How Four Seasons uses digital and what you can do


A recent Skift interview with the Executive Vice President of Marketing of Four Seasons, Susan Helstab on her role in transforming Four Seasons into a digital force in the hotel industry.

For the full interview head over to Skift, but here’s a few notes from it:

“It was very clear was that there was an ever-increasing engagement with all things digital.” Helstab talking about the start of their digital transformation in 2009.

“… consumers were going to have control of the conversation. We wanted to be in a place were we could influence that. We wanted to create content and assets that people saw as authentic and that they wanted to share. We need to make sure all of our assets could be accessed through that platform.”

“We focused on building out other kinds of content that could appeal to niche segments of our audience.” When asked about Four Seasons’ content strategy, which was traditionally SEO and SEM focused.

The results from Four Seasons’ total digital revamp included:

  • 2012 and 2013 saw 20% increase in digital revenues
  • Increases also in visits, bookings, conversion, conversion of availability checks
  • Additional content created for the revamp of the site also contributed to the SEO ranking improvement
  • Four Season was able to work with Pinterest to built out their travel space

A couple of good quotes about internal buy-in:

“There were hurdles but it wasn’t so much around digital where we already had over 15 years of experience. Social was more of a leap in faith.”

“It’s obvious to everyone that we have a team that’s excited about doing new things and being first and the best. It’s not just at corporate, but people in the hotels.”

Interesting thoughts on segment digital touch points that Helstab pointed out since their re-launch:

“We are interested in how different devices determine engagement… [On Smartphone] It’s about researching, getting factual info, getting a phone number, and seeing a few images.“

“A tablet device is both about the dream and the research and the reservation. They aren’t booking the same as the computer but much more significant than a smartphone.”

“…to be successful in the digital world we were going to need to become a publishing company.”

What can hotels start doing to increase digital footprint?

A report released earlier this year indicated Chinese nationals take over 80 million overseas trips per year, and as more and more countries start opening up and tailoring to China, plus visa reform to increase travel, expect the number to rise to over 100 million by 2015. To capitalise on this, brands can start considering the following:

  • Understand the current dynamics – What is the customer mix? How many Chinese visitors book with your hotel?
  • Point out the digital experience – How are Chinese visitors book with your hotel? Is your website Chinese-friendly? Is it built with Chinese SEO ranking in mind? What are the digital content you currently have that is tailored towards this market?
  • Map out your goals – Now that you know your current numbers, figure out the desired outcomes
  • Social Media – Are you participating, observing and leveraging conversations around your brand to improve your product?
  • Local payment options – Does your hotel accept payment options from China?

There just a few questions you can ask yourself before committing to any financial investment to achieve digital success.

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About the Author

Andrew Tran is a digital practitioner, avid traveller, blogger, foodie and photographer. With years of experience working in digital media and more recently around Asia and Greater China, Andrew posses skills and industry knowledge to guide any brand through digital and utilising the best tools that’s appropriate and produces the best result for the user in mind