Nowadays, in any industry, it’s becoming a rarity to come across an executive who’s been with a single company for more than 10 years. Andrew Miele, a Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts executive, has been with the hotel company his entire career, and he still has plenty of work to get done.
More than 11 years ago, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in hospitality operations management from Niagara College in Canada, he began his journey with Four Seasons as a finance manager in training. He became a development analyst in August 2008; a development manager in January 2012; and nearly four years ago, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, the hotel group he’d been with his entire professional career, appointed him to his current post, director of development, Americas, where, based in Miami, he has been responsible for growing and strengthening the company’s portfolio of hotels and resorts across the region.
Hotel Business caught up with Miele to learn more about where the hospitality group is focusing its hotel development efforts; dig up the challenges his team is currently facing; and find out his thoughts on work/life balance, Airbnb and industry trends.
How have you seen Four Seasons evolve over the years? Four Seasons has remained remarkably consistent in its strategy that’s based on the simple notion of incrementally elevating our guests’ experience. Executions of this strategy include launching of the Four Seasons App, creation of an Elite Guest program that recognizes our most valued guests, as well as constant improvement with employee engagement and retention.
Extensions of our brand have also been a focus to capture guests throughout their travel lifecycle. A recent example of this is our partnership with NetJets, as well as launching the Four Seasons Private Jet, which provides a handful of month-long itineraries curated entirely by Four Seasons in different regions of the world.
What are your thoughts on work/life balance? I believe we will always be out of balance in some aspect of our life at any given time. The goal is not to be out of balance in that area for too long and to swing the pendulum back. There may be a couple of weeks when you weren’t able to exercise due to extensive work travel, but when you get the time to do so, it becomes a priority, potentially at the cost of other things you would like to do.
What type of development has Four Seasons been focusing its efforts on? We have focused our development efforts in three areas: First, to expand our presence in those gateway cities with distinct and differentiated submarkets that can support two Four Seasons properties. A recent example of this is Boston, where we will be opening our second property in Back Bay next year. Second, we have been successful in securing high-quality conversion opportunities in several strategic resort markets including Oahu, Anguilla and the Ocean Club in Nassau, Bahamas. Lastly, we have been familiarizing ourselves, and building a strategy around, redefining luxury in regional growth cities that are beginning to demonstrate the appropriate demand characteristics to do so.
Where in the Americas is Four Seasons developing? Pipeline growth has been quite balanced across the Americas. There continues to be a healthy amount of interest and appetite from the capital markets and developer community for luxury in the United States, as well as Canada, and in key Mexican resort markets, such as Los Cabos and Riviera Maya. Our effort to expand into South America is also bearing fruit with a recent opening in Bogota, the opening of our first hotel in Brazil later this year in Sao Paulo, as well as a new property on the horizon in Cartagena.
With regard to development, what are some of the challenges your team has been facing? As we look to redefine luxury in the regional growth cities, we continue to strive to find the appropriate balance between program and product requirement and development cost to ensure these decisions are market and demand specific. A practical example of this is the need, or not, for soaking tubs in every standard room in every market. While in the past this may have been a standard, today, in certain corporate-oriented markets, there is not a market need and, therefore, no economic rationale.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I was told, when facing any issue, “Don’t ask why this is happening to me, ask why this is happening for me.” [This] changes your perspective from potentially negative to almost always positive.
What are some industry trends you’re keeping an eye on this year and next year? The landscape for vacation home rentals has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, introducing a variety of new distribution channels to homeowners to market their units for rent when they are not occupying them. This creates a level of competition with our own brand-managed rental programs in resort destinations that did not previously exist. How we plan around this evolving part of the business is a trend we are working to stay ahead of and manage accordingly.
What are your thoughts on Airbnb? I will be curious to watch how far they lean into traditional hotel and amenity services in order to evolve the brand as an accommodation company.
What’s in the works for Four Seasons in 2019? 2019 will be a record year for openings in the Americas for Four Seasons. It is a great mix of strategic and opportunistic markets and urban and resort. They include Los Cabos (on the East Cape), Montreal (our return after more than 30 years), Philadelphia (returning to the city as part of the iconic Comcast Tower), Napa (in Calistoga, with a working winery on site) and Boston (our second in the city). These will all be product- and brand-enhancing additions to the portfolio, as well as introducing new owner partners to the family. HB