Lubosh Barta: GM, Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

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Bio:

The name Four Seasons speaks for itself. But, as Lubosh Barta tells it, sometimes it is best to say it softly instead of shout it out loud. “We need to be humble and respectful of Korean hospitality and local brands,” says Barta of his role as opening General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. “Koreans have great admiration for their homegrown brands, which have an excellent reputation for luxury and sophistication. I’m excited to be new on the scene as part of the opening of our first hotel in Korea, and to bring Four Seasons service excellence to the vibrant city of Seoul.” Barta’s Four Seasons background plays right into that. When he interviewed for his position with the hotel owner in Seoul, his extensive food and beverage and resort experience carried the day. “The challenge for me is to apply my experience and creativity to everyday operations. And that,” he concludes, “is where Four Seasons commitment to service excellence comes in.”

How did you get into the industry?

I was born in Czechoslovakia and I am a 4th generation hotelier (4th from my mom’s side and 3rd from my dad’s side) so my entire childhood has been about hotels and hospitality. From following my parents to their hotels on a daily basis, I naturally developed the passion and understanding of the industry then started training at a hotel bar at the age of 16.  I developed my career in Food & Beverages working at various luxury hotels before landing the job as Director of Food & Beverage at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok. My career further progressed with Four Seasons as Resort Manager in Chiang Mai then General Manager in Koh Samui and for the past two years, the opening General Manager at Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. Throughout my career, I had the privilege to live in various parts of the world – Europe, Australia, Middle East and Asia.  

Any emerging industry trends?

During the last decade, we have witnessed many trends that changed the face of the hotel industry especially with development of new technology and online channels that has stimulated change at a faster pace. With the advancement of technology, the consumer benefits from more options to better meet their needs and preferences. For example at Four Seasons, guests are able to check in and out using their mobile phones and also request concierge services and make spa and dining reservations using the guestroom iPad and our mobile app.  Technology has helped us increase reliability, convenience and practicality but people, service and recognition will continue to be the driving force behind the experience of consumers in the luxury hotel segment. It is all about recognition and personal touches that touch our guest’s heart for a truly memorable experience that makes our guests keep coming back.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Every year, the hotel industry faces unprecedented organizational change and pronounced market turbulence that test our adaptability. From public health crisis to acts of terrorism, political uncertainties and political theater, we have seen them all. It is quite possible that conditions like these will persist for the foreseeable future and we will continue to be tested in new ways but as a highly recognized hospitality brand, we have developed greater cohesion and resilience and will continue to effectively deal with the situation at hand with calm resolve and determination.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

With the opening of Four Seasons Hotel Seoul (now just 16 months old), the experience of the team gets tested to the fullest. One of the lessons I learned through opening is if you embark on something and you believe in it, the fruits will come even if it takes some waiting. Our Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant Yu Yuan was not well-received by the local market in the beginning. There were times when we considered taking a different route but we continued with the original concept of serving authentic Cantonese fare which awarded us with a Michelin star last year. Now, Yu Yuan is highly praised for its authenticity. Through all this, it reminded me that sometime it takes patience and perseverance to make a business idea work.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

With the downfall in the global economy in 2008, it tested the hotel I was positioned at. Unpopular decisions had to be made affecting some employees and their families. It was a very hard decision to make but I learned that if it is well-thought through well-prepared with the inclusion of stakeholders and employees, unpopular decisions can be made for the better of the business. I was delighted to see that the majority of the employees affected came back to work at Four Seasons. The decision didn’t harm our reputation and many are now succeeding in their fields.   

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Every customer is different and has their own needs and preferences. There is no manual or a set of rules that define service. Whether a guest is travelling with children on a family vacation or on a business trip, our job is to identify the specific needs and cater to each individual guest to provide a personalized experience that is ideal for that specific customer.    

How do you motivate others?

Four Seasons culture is based on the Golden Rule which is “treating others as you would like to be treated” and this is one of the reasons I wanted to join Four Seasons. Although it may sound simple, it is one of the hardest rules to follow every single day with every employee but I try to be a good role model and keep it alive in all actions we take. Establishing a healthy work and life balance is also very important especially in the hospitality industry and as a father of three boys, I try to maintain a healthy balance myself to set a good example for others.  

Career advice to those in your industry?

To advance your career in the hospitality industry, it’s important to be service-minded and passionate about serving customers. The service mind has to come naturally – it’s not something that can be trained. You have to be warm, friendly and guest-centric which are the foundations of a person working at a hotel. Recently, a line staff asked me on his/her first day “where is my desk going to be?” to which I replied “You need to ask yourself who are my customers and how can I create the best experience for them?” Most millennials are looking for rapid career development, which is understandable but it is important to focus on the present and do the best in the role that you are in. If you do, career advancement will come naturally.

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