Foreign Market Entry Strategy – Four Seasons in Brazil

Four Seasons Hotels and Resort is the world’s premier luxury hotel management company. It is currently operating 83 hotels in 35 countries and has built an unrivalled reputation for reliability, trust and connection with its guests (Four Seasons, 2010). As the hotel mogul prepares to enter Brazil, this paper narrates in detail the marketing plan Four Seasons will implement in the local geopolitical environment.

Brazil’s present political, legal, social and economic state draws the conclusion that acquiring a local luxury hotelier while utilizing its business resources like a partner, is the best mode of entry for Four Seasons. Fasano’s grandiose local brand recognition as a world-class hotelier and partnership with Brazilian real-estate developer, JHSF, makes it an ideal candidate for Four Seasons’ market entry strategy. Exceptional personalized customer service, an integral part of Four Seasons’ brand image and strategy, is standardized and will be directly transferred when entering Rio de Janeiro.

Acquiring Fasano’s hotel in Rio de Janeiro, while simultaneously retraining all of its existing staff members will accomplish Four Seasons’ main objectives when entering Brazil which include:  Providing a standardized service Four Seasons’ target market has come to receive and expect, while showcasing an authentic Brazilian experience for its guests. Establishing a genuine connection with the local community and understanding Brazilian culture to ensure a sustainable business relationship for future expansion. Utilizing the most ffective and efficient market strategy to expedite Four Seasons’ entrance into Brazil. To guarantee a successful entry into this new growth market, two Integrated Communications Campaign strategies will be put into place to reach out to the local community and international consumer base.

Isadore Sharp, founder of The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, opened his first hotel in Toronto, Canada in 1961. A modest hotel with 125 affordable rooms, The Four Seasons Motor Hotel marked the beginning of a new kind of hotel in which every customer would be treated as a special guest. Within ten years, three hotels had been opened in Canada, leading to the opening of the company’s first hotel abroad in London, England in 1970. Over time, Four Seasons made four strategic decisions that formed the pillars of the company. The first pillar, quality, was chosen during the initial expansion abroad in the 1970s, to continuously meet guest expectations from one hotel to the next. Four Seasons as a brand would represent exceptional quality with a focus on being the best hotel in each location. The second strategic decision was to build Four Season’s competitive advantage in service.

Four Seasons was recognized for its superior service with the opening of its first branded U. S. hotel in Washington, DC in 1979. During the 1980s, Four Seasons continued to expand and introduce flagship hotels throughout the US. The brand name began to develop and a distinct brand image was created. The third pillar, culture, would play a significant role in the growth of a strong brand name. The corporate culture became based on the Golden Rule, which Mr. Sharp defines as “to deal with others—partners, customers, coworkers, everyone—as we would want them to deal with us” (Martin, 2008).

In 1985, Four Seasons added branded private residences to their hotels and began to transition from a hotel owner to solely a hotel management company. With the change, the fourth pillar evolved: “to grow as a management company and build a brand name synonymous with quality” (“Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts- About Us: Four Seasons History,” 2010). Since, Four Seasons has created a brand name worth much more than its real estate by offering the best service to luxury travelers around the world.

Four Seasons has consistently innovated the services offered at its hotels over the years, becoming the first to offer shampoo in the shower, 24-hour room service, bathrobes, cleaning and pressing services, a two-line phone in each guest room, a well-lit desk, a full-service spa and 24-hour secretarial services (Martin, 2008). In 1986, the company went public and was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. A strong brand name allowed the Four Seasons to engage in a series of successful hotel openings across the world in the 1990s and into the new millennium.

The company has gradually expanded its portfolio of resorts to include 83 hotels and resorts in 35 countries and continues to grow in both size and recognition today. Every hotel, from Cairo to Chiang Mai to Milan, demonstrates the four pillars that Mr. Sharp has built the Four Seasons brand upon.

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts became the first large hotel company to manage hotels through real estate owners and developers. In 2007, Four Seasons Hotels returned to private ownership, with Bill Gates and Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal each owning 47. % of the company, and Mr. Sharp owning the remaining 5% (Segal, 2009). The purchase was based on the decision to expand more aggressively, specifically into regions not conducive to public companies (O’Brien, 2008). With operations in 35 countries, it has been extremely successful abroad and will continue to expand into new markets in the future; the Chinese and Indian markets are predicted to play a vital role in the future of the company (“Four Seasons CEO Sees Luxury Trajectory,” 2009).

As a hotel management company, Four Seasons has complete control over all hotel operations, participates in the designing of new hotels, and earns approximately 3% of revenue from hotel owners in addition to collecting fees to cover global sales, marketing, and reservations (O’Brien, 2008). The major decision makers in the company headquarters currently are:

  • Isadore Sharp: Founder, chairman, and CEO
  • Kathleen Taylor: President and COO
  • Jim FitzGibbon: President Worldwide Hotel Operations
  • Nick Mutton: Executive Vice President Human Resources and Administration
  • Scott Woroch: Executive Vice President Worldwide Development
  • John Davison: CFO and Executive Vice President Residential
  • Antoine Corinthios: President Europe/Middle East/Africa
  • Susan Helstab: Exective Vice President Marketing (Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts- About Us: Corporate Bios, 2010).

Four Seasons is continuously recognized as an outstanding company winning awards year after year. Four Seasons has remained on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For every year since 1998, for a total of twelve consecutive years (“Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts- About Us: Four Seasons History,” 2010).

Twenty-two of the Four Seasons properties have also been recognized for excellence in the hospitality industry with the AAA Five Diamond award in 2010 (2010 AAA/CAA Five Diamond Lodgings). This is a very prestigious award, presented only to “0. 27% of the 60,000 Diamond Rated lodgings and restaurants throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean,” truly setting Four Seasons Hotels apart from its competitors (“Five Diamond Award Winning Hotels and Restaurants,” 2010).

