographics and expectations. Our guest demographic is evolving towards younger, more diverse guests who are passionate about social and environmental issues and have an expectation that brands will mirror these values. Expectations are also shifting towards a convenient and personalized journey across all brand touchpoints.
Customers expect a seamless high-tech/high-touch experience across their journey. Customer expectations around technology are higher than ever. They prefer digital interactions throughout their travel journey and shift seamlessly from offline to online channels at a whim, all with a personal touch.
For Four Seasons, the App and Chat have been popular platforms since launch. Our Chat offering is the only one that doesn’t resort to the use of a chatbot – we have real Four Seasons people on property behind each chat. While there may be AI innovations in the future that help enhance this offering, it will always be ultimately powered by our people.
How is the regional industry currently faring compared to other markets?
2023 has been a strong year for EMEA. Off the back of 2022, we have continued to see high levels of demand for our properties in the region as global travelers continue to embrace their love of travel and desire to explore both new and treasured destinations.
With the more gradual easing of travel restrictions, Asia has once again become more accessible to many this year. As a result, the continent has attracted huge interest from global travelers who are keen to return to city and resort destinations alike. Yet even with these expanded travel routes returning, the diversity of destinations seen in EMEA has ensured that it continues to hold appeal for so many and the desire to travel to the region remains strong.
Just three weeks ago we opened our newest property in the region, with the launch of Four Seasons Hotels and Residences, The Pearl-Qatar. This incredible property is situated in one of the GCC’s most exciting new communities and offers apartment-style accommodations, world-class dining, extensive family programming, and luxurious leisure amenities.
Overall, leisure business continues to lead as our core business segment, although we are seeing an increase from the group and corporate segments.
As an overall trend, we have seen increasing lead times for bookings across the region, with international reservations already looking strong for the first quarter of 2024.
What are the key markets for Four Seasons in the Middle East and how will you be supporting the brand growth?
The Middle East is an incredibly important market for Four Seasons. This is both in terms of our brand presence through our hotels, resorts, and residential offerings and as a region that represents a key source market for our guests.
With 40 properties in the wider EMEA region, we have been able to achieve strong brand awareness, yet it is through the quality of the genuine care in our service that we have been able to also establish a high brand preference.
While we see guests from across the Middle East staying with us in our properties, our top markets are currently Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.
In addition to domestic and inter-regional stays, travelers from the Middle East are a key source market for many of our properties around the world - from our beautiful Indian Ocean resorts in Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius, our historical European palace hotels, which includes George V, Paris, San Domenico Palace, Taormina, and the Gresham Palace in Budapest, as well as international cities such as Washington and Seoul.
Here in Dubai, we celebrated the opening of this flagship property in 2014, closely followed by Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre in 2016. In 2021, when we announced our standalone Four Seasons Private Residences Dubai at Jumeirah, all 28 units sold out before going to public sales – the first time in our 38-year residential history.
What can you tell us about some of the most promising ideas and projects you are currently working on?
There is an exciting pipeline of projects underway for EMEA, with 2024 poised to mark the opening of multiple properties, including our third hotel in Morocco, in the country’s capital of Rabat; Mallorca, with the transformation of the former Hotel Formentor; along with Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Jeddah at the Corniche.
As we focus on our future expansion in the region, we are thrilled to announce a series of dynamic projects. These include developments at various stages among our current portfolio of 20 properties, namely:
• Egypt – Luxor and Cairo New Capital
• Saudi Arabia - Jeddah, Diriyah, NEOM's Sindalah Island, and Red Sea’s Shura Island
• A seaside resort in Puglia
• The conversion of the historic Hotel Danieli in Venice, Italy
• A new development in Muscat, Oman
To continue leading our industry, we must always reach higher, innovating the ways in which we showcase our brand. As our founder Isadore Sharp said: “It’s the pursuit of excellence that allows you to never be complacent, to always say, ‘What else should we be doing?”
To truly recognize our customers, placing them at the center of all decision making, requires a strong corporate culture and purpose that empowers employees to deliver a level of unscripted, personalized care – a form of service excellence combined with digital savvy that will define the future of luxury.
At Four Seasons, we have been honing and evolving this notion for more than 60 years. And as we continue to evolve our brand, we find ourselves at a fascinating inflection point in the modern luxury industry; more than ever, consumers are craving connections to companies whose businesses are rooted authentically in their brand DNA and purpose.
Through our ability to deliver simple acts of unscripted care that creates a sense of belonging, we aim to transform a one-time transaction into lifetime connections with our brand.