Breaking Travel News interview: Bob Suri, general manager, Four Seasons Hotel Baku
Situated in a privileged position in the capital of Azerbaijan, Four Seasons Hotel Baku is a must-visit location in this rapidly developing city.
Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Bob Suri, general manager of the property, to find out more.
Breaking Travel News: Perhaps we could start with an overview of the hotel – what is on offer there to guests in this vibrant destination?
Bob Suri: Baku is a an evolving and a very unique destination that became the host city to world class events like the Formula One Grand Prix, the first European Olympic Games, UEFA Europa League Final and Euro2020, as well as and similar sports events, along with music festivals such as Zhara Music Festival.
As the world’s leading luxury brand, we take a lot of pride in representing the Four Seasons brand in this beautiful and vibrant destination that has tremendous possibilities.
Our presence in this location definitely represents the appetite for luxury segment.
The beautiful hotel is located on the promenade and on the shores of the Caspian Sea in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku.
We offer the city’s finest accommodations in our 171 rooms and suites; while there is also the Italian restaurant, Zafferano, Piazza lounge and Bentley’s Whiskey Bar.
The exclusive enclave of the Jaleh Spa & Pool, lavish meeting spaces and, of course, the signature service of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts completes the offering.
We proudly stand by the four main pillars that have helped develop the unique approach that Four Seasons has towards their guests - quality, service, culture and brand.
Our purpose of creating impressions that will stay with the guests for a lifetime comes from our belief that life is richer when we truly ‘connect’ to the people and world around us.
BTN: Who visits the Four Seasons Hotel Baku – what are your key source markets and has this changed over the past two years? Is the property aimed the business sector, or more leisure focused?
BS: The key source markets for the property for the past five years and pre-pandemic times were Gulf Countries – including the UAE and Qatar, followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
They booked mainly for leisure travel, while we saw Russian bookings both for leisure and business purposes.
During pandemic we have observed a bit of a change in the key source markets; where UAE, Qatar and Russia remain in top five markets, though with lower volumes considering the global pandemic, Turkey now leads the list.
After the success the country has gained with the victory in II Karabakh War in November 2020, the government has started developing the lands at an accelerated pace, and this has encouraged movements from countries participating in the redevelopment efforts.
One of these countries is Turkey , where business travellers actively started to travel from due to the involvement in these projects.
Taking into consideration the prime location of the hotel right in the heart of the city centre and close proximity to the sightseeing and business centres, the hotel is perfect both for leisure and business travellers.
The facilities we provide can meet all guests’ expectations.
Living in the new normal environment, we at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts company, have also implemented a ‘Work at Leisure’ concept globally to provide business travellers all the support should they prefer to stay in the city for longer yet stay connected to work from the comfort of their rooms.
BTN: You are welcoming a new executive chef this month – how important is the culinary offering at the property?
BS: Our main all-day dining restaurant, Zafferano, is known as the best Italian restaurant in the city and welcoming such talent as Renato Rizzi will only elevate the experience for our guests.
Originally from Brescia, he began his professional culinary journey at Pasta Fresca De Salvatore, one of the pioneers of authentic Italian cuisine in Singapore.
He went on to work at restaurants in Italy, Spain, the UK and France – picking up new techniques at each place, and sharing his own growing knowledge with fellow chefs.
Then, Asia beckoned once again, and Renato continued to hone his skills as a senior chef in premier Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, Philippines and Thailand.
In 2005, he joined Four Seasons, coming on board as the Italian chef at Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
Since then, he has lent his expertise and passion to Four Seasons properties across continents – as Sous Chef in Hawaii and Washington, DC, and then as Executive Sous Chef in London, Tianjin, Koh Samui and now beautiful Baku.
That being said, it’s also worth mentioning that for us it is very important to give our guests a sense of place.
Azerbaijan has very diverse and delicious cuisine which we do reflect in our culinary offerings at breakfast including signature local egg dish with tomatoes called “pomidor yumurta” in Azerbaijani; we feature our local products on our weekly Sunday brunches, and we also serve the highlight of local cuisine, the Caspian caviar.
Our in room dining also offers cuisine gems such as Dushbara and Lamb Dolma which is prepared and guided by our teams’ generational recipes and are signature dishes of any local household.
BTN: You joined Four Seasons Hotel Baku in 2019 – just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. How do conditions in the city, and Azerbaijan more generally, compare today?
BS: The health and safety of our guests and employees have always been at front and centre for our company.
To offer a safe environment for them, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts across the globe have implemented the ‘Lead With Care’ programme, a full-scale health and safety enhancement that we have developed in consulting agreement with Johns Hopkins Medicine.
While the Four Seasons experience may look different, it still feels the same.
Our dedicated people are committed to delivering the same intuitive service and personalised care for which Four Seasons is known and trusted the world over.
We are blessed to have our ownership aligned with the beliefs of the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, where putting people first is a priority and we have had their support throughout the pandemic, so far.
The authorities in Azerbaijan developed innovative program called SAHMAN.
This is a nationwide campaign set to transform Azerbaijan’s existing health, safety and hygiene standards.
Supported by the UNWTO, it also reaffirms the country’s commitment towards providing a world-class tourism destination for its citizens and future visitors alike in the post-pandemic world.
The programme guidelines continue to evolve since the launch date, based on recommendations and regulations set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose agenda includes adapting best-in-class practices across global industry players.
This program has been playing the fundamental role in control overall situation in the country during global pandemic.
BTN: The government of Azerbaijan has been investing heavily in the tourism product of the country in the past five years – does this bring any benefits to Four Seasons Hotel Baku?
BS: We would like the guests to leave with lasting memories of true Azerbaijani hospitality and the feeling of awe of what the destination has to offer in the sense of a pleasant, unexpected revelations of the city and the country.
We strongly believe that with the constant government support in tourism development, the hotel will welcome guests from new emerging markets on top of the existing ones and continue provide true Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts experience that is very well known around the world and remain the leading luxury hotel property in Azerbaijan.
The beaux-arts–style Four Seasons Hotel Baku is perched along the waterfront in the heart of the capital of Azerbaijan, with the medieval walls of the Inner City just steps away.
Find out more on the official website.