“This is one of my dreams come true,” says Mauro Governato of taking the helm as General Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Milano. Doubtless, he is not the first hotel professional at the top of the management ladder to say something like that, but in Governato’s case it really was a dream. And it really did come true. Born and raised in Italy’s “Design Capital,” Governato had long admired his Four Seasons local address. He spent seven years with the company before departing for another international hotel group in early 2014. When the plum position in Milan opened up later in the year, it was important to find someone with Four Seasons experience, an understanding and appreciation of the company’s values, as well as extended experience in the hotel business and travel that matched those of guests. “I was an outsider at the time, managing a five-star hotel in Rome,” recalls Governato. “Suddenly I was in the running.” Governato’s Four Seasons career began as Resort Manager in the south of France. After promotion to GM, he led the George V in Paris and then was offered the opportunity to head the company’s Lisbon address. He looks back on his time in Portugal fondly – “the potential of the city was tremendous, and I’m very proud of the energy we were able to infuse around the hotel” – but he only stayed a year in the capital city, as personal issues required his return to Italy and employment in Rome.
How did you get into the industry?
I wanted to travel the world and learn languages and I found that opportunity in the Hotel School. Since the beginning I used the summer vacation break to work as trainee and I really enjoyed it.
Any emerging industry trends?
The Hospitality Business in recent years has seen many changes. Nowadays we are dealing with so many cultures and new generations with different needs. What was working 10 years ago, needs to be revamped or reviewed because the demand has changed in terms of food offer, of quality of sleep, of events or housekeeping demand. Everything now is happening faster than before and we need to respond almost immediately. This also reiterates the importance that our team has to remember that we need to do the right thing at first glance, as very often we do not have a second chance.
Technology and mobile devices are also invading our service culture and we need to accept this invasion and learn not to fight it but to handle it in a more effective and productive way. Technology is becoming a love and hate affair and it will stay like this for a while.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
As mentioned above, our response time to the guest’s demand is extremely important need to be perfect from the beginning as we do not have a second chance. The audience communicates immediately through the Social Media and this is a great opportunity, but also a challenge. We reach faster our guest and therefore our service needs to be impeccable and our team needs to be always aware of this. The constant use of mobile devices made us more vulnerable but also creating more interest in our product. In addition it is noticeable that our guests are looking more for memories, for personal touches, for the hidden gem and by being able to transform their request into unique experiences, we capture immediately their preference towards our hotel and we create loyalty. Furthermore, the opening of China represents a unique opportunity and understanding their culture and satisfying their needs by offering a proactive service to this new customer, could be very important in the years to come. As a matter of fact in Milan, we have registered an increase of this market segment and as a consequence in the hotel we have added special breakfast items and printed our welcome letters in Chinese to make them feel more comfortable.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
We believe that for the discerning business traveler to have a comfortable and wonderful hotel experience (dictated by a perfect in-room dining delivery, a beautiful sleep, and an amazing reception check in) is given for granted. Today most of our customers are looking for the hidden gem i.e. our personal recommendations on where to find the greatest tailor or shoe maker, a local and genuine experience which can create long-lasting memories. In Four Seasons Hotel Milano we have developed few co-branding ideas in order to promote these local elements which offer the sense of the destination (please visit the link the Good Italian Il Principe va a Milano). The vision of Milan has changed, it is not only the fashionable and glamorous city, but also represents the history, art and Italian culture. You can visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, Pinacoteca di Brera with amazing paintings and so on. It is becoming a year-round destination with a touristic appeal.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Bringing new offers or creating new services for our customers is definitely something that will distinguish ourselves from the competition. As a matter of fact, we have combined 3 Four Seasons Hotels - Four Seasons Hotel Milano, Four Seasons Hotel Florence and Le Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat a Four Seasons Hotel - under an exclusive and unique experience. Our guests will have the possibility to live the dream road-trip holiday combining the glamour of the French Riviera with a twist of La Dolce Vita behind the wheel of an iconic vintage car. This incredible road trip can be organized from any of the three destinations and can be custom made with a personalized itinerary by the Concierge to ensure that the guest does not miss any point of interest. This program called “En Route to La Dolce Vita” En Route to la Dolce Vita recently launched, drives revenue and generates interest and awareness for all the three properties and strengthens our brand.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Personally I always ask myself a question which helps me to see the business from a different angle and gives me a different perspective. The question is “what if?” By replying to this question most of the times the team and myself come out with the right solution to our issues. For example we have found a way to promote our Spa in a more dynamic way by recently creating our Fashion Breakfast. We combine a very healthy and detox breakfast suggested by our acclaimed one star Michelin Chef Vito Mollica, with a Spa therapist who provides at the same time a wonderful manicure treatment. You can then be comfortably seated in an armchair in your Four Seasons Hotel Milano suite and enjoy your vegetable detox smoothie along with your herbal tea and having your manicure treatment at the same time. This will save you time and you will be ready for your fashion show défilé in 20 minutes.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Perhaps the most difficult moment in my career was the complete refurbishment of 25 water villas in the Maldives after the tsunami event in December 2004. We only had 6 months to complete the task in a very challenging environment. As you can imagine rough sea conditions, a sudden tropical storm, can prevent the boat to deliver your goods or major pieces of equipment according to schedule and therefore delivery date and timeline are often postponed. However, in order to complete the refurbishment on time as the resort was fully committed for October during the school break holiday, every single team member went beyond their call of duty and everyone on temporary basis became electrician, porter, carpenter or even bricklayer. The lesson I learned from this is that the human element is critical for the success of any enterprise. By being all together and all united, any goal can be achieved.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
In my opinion, the recognition element is the most important for a luxury customer. Entering your favorite hotel and having the doorman who immediately greets you by name and the Concierge gives you the confirmation of your restaurant or theatre tickets by walking in the lobby, it is the ultimate luxury experience. The hotel which becomes your second home where you feel safe, pampered, where you have the truly and genuine impression that every member of the staff will do the utmost to satisfy your last minute request, is what we strive for every day in all our Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts around the world.
How do you motivate others?
The concept of leading by example inspires me. I try to imagine what my employees are thinking or how they would react during their daily tasks. I hope to offer a friendly environment of work, where we understand every concern or challenge and we try to find a solution. I also tell them that we need to ask ourselves if what we are doing is in line with our guest expectation. If so then do it and try to add a personal touch that will be memorable, if not then do not do it and let me know why? I truly believe that every single team member has to be totally engaged and focused on his duty because everyone has the future and the success of the establishment in their hands. The whole team wants to provide a fantastic job for our customer and I have a total trust in their judgment and in their actions. We share success stories and everyone is free to bring on the table a new proposal and a new idea which will add value to our property.
Career advice to those in your industry?
In all honesty I do not have a real advice. I can only say that in this industry, passion is the primary ingredient for your work. Treating our guest with the utmost respect and with a genuine smile will offer rewards that sometimes are going beyond our imagination.