Industry Partner Spotlight with Four Seasons GM Cornelia Samara
Few opportunities are more inspiring to students at the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) than hearing directly from industry leaders. The school’s Industry Speaker Series does just that, and a March 17 event featured premier hospitality executive Cornelia Samara, who spoke about her management experience at luxury hotels all over the country. She shared details about her current role as regional vice president and general manager for the Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, an STHM industry partner and Philadelphia’s first Forbes Travel Guide five-star hotel. After her talk, she sat down with tourism and hospitality management student Olivia Anton ’24, to share some key insights and advice for students like Anton who are looking forward to landing that first job in the industry.
Olivia Anton: What have you learned about the guest experience, given your roots overseas and your experience all over the U.S.?
Cornelia Samara: Wherever they’re from, and wherever they’re traveling, visitors want to feel taken care of. They want to have a real connection to the staff and to the property where they’re going. They’re looking for authentic service and for us to demonstrate that we honor their preferences.
Anton: What did your family’s travel agency in Jerusalem mean to you, in terms of growing up working with tourists?
Samara: From early childhood, I learned what a difference it makes to be hands-on when you’re running a hospitality business. My parents always went out of their way to be involved with the guests, from greeting them at the airport to hosting dinners. For us it wasn’t just a business, it was making genuine connections with the guests who came to experience the Holy Land.
Anton: What do you and your staff look for when you’re hiring interns or alumni? What qualities are most important?
Samara: For students or graduates ready to start their career, the attributes that matter most are attitude and personality. We want you to be passionate and authentic. We also look for candidates who are team-oriented and bring a positive energy to the role.
Anton: What do student interns bring to your staff and how can they enhance the experiences of your guests?
Samara: It’s always important in hospitality to evolve and be open-minded, and student interns bring a fresh outlook and new ideas. We count on young people to continue to be innovative and help us stay ahead of the game.
Anton: What should STHM students keep in mind as the hospitality bounces back from the pandemic?
Samara: Hospitality is not going away. We’ve had a rough period with the pandemic, but it’s human nature to want to travel and meet people, and hotels will always be a central aspect of that. Hospitality is on its way up, so I would say don’t be discouraged. It’s a fun industry that is gratifying on so many levels, to connect with visitors and create meaningful experiences for them.