The Personal Touch: New Task Force Leader Shares Plans for the Future of Spa at Four Seasons

Simon Casson talks trends and innovation, plus details of a new global spa promotion

TORONTO, Feb. 12, 2013 /CNW/ - When Simon Casson refers to the personal touch, he's talking about more than his leadership style, or even the literal interaction between spa therapist and client.



"What sets Four Seasons Spas apart is a sense of caring and the intuitive attitude of our therapists. A treatment at a Four Seasons Spa is a memorable experience that is unique to every one of our guests," says Casson, who was recently appointed Chair of the company's 20-member Global Spa Task Force. In his new role, he also retains his positions as Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Doha.

In response to the numerous industry and traveller accolades the brand and its spas continue to accumulate – including SpaFinder's Best Spa Brand for several years running, and recently, The SPA Traveller's Most Popular Hotel, Resort and Spa Group - he notes that each Four Seasons Spa is unique, indigenous and authentic. "I believe that's where we have an edge – in addition to returning to the same Four Seasons Spas where they have already received excellent service, our guests are travelling the world with the knowledge that wherever they go, the experience will be a distinct reflection of the locale."

As the world's largest spa operator, one thing remains consistent throughout: "The one constant at a Four Seasons Spa is the quality of service. In that way, the awards and recognition really belong to our skilled therapists, and the professional and imaginative Spa Directors who lead the effort around the world," he says, noting that Four Seasons Spa Directors are given a wide mandate, from drawing up menus of services and hiring new talent to negotiating relationships with spa brands they feel will best cater to their clientele.

Trending: Let's Spa Together
"One thing we're seeing now is that people like to spa together. Solo experiences are still the norm, but increasingly our guests are booking double suites for side by side treatments, and we're getting more requests from groups or a few friends who want to do something together," says Casson.

Right now, Four Seasons is offering groups the chance to relax, reconnect and reenergize with the Spa Escape Offer. Groups of three or more receive a complimentary food and beverage credit with minimum purchase at participating spas.

The Future of Spa at Four Seasons
Where will the company's spa leaders, under the guidance of the Global Task Force, take Four Seasons Spas in future? Casson is focussing on several areas of importance:

People: Four Seasons, recently named to FORTUNE's 100 Best Companies to Work For for the 16th straight year, continues to place priority on investment in its people. Several years ago, the company created a first-of-its-kind apprenticeship system. "Our Spa Career Development Program identifies potential in the trenches. It provides comprehensive, customized training for as long as a year in locations around the world to prepare candidates to become leaders in their own markets. To date, two dozen have graduated, and more are currently participating in the program," says Casson, noting that the initiative is "absolutely essential" to the brand's leadership in spa.

Products and treatments: A recent example of partnering with the best spa brands includes the development of the Tropical Magnolia treatments and products with Sodashi, featuring the world's most expensive essential oil and now offered exclusively at a half dozen Four Seasons Spas. Working with other established leaders such as ila, an organic, ethically sourced and handmade skincare and spa line, as well as world renowned brands including Guerlain in Pudong, Shanghai, Four Seasons continues to deliver cutting edge therapies. Spa Directors are also introducing regional and emerging brands, such as Omorovicza in Budapest, and Ling in Hong Kong.

Along with offering many innovative non-invasive, results-driven therapies, Four Seasons has been exploring centuries-old traditions in various cultures, from Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Ayurvedic approach to total wellness, to Native American philosophies, the mystical legends of the coco de mer and even the ancient beauty secrets of Cleopatra. Organic lines, natural ingredients and sustainable practices will continue to be important as well.

Customization: "Increasingly, guests are invited to book a timeframe rather than a specific treatment, and then discuss their personal needs and wishes upon arrival so the therapist can make recommendations tailored just for that guest," says Casson.

Four Seasons also makes things easier for guests on the go, with online booking options and computerized scheduling that allow therapists to instantly access records and thus customize the treatment for guests.

Facilities: Inspiration is often found in history, such as the Spa in Paris that is decorated as a boudoir where Marie Antoinette would feel at home; the sumptuous Spa in Hangzhou on the shores of West Lake, for centuries a favourite playground of the emperors; or the colonial era in Nevis in the West Indies. In Santa Barbara, the Spa is designed in the California Mission style, while in a remote elephant camp in northern Thailand, rustic open air treatment pavilions were placed in the middle of the jungle.