The thirtieth anniversary issue of the Robb Report, published in 2006, included the Four Seasons on its list of “the most exclusive brands of all time” alongside other luxury brands such as Rolls Royce, Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton (“Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts- About Us: Four Seasons History,” 2010). Conde Nast Traveler also consistently recognizes the Four Seasons as a leader in the hospitality industry. On Conde Nast Traveler’s Global Top 100 List, eighteen Four Seasons’ hotels have been included, which is triple the amount of the next most-listed hotel chain (Martin, 2008).

By incorporating the four pillars into its business strategy, the Four Seasons has developed into one of the most-recognized prestigious brands within the hospitality industry. Through its constant focus on excellent customer service in all markets, Four Seasons creates a brand that is immediately associated with exceeding customer needs and expectations in every location. Mr. Sharp summarized the idea by saying “If you don’t meet it every time, you don’t have a brand” (“Four Seasons CEO Sees Luxury Trajectory,” 2009).

The architecture of a hotel is irrelevant because any competitor can replicate it, however the employees of the Four Seasons differentiate the company by constantly delivering the premier service promised to the guests, hence, creating the strong brand image travelers associate with Four Seasons. In addition to providing timely and sophisticated service, employees are trained to personalize the service delivery through customer name recognition and offering unique services to match guest preferences.

Training employees to deliver customized service has been a greater challenge, because “personal service is not something you can dictate as a policy. It comes from the culture” (O’Brien, 2008). Mr. Sharp explains the effect of a strong corporate culture on the guests: “how you treat your employees is how you expect them to treat the customer” (O’Brien, 2008). Brand integrity, coupled with the corporate pride instilled in 30,000 employees worldwide, is what allows Four Seasons to charge a premium price.

The company has become legendary for its unmovable standards, despite economic recessions, believing that altering room prices will diminish the brand. Four Seasons loyal guests continually pay premium prices because they are confident the superior service that is expected will be delivered. Each Four Seasons Hotel and Resort strives to achieve the ideal balance of adaptation to the local environment and standardization of the service. Four Seasons Hotels are built after comprehensive research of the market and country to adapt to the local style and create an authentic experience for guests.

The company does not have a uniform style that is common in many competitors such as The Ritz Carlton. While the hotel is built to reflect the local culture, service is standardized across all Four Seasons properties. This is a key factor to the adaptation/standardization balance as service is considered the company’s sustainable competitive advantage. Guests expect to receive the same high-quality service at every Four Seasons hotel, despite being in a different country. Room rates also vary at different properties, taking into account seasonality, economic factors of the host country, and exchange rates.

However, each hotel offers a fairly large price range to reflect the different types of rooms and suites available in the property.  Although three main target segments for Four Seasons in Brazil are non-Brazilian nationals, the company must acknowledge cultural differences to be properly prepared to select, train, and compensate local employees and positively interact with local businesses.

Local firms are vital to Four Seasons’ business model since they have significant control over word-of-mouth promotion for the hotel. In order to receive customers for conferences, catering or special events, a lasting relationship needs to be built with firms in the local environment. Additionally, it is important to understand cultural dimensions to be successful in acquiring the tangible aspects of the business that are locally sourced. According to Hofstede measures, Canada and Brazil vary drastically on all cultural dimensions excluding masculinity.

Compared to Canada, Brazil has a very high Power Distance index (“Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions,” 2009). As a result, the Four Seasons Introductory Training Program (FSITP) may need to be modified. Currently, all new employees representing different levels of the organization, including housekeepers, department managers, non-paid interns, etc. , are placed into one large group for FSITP. Since local Brazilians expect a sharp division between subordinates and supervisors (Gillespie, Jeannet, & Hennessey, 2007), separate training schedules may be instituted to account for differences in responsibilities.

This could pose a difficult challenge because the training program is very standardized and is one of the components that provide the service competitive advantage. On account of strict boundaries between subordinates and supervisors, lower-level employees are not as comfortable with empowerment than those in low power distance cultures (Gillespie, Jeannet, & Hennessey, 2007). The Four Seasons managers may want to consider providing narrow and clear job descriptions. If narrow job descriptions are constructed, managers must establish monitoring systems to void bureaucratic inefficiencies. The greatest difference between Canada and Brazil is on the Individualism ranking. Compared to Canada, Brazil is a highly collectivist culture. (“Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions,” 2009) This facet creates a significant challenge in dealing with local businesses, whether clients or suppliers. Building and maintaining a relationship demands a substantial amount of time and effort devoted to face-to-face meetings. It is not an easy task to form a business contract with Brazilians without creating a relationship.

This task is increasingly difficult because Brazil is also a high uncertainty avoidance culture (“Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions,” 2009). In these circumstances, it would be extremely wise to partner with a Brazilian representative. By capitalizing on a local representative’s already established personal and business contacts, Four Seasons can conserve a great amount of resources. As it would be almost impossible for a local representative to provide every contact, a significant amount of time needs to be allocated for lengthy negotiations and contact building.

Although Brazil and Canada drastically differ in Hofstede cultural dimensions, it is important to recognize Four Seasons as a profitable multinational company. It has successful experience conducting its business model across various geographic areas, including Latin America. While the Four Seasons should not replicate their strategy entirely, it would be unwise to not utilize prior knowledge gains from countries, such as Uruguay, that are culturally very similar to Brazil. The average number of years of education for the population entering the workforce is five (Fraga & Bowler, eds. , 2008).

Lack of a properly trained workforce could negatively impact the internal operations of the Four Seasons. Strangely, Brazil’s public universities are excellent in contrast to the country’s under-resourced primary and secondary schools (Fraga & Bowler, eds. , 2008). Accordingly, Four Seasons should consider partnering with local universities to provide internships, job opportunities, or management training programs. Apart from managers, Brazil’s poor education standards may not adversely affect Four Seasons because the company heavily emphasizes personality, rather than work experience, in recruiting and selection.

