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Professor Roger Hallowell of Harvard Business School; David Bowen, Dean, Faculty and Programs, and Professor, Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management; and Carin-Isabel Knoop, Executive Director, Global Research Group (HBS) prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.
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R O G E R H A L L O W E L L
D A V I D B O W E N
C A R I N - I S A B E L K N O O P
Four Seasons Goes to Paris: "53 Properties, 24 Countries, 1 Philosophy"
Europe is different from North America, and Paris is very different. I did not say difficult. I said different.
- A senior Four Seasons manager
In 2002, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts was arguably the world's leading operator of luxury hotels, managing 53 properties in 24 countries and delivering what observers called "consistently exceptional service." For Four Seasons, that meant providing high-quality, truly personalized service to enable guests to maximize the value of their time, however the guest defined doing so.
In 1999, Four Seasons opened the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris (hereafter, "F. S. George V"), its first French property, by renovating and operating the Hotel George V, a historic Parisian landmark. Doing so was, according to John Young, executive vice president, human resources, "one of our great challenges and triumphs." Young mused on what Four Seasons had learned from opening a hotel in France, wondering what lessons would be applicable to other openings given the firm's growth plans, which suggested that new opportunities would be largely outside North America. (Exhibit 1 illustrates property locations in 2002.)
Four Seasons generally operated (as opposed to owned) midsized luxury hotels and resorts. From 1996 through 2000 (inclusive), Four Seasons revenues increased at a compound rate of 22.6% per year. Operating margins increased from 58.8% to 67.9% during the same period. Four Seasons' 2001 revenue per room (RevPAR) was 32% higher than that of its...