Yvette Thomas-Henry is the Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Resort Nevis. Born in St. Thomas, USVI and raised in St. Croix, Yvette returned home to the Caribbean in early 2020, becoming the first Caribbean native to serve in the top position in Nevis or any other Four Seasons property in the region. In addition to her role in Nevis overseeing a property that recently completed a multi-year, multi-million dollar enhancement project, she is also responsible for the operational oversight of several other Four Seasons properties.
Prior to joining Four Seasons Resort Nevis, Yvette most recently served as General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta since 2015, during which time she received a promotion to Regional Vice President of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in 2018. As a part of the Four Seasons family since 2007, she has also held leadership positions at Four Seasons Hotel New York and Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC, as well as hospitality experience with Loews Hotels, The Plaza Hotel, The Waldorf-Astoria NYC and The Ritz Carlton Boston.
Encouraged by her mother – who was born and raised on Nevis’ sister island of St. Kitts, where Yvette also attended primary school – she always strived to be the best at whatever she did. After earning her Bachelor of Arts from Pace University, she went on to receive a Master of Science from Audrey Cohen College in New York. Throughout her career, she has developed a sharp eye for detail, a dedication to giving back to the community and a focus on women in leadership. During her tenure in Atlanta, the Hotel has continued to thrive as the only AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star hotel in the city – an accolade it has held since opening in 1997.
Yvette’s appointment comes on the heels of the launch of an updated look for Four Seasons Resort Nevis, which over the past two years has seen a multi-phase unveiling of re-envisioned guest rooms and suites and Great House lobby; the opening of delicious new dining outlets On the Dune, EsQuilina and crowned monkey RUM BAR; a beautiful new space for the Kids for All Seasons kids club; a stunning new pier to welcome guests upon arrival and the perfect spot to catch a Caribbean sunset; and a new signature infinity edge pool at the centre of the Resort.
2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in 2022?
Health and safety will continue to be front and center, not only for travelers but for our employees and other service providers. Proof of vaccination, COIVD testing, and wearing of masks in certain circumstances will also be expectations moving forward. These new protocols will require that we all have more patience as we navigate through the delays these additional steps make in our travel plans.
Building the right team is crucial for a property’s success. What are the key skills you look for when hiring new employees?
We look for those who are passionate about service, those who demonstrate a genuine sense of care, those with a ready smile and enthusiasm for engaging with customers. There is no substitute for those who lead with the heart; the magic they create in those unscripted moments when they encounter the guests are priceless.
How important is it for a luxury hotel to have a solid gastronomic offering?
Dining is an essential part of the luxury experience. Food brings joy, offers discovery of different cultures and exposure to communities and traditions that enriches travel. Any luxury resort or hotel would be expected to offer a creative, diverse and unique dining experience.
Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of? What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers?
While I did not dream of a career in hospitality, I was incredibly fortunate to be introduced to that world while I was in university and still at the onset of my career. My hands-on exposure to this world solidified my love and passion for this industry, which has not changed over the ensuing 30 years.
Which cities are your favourites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion?
I love travel. I have a girl tribe made up of my 3 best girlfriends and we explore the world together. One of my favorite cities is Cartagena, Colombia. The food experience in that city is diverse, rich, and full of flavor and spices from many parts of the world. I look forward to every new food experience there as I know I’ll have a story to tell and recommendations to share with others who visit the city. When I think of history, the cities of Rome and Budapest come to mind. You walk along the streets of Rome and the evidence of history is seen in every step you take. The war-damaged buildings of Budapest along with the many historical sites makes it a favorite city of mine from a historical perspective. When I think of fashion, I think of two of my other favorite cities, Paris and Milan. Even walking along the streets in these cities inspires the creative fashion juices. The colors, the boldness, the unexpected pairings all come together to encourage the fashion-minded to push the envelope of creativity.
What are some of the new measures your team has put into place to deal with the post-COVID-19 situation?
Very early on in the pandemic, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts began working with leading medical experts to create a series of protocols implemented globally to keep all employees, guests and homeowners safe. This program, called Lead with Care, has been used to further heighten our already strict cleanliness protocols to keep us all safe. We continue to work with leading medical experts to update and refine those protocols through the various stages of this pandemic.
What would you do if you weren’t a hotelier?
My BA degree is in Speech Language Pathology and my MA is in Administration for Human Services. I would use those degrees to work with kids; I am very drawn to giving back and working with kids has been a passion of mine.
When are you happiest? At work, which is your most challenging activity and why?
I’m happiest when I’m with my family. My husband and I have been married for almost 30 years and we have two wonderful sons, Myles and Jarrod. They are funny, confident, smart and just amazing. I love spending time with us together as a family. I also love my girl tribe. My three best girlfriends love travel, art, food and fun, and we make great memories traveling the world together. My most challenging activity at work has been making the tough, yet necessary staffing decisions due to the impact of COVID. When you have talented individuals who love what they do, the last thing you want is to be placed in a position to have say goodbye to them.
What makes Four Seasons stand out from other brands you’ve worked with?
Four Seasons has amazing people: they are passionate, engaged, smart, creative and bring their best to the workplace and to our guests. The culture of the company defines who we want to be for our employees and for our guests. The similarities in these areas far outweigh the differences. There is so much to look forward to and I truly feel the sky is the limit.
You’ve had such a successful career and traveled all over the world – what would you say has been your career highlight?
Being a Regional Vice President and General Manager with this amazing company has provided me a platform to support many of the causes that are important to me. I am passionate about supporting causes for children, the arts, diversity and inclusion and women in leadership, to name a few. This role has allowed me to fulfill my desire to give back and pay it forward. I have had the opportunity to support and partner with any number of organizations, including sitting on boards that are doing great things in our communities and have been proud that the teams I have led that have been just as committed to giving back to the communities that we are a part of. I am also thrilled to be the diversity, inclusion and belonging lead for the Americas region for our company. Now more than ever, it is essential that we have the smartest, most diverse, passionate and inclusive team globally. Any small part I can play in making that a reality is something I am committed to. I am also proud to be one of the remarkable women charged with creating the vision and mission for future for this company.