Instead, Four Seasons relies on its comprehensive training program to provide the skills necessary to perform required tasks and meet the company’s core standards. Common among several Latin American countries is the notion of machismo, the belief that males are superior to females (“Doing Business in Brazil,” 2007). Machismo is perpetuated through society with the assignment of traditional roles to men and women. While this view has recently been challenged due to the influx of Brazilian women into both higher education and the workforce (“Doing Business in Brazil,” 2007), managers should be aware that it exists.

Furthermore, many customers of Four Seasons will be from foreign countries where the same gender norms are not present. Recognizing that normative business practices vary across borders will be pivotal in succeeding in the Brazilian market, as Brazilian local businesses comprise one of Four Seasons’ target markets. In addition, familiarity with the business culture can affect the outcome with essential local suppliers. Foreign managers can earn the respect of local associates and illustrate the importance of their relationship by engaging in the local business customs.

Upon meeting an associate for the first time, men should shake hands accompanied by a pat on the shoulder or arm and women should give a kiss on each cheek (“Doing Business in Brazil,” 2007). While Brazilians are very informal and prefer to be addressed by their first name, some sort of title such as Doctor or Professor usually accustoms it (“Brazil: First Name or Title ,” 2008). Brazilians tend to be extremely extroverted and friendly and close physical contact while conversing is considered normal (“Brazil: Conversation,” 2008); also, be prepared for personal questions.

Gifts are not necessary at a first meeting (“Brazil: Gift Giving,” 2010). Since the majority of employees will be Brazilian nationals, normative business practices affect the Four Seasons internal operations in addition to outside relationships. Due to the country’s collectivist nature, Brazilians do not work at private desks, but instead, share a large space with several coworkers (“Doing Business in Brazil,” 2007). If the Four Seasons structures the work environment accordingly, managers must realize that shared workspace results in a constant mix of personal and work-related conversations and plan deadlines accordingly.

Besides workspace, Brazil’s collectivist culture also impacts break schedule. Brazilians usually take their lunch breaks simultaneously (“Doing Business in Brazil,” 2007). If the Four Seasons agrees to this practice, scheduling will need to account for huge shift changes. A Canadian business manager will be horrified if unaware of the routine aspects of a business meeting. Meetings do not begin on time; a meeting normally begins twenty to thirty minutes past the agreed upon time. Once a meeting commences, the setting is very informal.

A large portion of time at the onset is dedicated to personal conversations. Throughout the meeting, it is not unusual for attendees to take phone calls or leave the room. (“Doing Business in Brazil,” 2007) Hence, meetings do not serve as an efficient avenue to establish an immediate outcome. Negotiations require time, as Brazilian managers prefer to discuss agreements or disputes among themselves privately; this stems from the collectivist and feminine nature of the culture (Gillespie, Jeannet, & Hennessey, 2007).

These differences can be curtailed with the help of a local representative, however, each non-Brazilian manager must acknowledge the lengthy time required to close a deal in order to provide realistic schedule projections and deadlines. Brazil instituted a federal republic system of government in 1985 following the end of military rule. The structure grants a substantial power to the elected president who holds office for four years with the opportunity for one additional term if reelected.

The president reserves the right to elect his/her cabinet, while the people elect members of Congress. Congress represents Brazil’s twenty-six states and sole federal district of Brasilia through two groups: an 81-seat Senate and a 513-member Chamber of Duties. Within Congress, majority power constantly transitions as representatives switch political parties often. (Background Note: Brazil, 2010) Currently, Luiz Inacio da Silva is nearing the end of his second term of presidency.

The upcoming election is scheduled for October 3, 2010 for a new president. President Luiz Inacio da Silva is using his popularity among Brazilian citizens to support candidate Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff’s main opponent, Jose Serra, currently holds an early poll advantage. Regardless of the winner of the October election, the Four Seasons will not be significantly affected as both candidates are expected to continue economic reform and the privatization of industries. (The Economic Intelligence Unit Group, 2010) While conducting business in its home country is much easier than it is in Brazil, Four Seasons operates in more than thirty-five countries, two of which, India and Syria, rank below Brazil in “Ease of Doing Business” (The World Bank Group, 2010). Seeing as the Four Seasons is a successful multinational enterprise with deep pockets, the struggle to receive credit in Brazil does present a considerable hurdle for the company.

To avoid difficulties related to trading across borders, Four Seasons should obtain necessary tangible components of its operations from local suppliers. In addition, local products will facilitate a good relationship with the local environment as well as provide a more authentic experience for guests. Areas that would be of trouble to Four Seasons include enforcing contracts, dealing with construction permits and registering property within Brazil. Fortunately, because the company specializes solely in management, much of the responsibilities associated to troublesome aspects will be shifted to their partner. A local Brazilian partner would be optimal since strong networking and contacts can help alleviate the burdens related to obtaining contracts and permits.

Although Brazil is characterized as a new growth market, the World Bank Group’s Doing Business Rankings demonstrate Brazil’s institutional weaknesses that are more align with a developing market. For instance, employing workers is extremely difficult within Brazil compared to the rest of the world. A lack of transaction facilitators, such as executive headhunters, makes it extremely burdensome to locate and recruit employees that possess the necessary skills to be successful at Four Seasons. This absence especially poses a challenge to Four Seasons because its sustainable competitive advantage of superior customer service is facilitated through its employees. Although not as difficult as employing workers, enforcing contracts presents a significant threat to businesses operating within Brazil.

Due to a lack of adjudicators, firms will find it arduous to verify payment or reliability of contractual partners. This problem is further exacerbated by the nonexistence of credibility enhancers and informational analyzers that assist with partner selection. According to The Coface Group, Brazil received an A4 in both Country Rating Risk and Business Climate Risk (2010). An A4 rating indicates an unstable political and economic environment (The Coface Group, 2010). Volatile conditions pose an enormous threat to Four Seasons due to the amount of direct investment needed to offer its service. Unlike a product offering, the Four Seasons does not have the ability to immediately exit, or temporarily leave, the market.

