How has Capella, Travel&Leisure’s 2nd top global brand worldwide, soared to the top of consumer awareness in such lightning time? This is a company that has always, since the opening of its flagship Singapore property in 2009, had guest experience high in its culture stakes (its logo is two stars, the larger for those who receive product and service, the other for what and who provide it). This was a significant reason for Rinaldi, whose background includes Bulgari, EDITION, One&Only and Ritz-Carlton, to join Singapore-based Capella, part of the Kwee family’s Pontiac Land Group, September 2020. He currently presides over 6 Capellas and one Patina.

Growing up in Rome, he planned a computer engineering future but a spell serving in Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria changed that. Technology has, however, remained a tremendous asset. During the pandemic Capella, like many others, has been forced to switch from international to domestic marketing. Experiences, planned and organised on the ground, by hotels rather than on a corporate level, have been the differentiator.

In Singapore, for instance, gm Fernando Gibaja has arranged calligraphy workshops with Montblanc, and Penhaligon (fragrance composing); you can learn drum- jamming, or DJ-ing, aromatherapy skills or how to make a Panama hat: these are all so popular that people have been changing existing bookings to get a Capella Moments slot. Another partnership sees one of Singapore Capella’s villas completely themed by Maserati.

Working with ideas like this encourages guest recognition. The award from Travel&Leisure is testimony - frustratingly, with 97.8%, Capella is currently a mere 0.6% behind 2021’s winner. But experiences definitely bring additional business, plus they help with staff recruitment, retention and motivation, and awareness brings the Capella name in front of developers.

We have a strong pipeline, says Rinaldi. After he becomes president of Capella Hotel Group - ceo Nicholas Clayton leaves by the end of this year - expect him to continue his predecessor’s path, and, as if Avis chasing Hertz, he will undoubtedly go after Leela with full throttle to grab T&L’s top-spot in 2022 (interestingly, that means chasing another member of Global Hotel Alliance GHA – GHA and its DISCOVERY loyalty programme are vitally important, says Rinaldi, as it gives Capella, and its sibling Patina, access to a massive global network, and illustrates the power of consumer loyalty).

Christiano Rinaldi