Within each Spa, the offerings go well beyond serene treatment rooms and the more recent phenomenon of luxe VIP suites for two. In Doha, a colour therapy room, hydrotherapy pool, ice room and laconium bed complement the traditional offerings of saunas, steam rooms and swiss showers to create the most comprehensive Spa in the Middle East. In Istanbul and Baku, facilities include hammams for traditional bathing rituals, and in Beverly Hills, a dedicated nail salon ensures guests are red carpet ready.

Relevance: Each Four Seasons Spa draws on a broad spectrum of factors that influence design and product offerings. "Most of our urban hotels cater to a local audience as well as many return guests, so it's important to continue to offer new treatments and technologies. At our resorts, people often want to try something local and indigenous, so for example in Santa Fe, we have a meditative labyrinth, and in Langkawi, we've just opened the Geo Spa, inspired by the UNESCO Geopark that surrounds the resort," says Casson.

Beyond the walls: For many people, spa is no longer an occasional indulgence, but part of a total wellness approach. "We're extending the spa experience into many other areas of our hotels, and our guests' lives. For example, at our Spa and Ayurvedic Retreat in the Maldives, the program includes special menus in the Resort's restaurants, and in Westlake Village in California, we offer a regular schedule of classes in the Hotel's Wellness Kitchen. In Maui, an ongoing series brings in experts in sport, fitness, wellness and spa for multi-day immersions that have proven to be very popular."

But that's not to say truly indulgent experiences aren't also available: while many spas offer treatments in poolside cabanas, in Koh Samui a private beach can be booked by a single guest at a time for open air treatments. In the Maldives, the Island Spa – reached by a local dhoni boat – can be booked out at night for a magical experience under the stars. In Chicago, couples can request the indoor pool to themselves for a private after hours dip.

A History of Service
Casson has assumed the Global Spa Task Force reigns from Christopher Norton, who founded the initiative ten years ago. Recently promoted to President Hotel Operations, Europe/Middle East/ Africa, Norton recalls the catalyst that really pushed spa to the fore at Four Seasons: "After the success of our first full service Spa in Dallas in 1986, we went back to the floorplans of our existing properties and found places to add treatment rooms wherever we could. Seventeen years later, as we got involved in more and more development projects from the ground up, we kept increasing the footprint of our spas, and we formed a task force to gather the best ideas from within Four Seasons and the industry."

Today, the Global Spa Task Force works across all divisions, from design and construction to procurement, operations and revenue management, and the results are impressive: The Spa at the newly opened flagship in Toronto is the company's largest to date, occupying a floor and half of the building. "And in London, where we recently rebuilt our oldest address, we turned things completely upside down, crowning the hotel with a Spa on the penthouse floor, with panoramic views of the city."

Norton concludes: "The Golden Rule – which has always been our guiding philosophy at Four Seasons – informs our approach to spa as well: treat others as you would have them treat you."

About Four Seasons
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is dedicated to perfecting the travel experience through continual innovation and the highest standards of hospitality. From elegant surroundings of the finest quality, to caring, highly personalized 24-hour service, Four Seasons embodies a true home away from home for those who know and appreciate the best. The deeply instilled Four Seasons culture is personified in its employees - people who share a single focus and are inspired to offer great service. Founded in 1960, Four Seasons has followed a targeted course of expansion, opening hotels and residences in major city centres and desirable resort destinations around the world. With 90 properties in 37 countries, and more than 50 projects under development, Four Seasons continues to lead the hospitality industry with innovative enhancements, making business travel easier and leisure travel more rewarding. For more information on Four Seasons, visit and follow on Twitter at @FourSeasonsPR.

Laura Zanzal

Image with caption: "Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts recently appointed Simon Casson as Chair of the company's 20-member Global Spa Task Force. (CNW Group/Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts)". Image available at:

Image with caption: "The spas at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have received numerous industry and traveller accolades, including SpaFinder's Best Spa Brand and recently, The SPA Traveller's Most Popular Hotel, Resort and Spa Group. (CNW Group/Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts)". Image available at:

SOURCE: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

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