In an effort to curtail the effects of drastic changes, Four Seasons should create a managerial position solely dedicated to environmental scanning. This person should be aware of the significant changes and how they will affect company forecasts. An unstable environment can greatly deter customers from visiting the Four Seasons, particularly the primary target segment of brand loyal guests. If a brand loyal guest is interested in visiting Latin America, they have the option of staying in a Four Seasons located in Costa Rica, Mexico, Argentina, or Uruguay if Brazil appears dangerous and/or unsafe. Transparency International ranked Brazil 75 out of 180 countries with a score of 3. 7 out of 10; 0 represents high corruption (2009).

Despite the Four Seasons’ experience in highly corrupt countries such as China, Argentina, Egypt, India, Mexico and Syria (Transparency International, 2009), Four Seasons must adequately prepare for the effects of corruption in Brazil. It should incorporate the knowledge gained from the past by consulting senior managers involved in highly corrupt countries to produce contingency plans. However, it is important that the company recognizes differences between countries. For this, Four Seasons should consider using a Brazilian partner. A local partner possesses knowledge of the local community and business environment and can offer an insider perspective on solving obstacles that arise out of corruption.

Furthermore, a local partner holds local contacts that may be utilized to sidestep corrupt organizations or dealings.  Brazil remains open and friendly toward the majority of countries, especially its South American neighbors. Recently, Brazil has focused on expanding relations with its neighbors through associations such as the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUL), and Mercosur, a customs union between Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, with Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador as associate members. (Background Note: Brazil, 2010) Openness toward foreign nations ensures embargoes, or other forms of impediments, will not disrupt imports.

While Four Seasons should procure components from local suppliers to enhance its relationship with the environment, the company does not need to spend time concerned over delivery of its imported supplies. For imported aspects, Four Seasons should examine countries that are involved in the Mercosur customs union to take advantage of less costly tariffs and/or taxes. Apart from products, Brazil’s openness ensures that travelers will not confront burdensome procedures to enter the country or hostility from Brazilian citizens when visiting.  Due to a shift toward market liberalization, Brazil has more than doubled its trade flows in the past four years.

While portfolio investment has increased, foreign direct investment inflows hit record levels in 2007 and 2008. However, in 2008, Brazil registered its first current-account deficit in five years as a result of a sudden increase in imports. President Luiz Inacio da Silva has focused on a floating exchange rate, inflation targeting, and primary fiscal surpluses to enhance macroeconomic policies, and therefore, increase Brazil’s global competitiveness. These factors have lead Brazil’s economy to shift toward a more service-oriented market. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector and diverse industrial base continue to function as enormous drivers of growth. (Fraga & Bowler, eds. , 2008)

The modern real was introduced on July 1, 1994 to stabilize the broader Brazilian economy. When introduced, the real was set equivalent to 1 unidade real de valor, a non-circulating currency which ultimately set the real equivalent to 1 US dollar. Initially, the real climbed against many major currencies. Strong capital in-flows supported a strong real through late 1995. By 1996, the Central Bank of Brazil instituted tight controls over the real to bring the currency’s value down. The currency depreciated slowly through 1998, but the Central Bank relaxed controls in 1999 and the real experienced a sudden devaluation. From 1999 to 2002, the currency remained relatively volatile vis-a-vis major orld currencies. By mid-2002, the real reached an all-time low against the Canadian dollar, along with many major currencies, including the US dollar. The presidential election in late 2002 brought long needed stability to the Brazilian currency. From late 2002 to October 2008, the real slowly appreciated against the Canadian dollar and other major currencies. When the financial crisis hit in late 2008, the currency bounced from rates not seen since 2001 to around R$2:C$1. Since the crisis, the currency has again been slowly appreciating against the Canadian dollar. In recent months, the real has been slightly depreciating against the Canadian dollar.

Overall, the Brazilian real remains a relatively stable currency, especially among Latin American currencies. This will benefit the Four Seasons, as it repatriates profits to headquarters and pays local suppliers. However, as with any foreign currency — especially those in new growth markets — immunity from fluctuation isn’t a rule. New regimes can negatively affect currency, as well as Brazil’s significant current account deficit, significant government spending on the World Cup and Olympics and susceptibility to inflation. Four Seasons plans on pricing in US dollars, which appeals to many of its target markets and is consistent with Four Seasons across the globe.

Since 2003, Brazil has been successful in easing inflation pressures on account of strict monetary policy and an appreciation of the Real (Fraga & Bowler, eds. , 2008). Yet recently, inflation has rose in recent months owing mainly to the global recession as well as increased wages and inertial pressures within the country. The Central Bank of Brazil has set a target of 4. 5% for 2010. The Economic Intelligence Unit is optimistic, predicting that inflation will fall 4. 8% to 2. 5% between 2010 and 2011. (The Economic Intelligence Unit Group, 2010) Four Seasons must constantly monitor the inflation rate once within Brazil. If the EIU is correct, a 2. 3% change in the inflation rate will have an enormous impact on the operations (The Economic Intelligence Unit Group, 2010).

Brazil will need to constantly change their prices in order to keep up with large-scale changes. Fortunately, the majority of price postings occur through the company’s website allowing the company to avoid immense costs required to reprint materials. Higher inflation translates into higher prices not only for Four Seasons guests, but also for components the hotel buys from local suppliers or imports from other countries. Additionally, Four Seasons may consider using employee contracts that adjust for inflation to curb anger associated with loss of purchasing power. Luckily, the EIU predicts inflation to decrease and remain relatively stable in the future at 2. % (The Economic Intelligence Unit Group, 2010), limiting negative consequences incurred by operations.

The Brazilian government requires all companies, foreign and domestic, to provide specific elements to its employees including thirty days of annual leave, an annual bonus equal to one month’s salary, and severance pay if dismissed without a cause. Additionally, if a firm employs more than three employees, Brazilian nationals must account for two-thirds of the total employees and payroll. Brazil has instituted a system of labor courts to handle workplace disputes involving working conditions, wages, dismissal, etc. (The Department of Commerce, 2009) It would be ill advised to ignore government employment requirements.

