Monday, December 14, 2020


Like the Leica camera he uses in his street photography, Alex Porteous is firmly focused on the future as he steers the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur (FSHKL) team through the current uncertainties plaguing the hospitality and tourism sectors as the newly appointed General Manager. 

Having arrived in Kuala Lumpur right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic from Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, Porteous admits there’s no playbook to deal with such an unprecedented crisis. Fortunately, having garnered more than 27 years of experience with Four Seasons at 7 properties, 3 hotel openings and a handful of accolades, Porteous can count on his own inimitable leadership skills to forge ahead and maintain the FSHKL team’s momentum following their stellar performance right from the get-go.

To this personable GM, authenticity means being honest. “I’m the first to admit I don’t know everything. Sometimes my team members are surprised when I say I don’t know everything. I also ask a lot of questions. That’s how we learn: by asking questions,” says Porteous.

He firmly believes in authenticity as a key trait of leadership, citing a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”. As his team moves towards 2021, he is committed to involve each and every one in decisions that affect their jobs and work environment; ensuring every one of them can voice a different opinion without fear of any negative consequences.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

Creating a safe work place is paramount to Porteous as he says “when we as colleagues connect with each other meaningfully, that’s when we are able to connect with our guests as well.” 

Showing a sincere interest in his team as people, as individuals, and not just as employees will translate and demonstrate his actions match his words. An avid advocate of listening and engaging with guests and employees, Porteous affirms top of his list will be working together with his team to raise the bar for the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur and continue to build the confidence of guests and business partners. “Getting our team to do the right thing instead of just doing things right  ̶  that makes a difference.”

“It’s important we keep engaging with our guests, business partners and internal team members” says Alex Porteous. “For our corporate guests and business partners, we ask them ‘How are you doing?’, ‘What can we help you through this tough period?’…It’s through such engagements that led us to the creation of our ‘Ultimate Me’ and ‘Inspiring Workspaces’ marketing packages.”

Praising Malaysian authorities on their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Porteous says the general populace is also experiencing ‘Covid fatigue’ and yearns for a change of scene with their families and friends. “That’s when some of our guests check into the Four Seasons.”

Porteous explains: “FSHKL adheres to Four Seasons global health & safety programme known as ‘Lead with Care’ that outlines procedures educating and empowering employees to take care of guests and each other. Face masks must be worn by everyone within the Hotel, temperature checks are conducted and every person are registered via the MySejahtera app.

“At our restaurants, tables are set apart to ensure physical distancing and all utensils are sterilized and wrapped. Regular touchpoints such as lift button panels, phones and light switches throughout the Hotel and in our guestrooms are sanitized constantly and thoroughly. Guests can control and limit the frequency of face-to-face interactions between themselves and our employees, whether it’s for making reservations, requesting for airport transfers or concierge service.”

Porteous also says it’s imperative to keep his team engaged and updated on how the Hotel is doing. He constantly writes them notes; passing them guests’ compliments and how the employees concerned have made their stay memorable. 

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

“I not only thank them but also their family. It’s during these trying times that people need to be reminded of their self-worth, and the support of their family. To me, their family is the wind beneath their wings, enabling them to do a great job at work. I also call each employee on their birthday. Some may view it as a small, insignificant gesture but to an employee, it could be a good mood booster and causes him or her to be nicer to their family members. I’m a firm believer of life-work balance rather than the work-life balance of yore. Many people don’t realise when your life is in order, your work will naturally fall into place.”

The consummate hotelier caught the hospitality bug as a young chap after his father’s hotelier friend took him on a whirlwind behind-the-scenes tour. When he turned 17, Alex Porteous joined the hotel industry and worked his way steadily in different roles and through various departments: management trainee, chef, server, barman, receptionist, engineering, press office, and sales & marketing. 

It was in 1993 when he first joined the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. Since then, Porteous has gained a wealth of experience from his stints in Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Seychelles and Japan. 

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

According to Porteous, his best experience as a hotelier thus far is being General Manager. Recalling the day he finally occupied the hot seat, Porteous quips “it suddenly dawned on me the sheer weight of responsibilities resting on my shoulders. I realized just how important my role is and how it has changed over the years. Now a GM has to be inclusive, to be empathic and to take ownership of one’s actions.”

Citing the Four Seasons philosophy of “treating others as how you would have them treat you”, Alex Porteous says “I want to be the kind of boss who will treat my daughters like they matter; a boss who value their contributions and know their worth.”

Married to Satoko, the father of three enjoys dabbling in street photography. The Leica camera enthusiast who prefers shooting monochrome, looks forward to capturing the undiscovered gems of Malaysia. In the meantime, the hotelier’s sight remains steadfastly focused on the path ahead.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

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