A life well travelled
When Michael Crawford stepped into the newly created role of president, Asia Pacific in August 2014, he was tasked with supporting the company’s global expansion plan. This has included hotel openings such as last month’s grand launch of Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta. Designed by New York based interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud and developed in partnership with Indonesia-based Rajawali Group, the all-suites hotel showcases an ultra-refined neoclassical aesthetic, bringing an unprecedented level of refinement to the city’s hospitality scene.
New initatives include the company’s pioneering Four Seasons Private Jet experience, which sees guests embarking on elaborately curated journeys to as far as Mauritius and Morocco while enjoying Four Seasons service on the ground and in the air. Making fantasies reality is all in a day’s work for the now Singapore-based 24-year veteran of the Walt Disney Company, whose last role entailed overall profit-and loss responsibility for the multibillion-dollar Walt Disney Resort in Shanghai.
We live in a more connected world today. Staying in a hotel is not as static as it once was. Now travellers want to connect their computers to the TV screen, so we have to have the smart technology to let them do that. They want to commute no matter where they are in the hotel, so there has to be broadband Wi-Fi everywhere.
Luxury travellers are looking for unique, special experiences. We’ve developed a portfolio of what we call Extraordinary Experiences that guests couldn’t do on their own. When you check in at our two Maldives resorts, for example, we ask if you’d like to dive with a school of manta rays or whale sharks. We have spotters that we send all around the Indian Ocean daily and if you’re keen we give you a pager. As soon as we spot these animals, we page you, put you on a boat and you’re out there, having an experience of a lifetime.
I look for a seamless experience when I travel. I don’t want to be trapped at a front desk for a long time. I look for hotels to use my name, welcome me back, to recognise me as an individual when I check in and not just as another guest. I look for consistency. If it’s a hotel group I’m staying with, if you know that I like raspberries and blueberries for breakfast then every hotel should know I like that for breakfast. The hardware has to be functional and easy to use. I can’t tell you the number of hotels I’ve checked into where I had to look for the light or where to turn down the temperature. Or take this classic scenario – you get into bed, and the first thing you want to do is plug in your phone or computer. But the outlet is on the wall across from the bed. I also get upset when I hear, “We really can’t do that”. If we don’t have it we get it. I could tell you story after story of guests preferring a certain amenity or toothpaste. We never tell them we don’t have it, instead we’ll go buy it and put it in their room – because that’s what they expect of us.
I’ve collected art over the years. I have about 40 pieces from all over the world. Girl Thinking, by a Spanish artist, is one of the most special. It’s done on rice paper that had originally been used for something else, so every once in a while you’ll see a letter or a stamp. It’s of this beautiful blond girl, who reminds me of our daughter, who’s a very deep-thinking person. I got it at Hong Kong Art Basel about three years ago. A piece I almost got into a bidding war over is a pretty funky one by a North Korean artist. It’s very eclectic – there’s a horse riding a highwire, men balancing on beams beside it and people shooting fireworks.
I’ve always liked Rolex watches. I have three and the one I’m wearing – this blue-faced submariner – is my favourite. Or perhaps I should say the Rolex that my wife got me – a classic design in gold and silver.
The most thoughtful gift I ever received is a pair of cufflinks my daughter gave me. I’m a Notre Dame grad, and they’re made from wood chipped from an old seat in the Notre Dame stadium, encased in silver. They’re not expensive, but incredibly special.