Not only would the company risk being forced out of the market, Four Seasons would incur a tarnished reputation within the global arena. When hiring and scheduling future employees, Four Seasons must account for each individual’s thirty days of leave; the firm must decide whether it will assign vacation time or negotiate with employees for specific requests. If two-thirds of payroll must be distributed to Brazilian nationals, Four Seasons should scan the local environment for senior management positions, as these executives tend to comprise a large portion of pay. As Four Seasons offers a service requiring an array of different workers, the company must find a way to ooperate with highly unionized Brazilian workforce; currently, over 16,000 unions exist who are very well organized and are not hesitant to use aggressive methods (The Department of Commerce, 2009). A local partner may possess pertinent information to help alleviate any contentions that may arise.

President Luiz Inacio da Silva announced the Growth Acceleration Plan in 2007, which committed a US $296 million investment in infrastructure by the end of 2010. Although the GAP is promising, Brazil’s infrastructure remains one of the largest obstacles within the economy. Poor quality and numerous deficiencies remain in roads, ports and airports; no passenger trains travel outside the suburbs of major cities and only 12. 5% of the existing roads are paved. (The Department of Commerce, 2009)

While the 2016 Summer Olympics should increase incentives for private companies to improve infrastructure, Four Seasons must contemplate the effects of a poor transportation system. It may want to consider sourcing the majority of its tangible components from nearby local suppliers to ensure secure and fast delivery. Furthermore, imports are more likely to be priced higher on account of the inefficiencies within the infrastructure. A foreign direct investment is an option to increase efficiency and satisfaction; Four Seasons should investigate options near the hotel in addition to routes travelers predominately use. For example, it could form a strategic alliance with another firm to enhance the roads to and from the airport.

Brazil is a signatory to various agreements—Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement, the Bern Convention on Artistic Property, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, and the Paris Convention on Protection of Intellectual Property—committing the government to stringent protection of intellectual property rights. The decision to take part in international contracts was the country’s first realistic step toward putting an end to issues such as copyright infringement, however, piracy and counterfeiting remains a problem within Brazil. (The Department of Commerce, 2009) While Four Seasons does not possess a substantial amount of intellectual property that would threaten its existence, it does need to consider violations when procuring components for its hotel, particularly authentic furniture, decorations and artwork.

It would be wise for Four Seasons to implement a system used to differentiate genuine pieces from others.  Four Seasons, or any foreign or domestic private entity, may establish, own, and dispose of business entities allowing the company to chose any entry mode grounded solely in its own decision making (The Department of Commerce, 2009). Although a lack of government regulation offers the firm freedom of choice, it would be extremely useful to use a local representative to own the hotel building itself. As previously mentioned, Brazil is a highly collectivist culture that requires an extensive amount of time dedicated to relationship building to be successful in procuring supplies, building contracts, permits, etc.

A local partner possesses established networks that can be utilized to sidestep regulations and corruption in addition to knowledge specific to the Brazilian environment.  Brazil imports are subject to three separate taxes: Import Duty (II), Federal Industrialized Product tax (IPI) and the State Merchandise and Service Circulation tax (ICMS) (The Department of Commerce, 2009). Because both the IPI and ICMS are value-added taxes (The Department of Commerce, 2009), imports end up becoming very expensive for customers. Unless a specific tangible component is critical to the success of Four Seasons, it would be in the country’s best interest to purchase supplies from local businesses to avoid high prices pushed down to the customer because of high taxes.

High import taxes paired with Brazil’s poor infrastructure will threaten the safe and efficient obtainment of products. If the Four Seasons depends on certain aspects from headquarters, or another Four Seasons location, it should be aware that the foreign entity must register with Foreign Trade Secretariat (SECEX) in order to conduct trade with Brazil. Brazil has established bilateral investment agreements with numerous countries including Belgium, Luxembourg, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Venezuela; however, the Brazilian Congress has not yet ratified any of these. (The Department of Commerce, 2009)

Brazil has signed Mercosur, a regional trade agreement, between itself and Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, with Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador as associate members (The Department of Commerce, 2009). If imports are required, Brazil should heavily consider sourcing from countries involved to significantly decrease costs associated with imports. Furthermore, Brazil maintains a double taxation with Canada, making imports from its headquarters extremely expensive. Labeling requirements should not present Four Seasons with a notable barrier. Firstly, the primary focus of the company is services, not products. Besides the gift shop and food menus, Brazil will rarely encounter barriers in labeling. Secondly, The Brazilian Customer Protection Code does not call for unconventional or outlandish.

Specifically, labeling must “provide the consumer with precise and easily readable information about the product’s quality, quantity, composition, price, guarantee, shelf life, origin, and risks to the consumer’s health and safety” (The Department of Commerce, 2009). The only hurdle Four Seasons may encounter relating to labeling is a Portuguese translation and metric equivalent to the requirements listed above.  Direct mail is emerging in Brazil as a very useful method for reaching Brazilian consumers; citizens receive an average of 9. 3 pieces of direct mail every month and 74% of Brazilians prefer direct mail to create awareness of a new product or service (The Department of Commerce, 2009). Four Seasons is encouraged to use direct mail to target local businesses and community members within its promotional aspect of its marketing campaign.

It should especially use Veja, the most popular magazine in Brail with an average of one million copies dispersed a week, and Folha de Sao Paulo, the largest newspaper with an average of 317,000 copies distributed Monday through Friday and 400,00 on Sunday (The Department of Commerce, 2009). Media in Brail is still heavily controlled through the public sector; foreign ownership is limited to 49% (The Department of Commerce, 2009). This should not affect Four Seasons greatly since the company avoids advertisements in mass media outlets. Also, the majority of Four Seasons target segments does not reside in Brazil.  Many multinationals, especially Four Seasons traditional competitors, have yet to enter the Brazilian market or only have a small presence in Rio de Janeiro.

