Thank goodness Lubosh Barta did not go ahead with his original teenage plans, to be a professional ice hockey player back in his native Czech Republic. Instead, coming from a hotel family, he followed his genes, got into the hospitality business and he is now the highly respected and genuinely loved – professionally, of course – opening GM of Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. What makes him genuinely so admired? Well, he is so creative. Look at the cartoon, above, on the seatback screen taking the gal to return to his hotel. And there at its door, or rather one of its five doors, he stood holding an Olympic torch, ready for a photo.
Why five front doors? It is a square building, with an entrance along each facet. Does this make security a problem? No, he has probably more CCTVs than the Blue House, official home of President Moon Jae-in and the country’s National Assembly combined. Four-doors also allows locals to pop in, which they do, to have tea, or a spot of kimchi, or head to the speakeasy Charles H, named for cocktail writer Charles H. Baker, 1895-1987 (why he warrants the naming of a bar I do not yet know, any ideas, anyone?). And why the fifth door? Well THAT is for real VIPs, who need to be brought in un-observed, so to speak. Others, however, are perfectly happy to be seen coming in to this gorgeous 317-room hotel, perhaps to buy a flower box.
And here is another sign of Lubosh Barta’s creativity. When he was working in Thailand he got to know a Danish creative guy, Nikolai Bergmann, who knew from his pre-teens, back outside Copenhagen, that he wanted to work with flowers. It was he who, far from the fresh-flow lines of another Four Seasons-inspired floral creator, Jeff Leatham, started putting flowers as flower heads, in boxes. Now based in Tokyo, he has eleven boutiques throughout Japan and one freestanding in Korea and, apparently, he has branched out into jewellery (Forbes raves about his Natur & Nicolai Bergmann jewelry store, designed by OEO, in Tokyo’s Minami-Aoyama district). Bergmann, who has a major exhibition (for flowers, partnering with such brands as Christian Louboutin, Dom Pérignon, Nobu Tokyo, Shiseido and Louis Vuitton and obviously there is no stopping him. Will we see him designing cakes next?
Well, the cakes at Four Seasons Seoul bring many locals in through one of those four main doors. But there are so many reasons for them to come to, and back to, this luxury hotel. There are 1,200 members of the hotel’s wellness club, many paying up just for the prestige: others realise that here, exclusively, they have access to such special events as a 40-person Alain Ducasse dinner in town. And other locals love coming for weekend staycations. As elsewhere in this lively city, Saturday night is the busiest night of every week. How to cope? Well, rely on Lubosh Barta to come up with an idea. He bought some tents-in-a-box, and, with Four Seasons signs on them, they are easily put them up in family rooms, for kids. The result? Kids love them so much they ask their parents to come back again and again, to THIS hotel for a weekend away. Parents love them as it is much more stylish having your precious little ones tucked away in a tent rather than in a messy cot or sofa-bed in your bedroom. Social media love’em… so win-win.