Prioritizing travelers' safety.
Cornelia Mitlmeier, Resort Manager at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, speaks with Contributing Editor Saja El Mishri to discuss the ways that the hospitality industry had to adapt since the onset of the pandemic. Will the future of travel look different for good? Find out below.
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Born and raised in Germany, Cornelia has come a long way from her beginnings as an apprentice in the food and beverage industry. Following her Diploma in Hospitality Management from Cologne, Mitlmeier obtained her MBA from Danube University Krems in Austria before embarking on her impressive career that took her from her home country Germany to Austria, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Japan and most recently Lebanon.
She joins Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach from Four Seasons Hotel Beirut, where she has spent the last year at the helm of this 230 room hotel, overseeing the day-to-day operations of rooms, spa, five distinct restaurants and lounges and strengthening the overall guest experience.
Prior to her first Four Seasons position, Cornelia held roles at The Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo, The Ritz-Carlton in Almaty, the Adlon Kempinski Berlin as well as several other renowned luxury hotels across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
1. Since the hospitality industry relies on tourism, how did Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach survive the travel lockdowns to Dubai in 2020?
There is no overstating how difficult the onset of the pandemic was on the whole hospitality industry in the UAE. Yet, when you have a passionate team with strong bonds, you are able to face adversity as a closely-knit family. Even before thinking of how to respond to the business challenges posed by the pandemic, we directed our attention to keeping our guests and our team members safe. We made a commitment to be very responsive to updates from the health authorities and adapted well to apply safety measures. We feel this excellent response was visible on a global scale and especially so with UAE residents, who trusted that staycations with us would offer them the luxury and connective experiences that they have grown to love, with all the necessary precautions taken for their safety.
From a commercial sense, we rolled out The Resident’s Key campaign, which offered UAE residents unique benefits and rates that can be redeemed by simply chatting with us on Whatsapp or through the Four Seasons app. We truly valued them and offered perks such as room upgrades, generous dining value additions and more. In return they valued us back and trusted us enough to stay with us. Now with more travel markets opening up, we still value our UAE based guests very highly and we continue to offer our Resident Key experiences.
2. How do you project the vaccine rollout will affect the hotel industry? Have you noticed a positive correlation between inoculations and room occupancies?
It does make absolute sense that a successful vaccination roll-out increases consumer confidence in Dubai and the UAE as a safe travel destination. We have one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives and this places us amongst the most desirable travel destinations of the world. It is difficult to attribute a correlation between inoculation levels and occupancies at this moment as the destination in general has had a consistently high performance for the past few months. This would be better investigated on a macro level, with all Dubai hotels and general increase in tourism travel.
3. How has the pandemic affected the luxury hospitality industryas a whole? What has been the most significant change?
The pandemic has definitely placed pressure on all businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector to be as efficient as possible. It is no secret that these industries have been hit hard and are currently in a recovery phase. There is a pressure on these businesses to make up for lost profits and to do so, many resort to cutting costs in places that affect the guest experience. As a luxury resort, we have of course had to adapt and operate under a new paradigm. What has not changed though, is the definition of luxury. Luxury seekers still demand the highest of standards and the best of the best. While we have had to learn to do things differently and adapt to a tougher business environment, our DNA hasn’t changed. No corners are cut when it comes to delivering guest satisfaction. So to sum it up, I would say what changed is the environment that we operate in, but not us.
"To sum it up, I would say what changed is the environment that we operate in, but not us."
Image Source: Four Seasons Dubai – photography by Ken Seet
4. People are not used to sharing public spaces anymore. How will hotel structures change post pandemic? For example, will we see more all-inclusive rooms e.g. with their own pools? Are buffets no longer a thing?
Definitely at the moment it makes sense to see demand for more airy and private spaces and facilities. Whether this will be a permanent preference is yet to be seen. We are social beings by nature, and coming out of lockdowns may also create the desire to interact with others, albeit in a safe space.
5. What service elements do guests expect to receive from a 5 star hotel in 2021?
Reliability, care, passion and flexibility. The basics of a luxury stay haven’t changed, but now more than ever, a vacation means more than just a casual getaway. People crave connection and are looking for moments that they can carry with them even beyond their stay.
6. What does Four Seasons do around the world to ensure a comfortable experience for its customers?
As we look ahead to the future of hospitality and travel, we are implementing full-scale enhancements to our already stringent procedures through our global health and safety program, Lead With Care.
Grounded in health care expertise and enabled by access to leading experts, technologies and tools, Lead With Care sets out clear procedures that educate and empower employees to take care of guests and each other. The program focuses on providing care, confidence and comfort within the new COVID-19 environment and beyond.
We’ve also entered into a consulting agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine International, the global division of health care and research leader Johns Hopkins Medicine, to inform Four Seasons health and safety decisions during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Four Seasons has also established a dedicated COVID-19 Advisory Board, bringing together Four Seasons leadership and top experts to inform health and safety decisions based on the latest scientific knowledge.
Evolving in lockstep with rapidly changing discoveries, the COVID-19 Advisory Board creates, enhances and reviews current procedures, along with virtual and in-person training to guide implementation of Lead With Care across Four Seasons global portfolio.
In addition, Four Seasons continues to invest in its award-winning App and Chat that further allows guests to control how they engage with others – limiting face-to-face interactions while maintaining the highest levels of personal service.
Any of our guests willing to learn more about our Lead With Care program can visit https://www.fourseasons.com/leadwithcare/
About the Editor
UK native Saja is deeply motivated by emerging social and political concerns around sustainability. The young freelance writer enjoys writing about the intersection of sustainability, fashion and social justice.