Additionally, there are only a small number of luxury local brands in Rio de Janeiro that are capable of competing with Four Seasons. In many regards, Brazil remains a relatively untapped market, though a number of international brands have recently begun eyeing the market, including Hilton. With the increased opportunity in Brazil, now more than ever may be a great time to enter the young market, armed with the experience learned through other brands’ ventures. Pestana is Portugal’s largest tourism and leisure group, operating 41 hotels across 3 continents in countries with former colonial ties to Portugal (Pestana, n. d. ).

Pestana entered Brazil via Rio de Janeiro in 1999 with a local partner, Renato Albuquerque Group (“Grupo da Madeira investe US$25 milhoes no Brasil,” 1999). Rather than building a new establishment, the company acquired the Carlton Rio Atlantica hotel, modernized the establishment, and added a new business center to attract business travelers (“Grupo Pestana lanca cartao no Rio,” 2001). Since 1999, Pestana has been heavily investing in Brazil and considers Rio de Janeiro a focal point for the company (“Grupo Pestana lanca cartao no Rio,” 2001). By 2001, Brazil accounted for 20% of Pestana’s hotel business (“Grupo Pestana reforca atuacao no Pais,” 2001). By 2004, the company had opened 6 hotels across Brazil with the stated goal of opening 10 more hotels within the next 10 years.

The company’s significant investment in the market – $110 million by 2004 – has brought increased legitimacy and credibility to the Brazilian market as an opportunity for luxury and business travel, according to Francisco Rabelo, financing director for Bank of Northeastern Brazil. This significant growth has been fueled by the company’s success in the country: the company has achieved an average annual return of 31% on its investments and the country is already its best performing territory in Pestana’s portfolio. The Director of the Finance and Investment Promotion Department of Brazil’s Tourism Ministry said the group was one of the largest hotel groups in Brazil; by 2005 the company was expected to have 400,000 room-nights in the country, more than any other hotel chain (Renata, 2006).

One of Pestana’s most palpable assets is its intimate understanding of Portuguese culture, being a Portuguese company. Brazil’s cultural and colonial ties to Portugal make the Brazilian market a particularly attractive market for Pestana, and as the company’s exceptional returns have demonstrated, Pestana is taking full advantage of its country-of-origin effects. With the company’s high knowledge of local culture and Brazil’s cultural similarity to Portugal, the company is able to keep the services within Brazil appear as very localized without adapting its standardized services much. This is a trend Pestana has demonstrated in the past, as it only enters markets with cultural ties to its home market (Pestana, n. d. ).

In this sense, Pestana can maintain a relatively standardized offering while appearing to be adapting to the local context. This intimate knowledge of Brazilian culture will be rewarding, as other multinationals don’t have access to or credibility with local culture. Another unique advantage that Pestana has is its ability to build pousadas within Brazil. Pousadas are boutique, luxury hotels that encapsulate Portuguese culture. Until 2003, the Portuguese government was responsible for developing and managing the hotels. Pestana bought the sole rights to building pousadas from the Portuguese government in 2003, though the government maintains highly involved in overseeing each new pousada to ensure it meets minimum standards (Pousadas de Portugal, n. d. ).

Pestana has expressed interest in bringing these unique products to Brazil and completed the construction of one in 1999. The company plans on expanding its offerings in the coming years in tandem with its commitment to building 10 hotels in the coming 10 years (Renata, 2006). These hotels automatically connect with locals and foreigners abroad who want an authentic experience in Brazil. No other hotel chain can emulate these boutique hotels – even localizing a hotel as much as possible won’t replicate a pousada as it won’t have the unique stamp by the Portuguese government. Moreover, pousadas are often located in historic buildings, making them even more of an attractive destination (Pousadas de Portugal, n. d. ).

Pousadas have the possibility of attracting travelers interested in an authentic experience without the risk of traveling to an unknown hotel. Travelers can experience luxurious accommodations and proven service in the local context of pure and authentic Portuguese culture, service and food. In fact, Brazil’s Minister of Tourism has said that pousads will attract a higher class of tourists who are willing to pay additional money for the unique experience (Renata, 2006). Another strength Pestana has demonstrated is its ability to connect with locals and operate efficiently within the local political and economic environment. Across Brazil, Pestana has demonstrated a tendency to enter cities by acquiring local hotels, as it did in Rio de Janeiro and Natal.

This ensures that the hotels Pestana operates have a distinctly local flair and enable the company to penetrate the market quicker, avoiding lengthy construction times. The company also enters local markets with local partners, though it uses different partners in different cities. This willingness to share ownership gives the company powerful local allies and gives the company legitimacy among locals. These are important strengths, as many other multinationals are less successful at navigating Brazil’s complicated and corrupt government. Moreover, entering a market with a local partner shifts risk and offers the company invaluable local knowledge.

A possible weakness the group has is its organizational structure. The group maintains an International Division Organization structure. While Pestana only operates in markets based on the Portuguese culture, countries with similar histories still vary greatly in terms of market power, government regulation and destination type. By clumping all international destinations under one group, the company may fail to fully take advantage of each market or understand each market. The company’s lack of resources committed solely to Brazil may enable competitors to build a structure that is more flexible and responsive to trends and changes within the Brazilian market.

Further, as the company begins expanding outside Brazil into other South American countries, the company may continue to dilute its attention to Brazil, thereby rendering many of its potential strengths as much less poignant. A final weakness of the company is its intense focus on growth. Between its 10 hotels in 10 years policy in Brazil, and its overarching 30 hotels in 30 years policy, Pestana may begin to focus on quantity above quality. While the company’s unique products and intimate knowledge of Portuguese culture may attract luxury travelers at first, maintaining the high quality and service standards demanded by the business traveler and luxury leisure traveler may to be difficult amidst such an emphasis on growth.

