Wolf Hengst: ‘It’s one thing going into retirement, but in the case of Biki, his legacy is going to live on forever’

With a wealth of hotel experience behind him, and currently Strategic Advisor to Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Wolf Hengst is a hospitality industry doyen in his own right. He speaks glowingly of the difference that PRS ‘Biki’ Oberoi’s has wrought.

Recognised for outstanding, sustained contribution to customer service throughout his long and illustrious career, Wolf Hengst has continually redefined the standard for luxury and guest satisfaction. While he began his journey in hospitality with Hilton International in the 1960s, he is best known for taking Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to great heights during his three decades with the group that started in 1977.

He not only opened the first company-built property in Washington DC, USA, but was also instrumental in the introduction of the concept of full-service spas into the hotels in the mid-80s. Today, he brings his breadth of vision and depth of perspective to his role as Strategic Adivisor to Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas.

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Wolf Hengst shares a similar commitment to impeccable service as PRS Oberoi. Image: Courtesy Six Senses.

While he was President, World Wide Hotel Operations, reporting directly to Four Seasons founder and Chairman, Isadore Sharp, from 1998, he met PRS Oberoi for the first time. “It was no surprise to me in spending time with Biki that he could have created and did create the leading hotel company, certainly in Asia, and one of the great companies of the world,” says Hengst, who himself was mentioned in the opening pages of the book In Search of Excellence written by management guru Tom Peters, and clearly knows what constitutes excellence in the hospitality space.

He recalls, “I met Biki really because of Isadore Sharp, my boss at that time. He asked if I would go and meet with him in Delhi and Mumbai. There was discussion perhaps there was a possibility for the two companies to get together. So, I went over that to meet with Biki. He was hospitable, he was generous, he was somewhat imposing but very sharp and obviously this smart businessman, but who also understood the human condition, which I think is reflected in the hotels themselves and also the school.”

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Doyen of Indian hospitality: PRS ‘Biki’ Oberoi. Image: Courtesy Oberoi Hotels.

Hengst, who has been imparting his extensive industry knowledge to students for years now, says he first heard of Oberoi shortly after graduating from hotel school and it wasn’t because of the hotels as much as the Oberoi university. “When you think what he accomplished with the university, and which is still today considered one of the best of its kind in all of Asia. I think what he did with that was just fantastic.”

According to him, after talking to the students, he gets a strong sense of their dedication to their alma mater, “We’ve hired, both in my time in Four Seasons and in Six Senses, graduates of the school, and there is a sense of belonging to Oberoi even after they left the school and don’t work for Oberoi!” He smiles that it has a special place in their heart, and it takes them to roads of great success.

Speaking of PRS Oberoi’s recently announcing his retirement, Hengst says, “It’s hard for me to imagine the hospitality industry without Biki Oberoi and, you know, it’s one thing his going into retirement but in the case of Biki, his legacy is going to live on forever. He’s just a very, very special man.”

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