The new Four Seasons coffee table book
“Luxury service at its core has nothing to do with gold leaf, thread count, state-of-the-art spa facilities, welcome drinks, or Michelin stars,” observes Pilar Guzmán in the introduction to Four Seasons: The Art Of Hospitality. “All these bells and whistles are table stakes, signifiers of luxury in today’s high-end hospitality arms race. True luxury has everything, however, to do with people.”
The book aims to capture what Four Seasons’ people bring to the group’s hotels and resorts – in short, its renowned service ethos – through a collection of 125 paintings by the Barcelona-based artist Ignasi Monreal. They are colourful, humourous, whimsical – and their sense of personality reflects the crucial difference between good staff and excellent staff. The latter are not only good at the mechanics of service, but have that much-harder-to-hire-for emotional intelligence and savoir faire. Guzmán offers some examples from her own experiences: the housekeeper who notices that your toothpaste is running low and leaves out a new tube; the bellman that shows you how the idiosyncratic lighting system works (useful) rather than showing you where the bathroom is (as if you couldn’t have found it yourself); the staff who would leave your morning coffee outside your door, knock and then leave, rather than inviting themselves into your room while your other half lies awkwardly in bed.
Then there are the people who you never see: the managers who foster a culture of happiness among the staff, and those behind-the-scenes hands who make the hotel run as smoothly as it does. In the book, Monreal recalls a visit to the Four Seasons Punta Mita. “Two thousand palm trees have to be trimmed and the leaves removed so that the guest rooms have views of the water,” he says of the Punta Mita resort’s meticulously maintained gardens, “but you never see anyone doing it because they are gone before guests wake up.”