Finally, as the number of hotels owned by Pestana surges, the company may saturate the market and devalue the novelty of its brand. The hotels may become less alluring and less of a destination as they become ubiquitous and commonplace. Starwood is one of the world’s largest and most geographically diverse hotel and leisure companies. The company is primarily a hotel management corporation, responsible for luxury brands The Luxury Collection, Regis, W and Le Meridien and other midrange brands Westin, Sheraton and Element (Starwood Hotels & Resorts). Until recently, the company’s sole exposure to Rio de Janeiro was its three Sheraton hotels, two of which lacked a spa.

While the hotels have meeting faculties, the hotels don’t appear in trade magazines as specifically targeting the business community. As such, these three hotels are not considered to be in direct competition to the Four Seasons because they do not focus on any of our target markets. On June 12, 2009, Starwood acquired Golden Tulip Hospitality, a global hospitality company with a strong focus on the corporate traveler. Tulip manages three hotel chains, including the upscale Golden Tulip, which focuses on business travelers, and the luxurious Royal Tulip, which focuses on leisure travelers (Golden Tulip Hospitality). Tulip has one property in Rio de Janeiro, the Golden Tulip Ipanema Plaza.

The property has a spa and complete business center. The hotel’s focus on corporate travel finally endorses Starwood as a viable competitor in the Rio de Janeiro market. Tulip is a unique hotel insomuch as it relies on international standards of service, yet has been relatively successful at integrating local flavors into its brand. The company advertises its local touches through its advertising campaign, “International standards, local flavors. ” Tulip’s worldwide presence also lends it strong appeal and acceptance worldwide, especially among the luxury and business traveler. This is, in part, due to its global standards of service that international travelers have come to know and rely on.

Tulip’s ability to incorporate local culture into a standardized brand is a powerful competitive advantage. Maintaining standard levels of service is important to the international traveler, as it assures him/her what to expect when traveling and builds brand equity. However, by maintaining these standards and adding local culture into each property, Tulip finds a middle ground between standardization and adaptation. This is a strategy that enables the company to remain flexible to local demands and local clients, but also cater to international travelers. One strength of the Starwood’s acquisition of Tulip is Tulip’s acceptance among the international elite.

Until the acquisition, Starwood’s two luxury brands – St. Regis and the Luxury Collection – did not have properties in Brazil. This acquisition gives Starwood immediate penetration into Rio with a familiar and proven portfolio of properties. With Starwood’s and Tulip’s combined international experience, the group can effectively begin targeting the elite traveler more vigorously. Co-branding opportunities and brand extension opportunities also exist, as both hotel companies have more luxurious brands they could deploy in Rio de Janeiro if the Golden Tulip proves successful. Moreover, Starwood’s large reserve of loyal guests gives the combined company an automatic target market from which to draw.

A final strength of the merger is Starwood’s and Tulip’s global footprint and established luxury brands lend it credence among the international elite. The company’s brand equity is an important strategic asset that can be used to connect with world travelers and attract them to their properties in Brazil. Starwood’s skill at managing a portfolio of multiple brands is important, as Tulip becomes another brand that Starwood can leverage, advertise and use to attract travelers. One potential weakness of the merger is the possibility that incongruous corporate cultures may stymie the companies’ ability to synergize strengths and build a comprehensive network.

As with any merger, it takes time to fully integrate a new company into an existing company, and Starwood must be able to keep Tulip’s corporate culture in tact if it hopes to reap the benefits of the company’s strengths. If Starwood tries to change or adapt Tulip too much, it will lose Tulip’s connections with the business traveler and the company’s unique ability to combine international standards with local adaptation. Starwood must focus on maintaining Tulip’s brand identity and equity, while simultaneously merging the company into its portfolio to fully realize a competitive advantage. Another possible weakness is Starwood’s limited exposure to the Brazilian market, especially Rio de Janeiro’s luxury market.

While Tulip has been in Brazil for some time, and both companies have experience in the luxury segment, Starwood is less familiar with the luxury hotel segment in Brazil than some of its existing competitors. This lack of experience could prove to be harmful if Starwood is not careful in executing operations, especially since the Brazilian market has proven to be difficult for international brands to tap. Starwood and Tulip both lack a positive country-of-origin effect, as the Brazilian market has proven to be fiercely loyal to local and Portuguese brands. Assuming that the namesake of its hotels will make the company successful could prove to be an unsuccessful route for the company to head. Marriott is one of the world’s largest lodging companies with over 3,000 hotels spread across 67 countries. Marriott primarily franchises under an array of brands, including the luxurious J. W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton and other full-service and other mid-tier hotels (Marriott).

Marriott entered Rio de Janeiro in 2001, focusing its efforts on attracting luxury business travelers to respond to the country’s bourgeoning market (“Hotels check into Brazil”). The opening of the J. W. Marriott in 2001 marked the city’s first new five-star resort in over 12 years (“A new Rio de Janeiro Marriott Hotel,” 2001). The J. W. Marriott is one of Brazil’s two multinational hotels on Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotels 2010” list, a comprehensive listing on the world’s 500 best hotels (“T+L 500: World’s Best Hotels 2010,” n. d. ). The hotel offers a full-service spa, executive floor, complete business facilities and banquet halls and on-site restaurants. Before opening the hotel, Marriott sold off its stake in the hotel with the help of a local consulting firm. However, the acquisition of land along with the initial costs and design were all sponsored by Marriott without the specific help of locals. Marriott retained control over management of the hotel (“Rede Marriott e Odebrecht colocam hotel carioca a venda”).

Marriott is the largest and most recognized multinational brand currently in Brazil. The J. W. Marriott brand, in particular, has resonance with our target markets, especially luxury travelers, as demonstrated by its placement on the Travel + Leisure rankings. This is a powerful asset, as the combination of brand equity, name recognition and recognized quality may connect with luxury world travelers. Moreover, the company’s worldwide presence and name recognition may also resonate with business travelers who are already familiar with the brand and trust the hotel to be a quality establishment. A major weakness the hotel faces also stems from its name. Like other multinational chains discussed, Brazilians prefer local hotels.

