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A peek into the world of luxury hospitality with J Allen Smith

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Tiya Jain

Tiya Jain is a Baker Program in Real Estate graduate student. Prior to Baker she completed her chartered accountancy course in India (Equivalent to the CPA) and has 6 years of post-qualification experience with multinationals such as Ernst & Young, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte etc. Her last position at Deloitte involved advising large developers and private equity funds on funding, structuring and cost saving transactions in line with the local laws and regulations. Prior to Deloitte, she helped Aldia Capital, a boutique investment advisor in India, set up base in Mumbai. She was responsible for creating trusting relationships with the local real estate developers for the firm to secure $100 mm mandates. Tiya also strengthened local banking and financial relationships to the firm to tie up both ends of the deal making process. She is also interested in sustainable energy solutions, solar technology and she implemented the same for 3 housing societies in her neighborhood in Mumbai to cut energy costs by 25%. At Cornell, Tiya is the VP of Events for the Cornell Real Estate Women’s club that looks at leveraging opportunities for professional growth for women and eliminating the gender differences in the real estate industry. Tiya is also a Junior editor for the Cornell Review. The assignment involves contributing high quality research articles for the Cornell yearly journal and also interviewing real estate industry leaders who speak at the Distinguished Speaker Series. She enjoys playing Sudoku and practicing eastern philosophies such as yoga and meditation in her free time. Post Baker she would like to work in real estate investments and finance.


It was a pleasure hearing one of our speakers Mr. J. Allen Smith at the Annual Cornell Real Estate Conference in New York City on the 14th of October. Mr. Smith is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Four Seasons Hotels Ltd. He oversees the company’s global portfolio of hotels, resorts and branded residences and is responsible for advancing Four Seasons position as the world’s leading luxury hospitality company.

At our conference, he offered his worldview on the intersection of technology and luxury hospitality. He stressed the importance of technology in the interplay between consumers and room sales. Four Seasons is continually trying to reach its customers effectively and provide an improved customer experience by incorporating improvements on mobile and other applications.

On being questioned on Airbnb’s impact on his business, he succinctly mentioned that the audience for both the product classes i.e. luxury hotels and affordable stay is mutually exclusive. There is no or little correlation or revenue overlap between the two business models.

He continued on, to educate the audience about the success of the private residences or condominium projects attached to the Four Seasons properties and laid out several scenarios as to when and how he perceives them to be profitable.  The revenue model for the partnerships with residential developers on mixed use projects typically involves an upfront management fee as well as a payout on the time of sale.

On being interviewed one on one by the Cornell Real Estate Review, Mr. Smith pointed out that Four Seasons is protective about its brand name. They have often been approached for the Four Seasons branding by yachts and other ventures, but they after the Private Jets and condominiums they haven’t been excited by any other offerings.

He also shared with us the secret of Four Seasons being nominated year on year as the best organization to work with and the company with the lowest employee turnovers. He mentioned the Four Seasons Golden Rule, ‘Do onto others as you would have done unto you’. He strongly believes the culture of the organization resonates through all levels of the hierarchy. People have been in the organization for a long time and they tend to become culture carriers and as they move around the world and new people also get imbued in the same values.

We look forward to more pearls of wisdom in our next Annual event from real estate industry leaders.

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