Four Seasons unveils $18 million website as luxury travel grows

Four Seasons is well known for its luxury qualities so a website portraying its properties and destinations with large, professional images and other bells and whistles is no surprise.

What is a surprise is the $18 million investment in this latest incarnation of the brand’s online presence.

Perhaps not when you factor in that it is geared towards the very wealthy and developed for a company targeting worldwide revenue growth of 9.2% in 2012.

While it would be nice to have a breakdown of the spend to see what money buys in the digital world these days, Four Seasons has declined.

The figure is likely to include the big, bright photography, new booking process, mobile optimisation, social media integration and personal profile technology with the ability to set preferences which will enable Four Seasons to create a more targeted online experience.

It might also cover the extensive research around digital consumption conducted for the development of the site as well as focus groups to improve the understanding of guests’ needs (results shared below).

A final clue to the website spend might be in the fact that while it attracts 30 million visitors a year – up 10% from 2010, revenue from online only represents 12% of total revenue – an increase of just 2% in five years.

The new website is geared up to speak to the findings of the first issue of the 2012 Four Seasons Luxury Trends report which focuses on digital technology and reveals the likes and expectations of luxury travellers.

  • 57% like to have the latest gadget according to the Affluence Collaborative compared to 18% of the general population
  • 71% bring a smartphone with them on their travels while 61% bring a tablet device
  • The company experienced a 200% increase in bookings completed on a tablet device in 2011
  • 72% surveyed by Four Seasons are active Facebook users and 36% are active on Twitter
  • Twitter usage by guests increased 350% between 2009 and 2010 and is expected to continue to grow at the same rate
  • YouTube video views now total 280,000, a 30% increase on this time last year
  • Luxury travellers say the most important online activity, 59%, while in transit to or staying at a hotel is reviewing information about activities in the local area
  • The most important in-room technology includes good mobile phone coverage, fast wifi, charging stations and wireless printing
  • Guests still want the personal touch at the hotel with only 32% citing the ability to check-in without speaking to someone as valuable compared to the 78% of respondents who saw kiosks for airline check-in as valuable

Here’s a clip of the website in action:

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda is Managing Editor for tnooz. For the past decade, she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine. In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management, and research companies. Prior to her freelance career, she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.



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  1. Alberto

    Does anyone know who is designing company?

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  7. Luke Ford

    I really like the story format of the hotel pages and the room search function within the footer of the page – usually a forgotten space on hotel websites.

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  13. James Kennedy

    At first I was a bit shocked with the spend, but when you unravel the maths of this it is not necessarily that much money. With 30M visits per year and a conservatively low average online conversion of 0.5% you’re looking at 150,000 bookings per year.

    Assuming an average order value of $600 (which may also be low) then the site generates $90M in revenues. Here’s the interesting part, for every 0.01% increase in conversion they add $18M in revenue.

    Someone in Four Seasons has done similar sums and is happy to justify the investment, so next time I’m asked to quote for a new hotel website I’ll be showcasing this one before I submit my quote 🙂

  14. Joe Buhler

    They sure didn’t go the WordPress route on this one. Thought the days of Rolls-Royce pricing for websites were gone. Apparently not.

  15. Martin - HotelPress

    Four Seasons has definitely taken a leap into the right direction, though I am wondering that they go live with a site that still appears a bit beta with many room types not associated to images, a lot of white space that doesn’t look like it belongs there and generally the feel of a site under construction.

  16. Top Search

    I think they spent *way* over the odds on this site. Sure the tekky folks can gather round their coffees and discuss how nice it is – does the normal punter really care? I’ve had customers complain that a graphic intense site like that is confusing when they (as they say in the press release) just want people to book rooms – that’s where a more simple brief might have been a better and cheaper option here.

  17. Chloe Waterfield

    Any grand idea, design, luxury development etc must have an equally powerful website strategy behind it.

    I can’t help but see similarities between the above website and this one:

    Keep up the great writing!

  18. Linda Fox

    Thanks for great comments everyone!

    @stuart if you read the luxury trends report they are going after Google+ too

    • Pete Meyers

      @ Linda

      Curiously, where was the $18 million figure sourced? Was it part of their luxury trends report? I wonder if any % of this cost also represents marketing spend (i.e., customer / traffic acquisition costs), in addition to site development fees.

  19. Stuart McD

    I don’t think anyone is debating it’s a beautiful network of sites. It is especially easy to use on a smart phone and a lovely breath of fresh air in the browser. Overall tis a great step forward.

