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Four Seasons boss Simon Casson leaves the group after 34 years to lead small Malta-based Cornithia back to profitability.

Maltese independent hotel firm Cornithia has hired a new CEO, Simon Casson, the previous Europe, Middle East and Africa president of Four Seasons. Casson steps into the luxury hotel owner-operator while it is still feeling the sting of the pandemic four years ago.

Corinthia Hotels is under a holding investment group with eight luxury hotels around the world and another eight in the pipeline. Casson officially starts the role in April, moving from Dubai where he was based with Four Seasons, to London.

Casson mentioned in a LinkedIn post: “I will be working with the team to elevate the company in the luxury space and grow the brand in key global markets.”

‘Growing a brand’ is one of Casson’s skills. From his Four Seasons days, he joined the company when it had 16 hotels in 1989 and left when it had more than 120 hotels. With a particular focus on the Middle East, he spearheaded new launches in the likes of Diriyah Gate, The Red Sea and Sindalah, turning Saudi Arabia into one of Four Season’s largest growth markets.

Corninitha’s Difficult Years

Right now, Cornithia is still making losses after being hit hard by Covid-19 shutdowns. In 2022, the group posted a $2.54 million (€2.34) million loss, which came after hefty losses in 2021 and 2020 as well.

The company is yet to release its full-year results for 2023, but we know in the first half of the year, Corinthia saw a $12.69 million (€11.7 million) loss. This could mean 2023 will be worse than 2022, which had a small profit of $867,000 (€800,000) in the first half of that year.

Executives state these losses are down to “challenges related to labor shortages as the [hospitality] industry generally struggles to attract workers as demand increases, combined with inflationary pressures on costs and energy.”

Development Focus

Corinthia owns a majority of its eight hotels but is now going into an asset-light model. In the holding company’s fiscal results for the first half of 2023, it states: “[We are] focused on a growth strategy through management agreements,” citing its upcoming hotels in Rome, New York, Doha, Riyadh, Maldives and Bucharest as examples. It added: “Practically all of the capital funding for these projects are being provided by third parties.”

Casson spent most of his hotel career in the Middle East, a market looking to grow its luxury hospitality sector further still. Markets such as Doha and Riyadh have both been investing into their hotel sectors in recent years, where Dubai has long been the leading destination.

Corinthia has tried in the past to enter Dubai but the property never materialized due to issues with the owning company of the project.

Corinthia had joined Dubai-based developer Meydan to develop the Corinthia Hotel & Residences Meydan Beach Dubai in Jumeirah Beach, near where the city’s non-operational Ferris wheel is located.

The project, which was originally supposed to be completed in 2019, was to include 300 keys and 60 apartments.

“The project in essence was owned by a third party named Meydan who recently sold the development to another investor,” then-Corninthia Hotels CEO Simon Naudi told a Maltese newspaper at the time. “We chose to sell out of our position too, alongside Meydan.”

The hotel, now owned and operated by Dubai company FIVE, is expected to open this year.

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Tags: hospitality news, hotel news

Photo credit: Simon Casson

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