The negative country-of-origin effects have hurt Marriott, as US flags are not necessarily familiar locally since Brazilians’ exposure to these brands is significantly more limited and Brazilians tend to be attracted to local brands. This is a weakness the company faces when targeting local visitors and businesses, another target market that the Four Seasons is hoping to target. Another weakness Marriott faces is its lack of local partnerships. When entering the market, Marriott did not search for a partner. This is in stark contrast to other successful chains, especially since Marriott lacks experience in the Brazilian market overall. According to the CEO: In order to move forward, we will need to find common ground with the Brazilian business model and probably take some equity positions in some of the developments to gain market knowledge and brand acknowledgement.

A second option is to enter with our existing relationships through local partners to implement our manage-franchise business model (O’Neill & Chao, 2008). Coming from a country with significantly different normative business practices and limited exposure to Brazilian culture – despite its significant international presence – has proven a difficult obstacle for Marriott. This is an important weakness to consider for all multinational companies, especially those unfamiliar with the Brazilian marketplace. A final weakness Marriott faces is its pricing structure, which is higher than many of its competitors. While the hotel has higher rankings than other multinationals, if the benefits of the brand are not properly communicated, the hotel may seem overpriced.

Moreover, if the hotel does not distinguish itself as luxurious, the company may face problems persuading international travelers to choose an American hotel chain over a more localized chain.  The Copacabana Palace is a historic, luxury hotel built in 1923. It is considered by many around the world as the place to stay in Rio (Doyle, 2009). The Copacabana Palace is one of three hotels on Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotels 2010” list located in Brazil (“T+L 500: World’s Best Hotels 2010,” n. d. ). Additionally, the hotel is a member of the 5 Star Alliance, an online travel agency that partners with the world’s most luxurious hotels.

Owned by the Guinle family of Rio de Janiero until 1989, the hotel is now owned by Orient-Express (Five Star Alliance, n. d. ). Orient-Express purchases individual luxury hotels across the globe. The company does not advertise itself as a chain, rather positioning each property individually. Properties are managed locally: “every hotel…has its own name and personality” (Orient-Express, n. d. ). Following its purchase, Orient-Express renovated the hotel, outfitting the fifth floor as an executive business center to focus on business travelers. The hotel includes meeting facilities and banquet facilities, all aimed at business travelers’ needs (Five Star Alliance, n. d. ).

The hotel also focuses significantly on elite travelers, as its reputation for service and quality attract politicians, royalty and actors. The hotel has a complete spa and two restaurants, neither of which serves Brazilian cuisine (Five Star Alliance, n. d. ). An important advantage the Copacabana Palace has is its legacy and long-term association with Brazil. From its beginnings, the company has been intertwined into local culture. The owners were local and today, Orient-Express continues to manage the hotel as an independent property. Many view the hotel as the nation’s preeminent local option, and foreigners who want an authentic experience may opt to stay at the Copacabana Palace over other multinational chains.

The hotel’s brand equity is particularly strong, as it is a clear favorite among elite travelers. The company’s increased focus on business travelers further expands the hotel’s brand equity and product scope. Another strength the Copacabana Palace is its long history in Rio de Janeiro. The company’s experiences in Rio de Janeiro give it a level of knowledge foreign multinationals can’t match. Moreover, the company’s success in Rio de Janeiro reflects its ability to work within the country’s legal and political structure. As investment increases in Rio de Janeiro and new multinational chains enter the market, Copacabana’s deep understanding of local cultures and the regulatory environment will be exponentially more valuable.

While the company is known to Brazilians and the well-traveled elite, a lack of a true multinational brand name may stymie some elite travelers. Not only does the company lack a network of brand loyal patrons, the lack of an internationally recognized brand name may make some travelers hesitant. Additionally, the hotel’s high price may make other, more familiar options more appealing to travelers, who are sure of the level of quality to expect.  Fasano is one of the few remaining local competitors yet to be acquired. The company was established in 1982 as a world-class restaurant; the company remains recognized for its culinary achievements.

The restaurant pioneered the gastronomic movement in Brazil and continues to uphold its elegant blend of contemporary and traditional Brazilian cuisine. In 2003, Fasano opened its first hotel in Sao Paulo. In the same year, Fasano became a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World (Five-Star Alliance) and was ranked as one of the world’s 50 best hotels in Travel + Leisure (Fasano, 2010). Fasano opened a hotel in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 amid great hype and reviews, “eclipsing the fabled Copacabana Palace as the top play den for Brazil’s rich and famous” (Beehner). From its foundation to the finishing touches, Fasano is a local competitor. This is a significant strength the hotel has, as its numerous restaurants all share the spirit of Fasano’s famed culinary expertise.

The hotel is designed in Bossa Nova-chic style and Brazilian touches compliment every aspect of the hotel. More than any competitor, Fasano remains a localized and focused hotelier, and has limited experience outside the growing Brazilian market. Fasano is a traveler’s only real option, when he/she wants to stay at a local, luxury resort. Every other luxury boutique hotel has been acquired or is at a different tier of service than Four Seasons. Another strength Fasano has is its long-term, strategic partnership with real-estate developer JHSF. This has given Fasano access to the Brazilian market and enabled the company to take less risky positions in its hotels as JHSF has a 50. 1% stake in the hotel.

This also frees up capital for other ventures, as the company is currently building additional properties in Brazil and Uruguay. A possible weakness of Fasano is its lack of experience managing hotels and meeting the expectations of guests, especially foreigners. As Brazil’s most expensive hotel, the elite guests who frequent Fasano have incredibly high expectations. While multinationals have experiences with such clientele, Fasano does not have the same expertise in dealing with this segment and may be overextending its existing resources in an attempt to compete with world-class contenders. Indeed, excitement over the hotel has faded since its opening in 2007 and the company continues to charge a significant premium over every other Brazilian hotel.

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