For a few weeks in April and May this year, a quiet lull hung around Sentosa, cautiously looming over the once-colourful backdrop like a warning sign that bade loyal wanderers to keep out, albeit temporarily. As the government slowly eased out of the circuit breaker, the hues of the energetic holiday hub started to come alive once again, evident in the red tones of the Foster and Partners-designed Capella Singapore.
Capella Singapore’s efforts in implementing enhanced service standards, new procedures and offering engaging experiences paid off within days of the government announcing the lifting of the national ‘circuit breaker’. The local community immediately started planning escapes to their favourite staycation getaway – Sentosa, with Capella firmly in mind. The ‘Singapoliday’ theme witnessed locals heading to this resort on weekdays and weekends, armed with masks, sanitizers, prudence and a whole lot of optimism.
I connected with Capella Singapore’s General Manager Fernando Gibaja and discovered first-hand how the hotel is adapting to the new normal as it started welcoming guests back.
“I came here for a holiday around 2009 and I stayed in Capella Singapore and was wowed. I thought, ‘I’d love to be the General Manager of this hotel.’ So, I’m blessed to be here” shares Gibaja who was appointed as Capella Singapore’s General Manager in 2017, bringing with him 20 years of experience working in Jumeirah’s Zabeel Saray, Mandarin Oriental, and Ritz Carlton.
Prior to the pandemic, Capella Singapore generally enjoyed well over a quarter of its weekend occupancy from the local ‘staycation’ market. “Singaporeans would normally come on weekends, holidays, festive periods, and long weekends,” he notes.
The pandemic has temporarily changed this demography, as well as the hotel’s strategies. With Singapore’s borders restricted to limited travel profiles – and no incoming leisure or business travellers from overseas –luxury hotels such as Capella Singapore have not just maintained but expanded their relationships with guests, continuing to attract the nation’s residents to extend patronage.
It is easy to be on a ‘Singapoliday’ in Capella and continue to, very comfortably, maintain social distancing while here. The hotel is spread over 30 acres and even when at full occupancy, one only sights other patrons during breakfast.
“For the first few days of the hotel reopening after the circuit breaker ending, I noticed that the guests were extremely happy to return. You could see their smiles, as well for all of us. I have never in my life received so many compliments from guests. The soul of the hotel is the people as well as the guests.” Fernando Gibaja, General Manager Capella Singapore
When it comes to crowd-pleasers such as the luxurious buffet spread or lazy days by the pool, Capella Singapore successfully minimizes physical contact here. “Breakfast now is all a la carte, freshly made, with three staggered schedules. A smooth reservations system has been implemented for the breakfast spots, as well as facilities such as the gym and the three swimming pools,” explained Gibaja.
Refreshing The Singapore Staycation With New Experiences
To ensure returning guests get to enjoy new experiences at Capella, the hotel has implemented an extensive resort-wide program with up to 18 inclusive activities with the intent to refresh and add new engaging activities every couple of months.
“There are activities designed for children, couples, and families,” elaborated Gibaja. Such activities include art classes where one can paint the Sentosa landscape on a canvass, in-house culinary classes, ‘Walking with the General Manager’ touring the iconic Capella on weekend mornings, heritage tours, Peranakan pattern workshops and ‘Build Your Own Boba’ bubble tea making classes, the favourite activity with a keen fan following! A detailed list of activities can be found at the Capella Culturist.
A staycation with an added wellness aspect makes for an appealing proposition. Some of the staycation packages on offer come with macrobiotic based lunches for the health-conscious, meditation & yoga sessions and spa treatments. “For the time being, if we have deferred our international leisure travel plans, people will be looking for wellness aspects closer to home to refresh. Auriga, Capella’s spa is one of our most popular offerings. The secret behind our spa’s success is our therapists who have been with us for quite a few years” said Gibaja, thoughtfully.
Capella Singapore plans to expand this wellness offerings over the coming years, packaging three to five day tailor-made experiences to its guests, complete with customized cuisine menus and spa treatments best suited for the needs of her guests.
Another initiative by Capella Singapore to keep guests engaged and entertained during their staycation includes converting their huge 400 seater Grand Ballroom into a spaced-out, themed theatre-like environment for 30 guests. Six teepees, each able to keep five guests cosy, will take over the event space with movies featured on the ballroom’s curved LED wall measuring 81 square metres, one of the largest in Asia.
A Rewarding Staycation
My definition for a rewarding staycation would entail a safe, meaningful escape from the eccentric routine we all find ourselves glued in for the last few months. This meaningful staycation should not be dispensed as an escape from boredom but rather an episode of pampering oneself in luxury – a well-deserved break, with high tea, spa indulgence, exceptional cuisine, chef on call in my villa to execute a barbeque and a sommelier at hand to suggest excellent wine pairings. If I can experience all this mid-week, so much the better. Capella Singapore is a short taxi ride away, and there are no immigration or airport lines when heading to Sentosa.
Capella Singapore’s 38 Villas come in one and two-bedroom configurations with a private plunge pool, outdoor rain shower and outdoor terrace. You will be wholeheartedly forgiven if you don’t step outside your 133 sqm to 186 sqm sanctuary. A leisurely breakfast in-villa followed by a dose of ‘relax and disconnect’ does the trick.
What’s next for Capella Singapore
Over the coming months, staycationers will be delighted with the revamped soft touches in Capella’s rooms and villas, scheduled to take place in phases of ten to twenty rooms. Next year will witness Capella Singapore make waves in the world of gastronomy as one of the top three celebrity chefs of the world opens a restaurant here. Do we hear Michelin stars making their way to Capella in 2021? A new casual Italian restaurant is slated to open here as well.
To book a well-deserved weekend getaway for the family or when in need of a mid-week break, check out Capella Singapore’s latest packages here. ◼
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© This article was first published online in Aug 2020 – World Travel Magazine.