Is Four Seasons The Most Mid Luxury Hotel Chain?

A Four Seasons near Walt Disney World is going to be a sanctuary away from Disney, just as the Four Seasons in Vegas is a sanctuary from Vegas. And compared to other Disney properties it’s going to stand out. The Grand Floridian, even, is in desperate need of refurbishment and will get it. So what are your luxury options? As a result modest luxury is going to seem more special.

Thus a reasonable controversy, based on a single data point, is Four Seasons actually luxury?

Certainly the description is not itself luxury. They could easily be features of a Hilton, Westin, or Hyatt Regency:

Ultimately I don’t think this captures the property and there’s tremendous variance in Four Seasons properties. This one is owned by… Host Hotels.

This isn’t the Four Seasons in the Seychelles, or for that matter on Lanai (boy I remember when the property was part of Starwood and available on points!). It isn’t the Four Seasons Tented Cap by the Golden Triangle area of Thailand near the borders of Myanmar and Laos. Many people absolutely love Grand-Hotel Du Cap-Ferrat.

As a general matter Four Seasons will be a notch above Ritz-Carlton and also Park Hyatt, though there’s going to be variance in any city.

  • A Four Seasons may once have met brand standards and it takes quite a long time of owner resistance to capital investment before it’s reflagged.
  • That’s what happened at the Park Hyatt Aviara – it was a Four Seasons, the physical plant degraded, and instead of doing something about that they put the Park Hyatt name on the hotel.
  • Carrying over the staff, it had the best service of any Park Hyatt hotel in the United States back then in my opinion! They eventually did refurbish.

I’d rate Ritz-Carlton as the brand with the greatest gap between aspiration and execution. Their resorts are often large factories – places where you have to place a book on a beach chair before 8 a.m. if you don’t want to wind up four rows of chairs back from the water. I’ve had my table at breakfast given away when I was just up at the buffet. I’ve even checked in and walked into a room to find the bed not made and a used condom in it. They have a sub-brand Ritz-Carlton Reserve for a reason.

On the other hand Four Seasons isn’t close to Aman Resorts. Four Seasons is nice, and considered luxury, but it’s hardly the most luxurious.

(HT: @JohnGaltPattaya)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve stayed at Four Seasons frequently beginning with the Toronto Inn on the Park in the late 60’s. I concur that they’re typically not at the highest level of luxury in terms of facilities but what you know that you’ll find a staff that is both efficient and friendly. Gary has written how Marriott has abandoned enforcing brand standards to please it’s franchisees. Four Seasons IMHO, clearly has not.

  2. @ Gary — Four Seasons is generally overrated, just like most high-end hotels. The value in stays at these properties is highly dependent upon the market, the price, and the elite amenities included. I love Park Hyatt, but would I stay there without WoH Globailst? I seriously doubt it. I loved the Four Seasons we stayed in this year, but would I stay there without the included upgrade, breakfast, and discount? Hell no.

  3. Hey Gary,.love the click bait! You are a marketing genius, and I say that truthfully, getting people to respond to these posts.

  4. I’m glad you mentioned the FS Tented Camp. It doesn’t, in any way (price, service, location, accommodation), match the description of mid-luxury. The price, by Thailand standards, is very high, but the service is breathtakingly good, the location is, obviously, stunning, and the accommodation is palatial, Indiana Jones style 🙂 This is where comparing a resort hotel with 443 rooms, to a extreme boutique hotel with 16 rooms (tents) is pointless; each has their value, but exist in different worlds.

  5. Easy comparison:

    Four Seasons Punta Mita. Garbage
    Four Seasons Naviva. Untouchable

    They are in the same “compound”……

  6. Gary, I am surprised you don’t mention Hilton’s top flag, Conrad, in this compassion.. I have found the Conrad hotels – particularly D.C. and Fort Lauderdale – a step above most Ritz Carlton or Park Hyatt properties. The level of service is not on par with Four Seasons, but the design focus and quality of accommodations places Conrad stop this competitive set. And, Hilton points.

  7. The twitter thread even highlighted that the hotel offers adjoining rooms. That’s a convenient feature for families, but hardly the pinnacle of class and sophistication.

  8. You’re basing this entire argument on a hotel at Disney, Orlando?
    That’s like saying there’s no real fine dining at the airport and comparing Wolfgang Puck in Terminal three to Spago or Cut…

    Someone mentioned Hilton and I felt I should point out there’s a Waldorf Astoria competing with four seasons at Disney. I have mixed feelings about it, stayed at both, similar price points $500 precovid, $800+++ now…. Plus the plethora of resort fees and valet only parking charges. There’s nothing luxury about the rooms, feel like shoeboxes. Both hotels has some high end features and good attentive staff.

  9. @Amt I stayed at the Waldorf at Disney in 2017 and was not terribly impressed. It was fine. Not worth $800 a night though. I think I paid $279.

  10. I don’t think any chain’s reputation should be based on its Disney property. It’s tough for any hotel to be truly luxurious when almost everything is meant to be kid-focused.

    On the other hand, I’m just back from the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island of Hawaii, and there is nothing mid-tier about it. 5 stars all the way. The place was nearly sold out but never felt overcrowded, and the service was still very personalized. FS excels at understanding its high end customers’ preferences, in my experience.

  11. @Jesse Hilton top flag is Waldorf followed by LXR (latter which can be third party managed). Conrad is a JW equivalent.

  12. Besides Aman which chain is more consistently luxurious than Four Seasons?

  13. I have stayed at 21, Four Seasons around the globe. Along with a few Amans, Belmonds, Rosewoods, MO, and the like. They aren’t all the same, as the one in the Maldives is far apart from Orlando (I have stayed at both). When I checked into Gresham Palace (4S in Budapest) a few weeks ago, I told the host, that this was my 20th. The fact that they did nothing wasn’t the worse part. It was that fact that they didn’t already know, that really got me. On my way to Istanbul in a few weeks and just switched my res from the Four Seasons to the new Peninsula. Not ready to give up on them yet, but I will look at other properties first. I find Aman to be too sterile and boring. I think Rosewood is the new standard in luxury and I find Belmond to have the most friendly and attentive service as well as the most unique properties.

  14. Depends on the FS property. Some are great…like Florence and Hong Kong (back in the day) and some are mediocre name whoring….I’m looking at you Bogota.

    Aman seems to be slipping and I’ve stayed at 5 or 6. My last one in Phuket left much to be desired for the price

  15. A decade ago I had a strong preference for Four Seasons over Ritz-Carlton; the latter seemed to be cookie-cutter, selling brass fixtures over genuine and unique experiences, while FS stays could be quite memorable.

    But I had a meh Four Seasons Prague stay last year, while in the last 6 months I’ve had two RC stays that were over and above expectation, in Budapest and at the brand new Melbourne outpost. Both really delivered beyond what I anticipated and are hotels I look forward to staying in again.

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