Much admired, not easily replicated
is a well-known tag line for four seasons hotels and Resorts. But it could be just as easily applied to Sanjiv Hulugalle, the young general manager presiding over the $500 million transformation of former J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa into Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, slated to open in February of 2016.
At just 39, Hulugalle already has racked up a significant list of hospitality accomplishments. For starters, Hulugalle rose to the rank of general manager by the age of 33, which at the time made him the youngest general manager in the Four Seasons chain.
“It was quite obvious even at such a young age that he would go far,” says Steve James, Lifestyle Professionals Fitness Coaching, who has known Hulugalle since 1996 when he employed the then 22-year-old in his first position at Four Seasons, Sydney, as a part-time fitness instructor. “His people skills, intelligence, humility and caring nature were quite outstanding for such a young man.”
What wasn’t clear at the time was if Hulugalle would make hospitality his ambition, says his mentor Ivan Goh.
“Sanjiv studied in physical education, and he initially had a dream of managing his own gym and health club some day,” Goh says. ” I think I influenced him into changing his career goals into the hospitality industry instead. I thought that his personality and energy suit the hotel industry perfectly … it is fair to say that Four Seasons is lucky to have such a dedicated and loyal employee in its organization.”
Eighteen years and 12 positions later, Hulugalle has proved his mentor right. While he was general manager of Four Seasons on Kuda Huraa in the Maldives, it was voted “best of the best” in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveller U.K. And, more recently, he presided over the opening of Four Seasons Hotel Beijing, which was built according to his vision that emphasized culture and history. Friends, family and work colleagues attribute these successes to Hulugalle’s innate sense of hospitality, which gives him the ability to make everyone—from guests and colleagues, to friends and family members—feel special.
“When I first met Sanjiv, he would say that I was his most important VIP guest, and one of his expressions was: ‘Anything you want, Sir, consider it done,’” says longtime friend James Lee, who has stayed at Four Seasons properties the world over. “I felt special, until I realized this was his standard greeting.”