Blaise Montandon, General Manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur, talks about a busy life

Options: Welcome to KL. What have been some of your favorite discoveries about the city so far?
Blaise Montandon
: It’s been a little over a month since I arrived but I have visited Malaysia many times before, especially when I was living in Singapore and Bangkok. I love the diversity and dynamism of this country. I’m particularly impressed with how Chinatown is now very lively, filled with many interesting little bars and restaurants, and KL has a very authentic feel to it. It’s not sterile or overly polished, which I appreciate. Here, you feel the soul of the country… it’s very authentic. But it’s only been a few weeks and I can’t wait to find out more. My priority is of course the immersion within the hotel above all. You need to understand your product and your employees so that everything is done with purpose.

Tell us about some of your plans to take a resort-style approach to guest stays.
What we want when people come to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur, whether for business or leisure, is to help them create and experience meaningful relationships. This is especially true for business travelers. They are on the road all the time and we want them to enjoy a stay that goes beyond checking into a room and having a buffet breakfast. Some ongoing experiments with meaning and good intentions include our sustainability initiatives, chief among which is our beehive adoption program.

The stingless bee or kelulut, as you know, is very special for Bar Trigona (Trigona is the name of one of the largest genera of stingless bees). So this beehive adoption program is not only a unique and positive way to boost bee populations, but also help train new beekeepers and set up more bee sanctuaries. bees. There is a one year adoption fee per trigona bee hive and guests will receive a personalized certificate, a small bottle of bee propolis, quarterly videos and photo updates. You are also welcome to visit the farm, meet the farmers and best of all get a discount when you come for a drink at Bar Trigona.

You grew up in Switzerland, we believe.
Yes, in a very small town called Fleurier, near Neuchâtel, with less than 4000 inhabitants. I’m amazed how many Malaysians know this from a certain watch brand named Parmigiani Fleurier. It is at the heart of Swiss watchmaking since the Chopard factory is not far away, as well as Piaget.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the hotel industry rather than join the watch industry?
I love nice watches but that’s not the industry for me. My great passions are traveling and meeting people. I had no intention of living and working in my small village all my life.

So, what are you wearing on your wrist right now?
Nothing today. I only wear watches in the evening or during beautiful events. However, I own two Piagets; one belonged to my father, the other to my mother. And although one is my mother’s watch, it has a large dial so it fits my wrist. Both timepieces are, of course, very special to me.

You have worked all over the world: Singapore, Japan, China, Thailand, India, Morocco and, more recently, Vietnam. What have been some of your most memorable experiences?
Marrakech was particularly memorable as it was my first time working with Four Seasons. But since my youth, Asia has always fascinated me the most. My first assignment in Asia was actually as an intern, at the Lai Lai Sheraton in Taipei. Can you imagine me, a young boy from Fleurier in Taiwan? It was as good as going to the moon. Culture shock is just beginning to describe it. I was the first in my family to visit Asia, and the trip to Taiwan then meant flying from Geneva to Zurich, then Athens, Karachi and Hong Kong before finally arriving in Taipei. There were lots of good memories, including the happy days when I could find potatoes and yoghurt to eat (you have to remember, this was Taipei in the early 1980s and of course I love the Asian cuisine more than anything now) and watch the lobby [of the hotel]. It was the first time in my life that I saw such a lobby!

Are you also an opera fan?
Yes, I like it very much, especially the music of Verdi and Puccini. I remember watching Aida at the ancient Roman amphitheater in Verona which turns into the biggest open-air opera every summer, but my all-time favorite is Bohemian. I also really like musicals and I have a weakness for The Phantom of the Opera, in part because I met Dame Gillian Lynne, the show’s original choreographer, when she visited Beijing in 2008, and Sarah Brightman, the person most famous for playing Christine Daaé, when she was in Singapore. Oh, I should also mention having met the great soprano Montserrat Caballé when I hosted her in my capacity as Director of Sales and Marketing at Hotel President (now President Wilson), Geneva.

And how do you like to spend your weekends here so far?
I have friends in KL which is very nice, and to be honest I spent weekends shopping. As a rule, I bring very little when I move to a new place. This time I came with a few boxes, some artwork, and two pieces of furniture, including a cabinet that belonged to my grandparents. It’s important to own a few things that remind you of your roots and your heritage, but I don’t need to own a lot to enjoy life.

This article was first published on August 15, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.

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