    Far more attention have been given to often-ignored features like typesetting and dropcaps that do make it a delight to browse through…

    But then there’s oddities and the usual hotel cretinisms. Facebook and twitter open in new windows, (amusingly no Google+ — that’s a $2.4m upgrade). And other socialisms are bundled through a tacky popup. Email goes to a freakin form — yet again no email address anywhere to be found on the site (not the designer’s fault, rather idiotic FS practises)

    Yes it’s a step above many if not most hotel sites, but at the end of the day, when you’re paying $680 ++ a night and they’re still hitting you up for 13 bucks a day for WiFi you’ve gotta wonder perhaps the guests would have been more satisfied with a $20,000 fancy WordPress site and a subsidised WiFi… or maybe that’s just me.

  20. Martin Soler -

    After being away from keyboard yesterday I checked out their site today. Wow I am loving their site design. Yes it’s a big investment but consider that they have about 75 hotels and it’s 250,000 USD per hotel which is slightly different. Plus look at the photography, that alone is likely to be half the budget. It’s a team of 4-5 people travelling the world for at least 1 year or more.
    There is definitely some work in this site, not just to make some new and fancy site, but to make something that is going to sell. If they only make 12% of their revenues through the site they’re obviously investing into it to make more and they’re right. In my opinion they’ll have their money back in 12 month.

    • Are Morch

      Here I am on the same page as Martin.

      Plus they more then likely already have got that amount back in Free Advertising 😉

      And they have now made Social Engagement part of their booking process. Plus they also applied mobile strategies. So they are obviously working on some strategies that will effect online / mobile bookings.

      Four Season has now made their hole inventory ready for new market segments. And it is a transaction that fits the time we are in now.

      No doubt they have experienced a period that raised some concerns for the Luxury Brand, and they had to sell some of their inventory.

      I think this is a sign of that they now acknowledge that they traditional Luxury Traveler has changed, and they have taken the consequence of this.

      I agree with Barbara Delollis at USA Today that it was a bold move from Four Seasons. And many of us will now follow their progress. Maybe Team Tnooz will do a report on Four Season in a year and will ave some indications of the success of this move,


      Are Morch
      Hotel Blogger

  21. Stuart McD

    Was looking at their site for one of the Bali properties the other day – and was struck by how easy to use the mobile site was — it even had the phone number (what I needed) displayed prominently — revolutionary!

    I would have thought it should cost less than 18 mill to get your phone number online, but if that’s what it is costing nowadays, then that’s just what you gotta pay I guess.

  22. Michael

    After cruising the new site I’m still trying to figure out where the money was spent….

    • John Pope


      Thought the Tnooz audience might be interested in an anecdotal reference to a certain UK Governmental website ( that, over a four year period, spent approximately £68mil (£17mil annual budget) to produce… and still counting.

      That’s over $100mil (US) for those keeping score at home. You be the judge on value and efficiency there.

      By comparison, the Four Seasons’ site was a steal. 😉

  23. Charles de Gaspe Beaubien

    I am surprised there isn’t more outrage from the Tnooz community at a company spending $18Million for a revamped web site this day and age.

    I’m also curious how someone could make a business case if only 12% of their bookings come from online. My guess is that the luxury traveller still books via High End travel agencies and via personal assistants and planners to account for this large disparity vs. standard brands.

    I can’t wait to spend $18M on the Groupize redesign. Must be nice.

  24. Pete Meyers

    I just did a search on their new site and a $20 bill just shot straight out of my MacBook!

    • John Pope

      Shame @Pete, a $100 just came out of mine.

      Seriously, it probably wasn’t cheap to aggregate, curate and produce all the local destination content and imagery for every hotel / destination – I’m guessing no stock photos or videos were used. Certainly a very nice way to differentiate the brand online.

      Four Seasons definitely does the brand experience right, at most every opportunity. Good on them for doing “whatever it takes” to create an industry benchmark. It’s already very good and will only get better, I’m sure.

      You could also look at it through an “opportunity cost” perspective. If it’s successful in increasing conversion rates and improved user experiences, it means money saved from in-direct distribution costs, or even, the more expensive call center channel; eventually being seen as a very prudent investment, in deed.

      Bottom line, it’s a primary “touch point” that’s demonstrably consistent with all others from the Four Seasons brand, and that’s what’s most important.

  25. DJ

    I’m not too proud to admit I reckon I’ve worked on projects that easily spent that on a much less impressive outcome!


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