Full speed ahead

Nicholas Clayton, CEO of Capella Hotel, shares with Rachel AJ Lee why the group is pressing ahead to launch its Patina brand, how its properties repositioned swiftly to capture the domestic market, and his predictions for travel recovery.

The first resort under the Patina Hotels & Resorts brand will soon open in the Maldives. Why launch the brand amid the pandemic?
Patina Maldives is a strategic development for Capella Hotel Group (CHG), therefore, a single moment in the history of the resort will not impact the long-term commercial success of this project.

The planned opening of Patina Maldives may turn out to be well-timed as we believe a strong recovery of luxury leisure travel is eminent in the months ahead. Over the past eight months, the Maldives has performed better than any other international resort destination, with over 140,000 tourists arriving just this year alone. This is largely due to the uniqueness of the Maldives, where resorts are based on private islands, providing guests seclusion and the ease to social distance.

Overall, how is Patina and Capella faring amid this pandemic and hospitality crisis?
Although 2020 was a year of significant challenges on all fronts, the team at CHG were able to move the company forward with our long-term strategy. We had solid financial results from the majority of our portfolio, impressive consumer recognition for our hotels and brand; the opening of our urban resort, Capella Bangkok; and additional signings in key destinations such as Kyoto, Osaka, Macau, and Chiang Mai.

Our teams at Capella Hotels and Resorts were nimble in re-engineering all revenue-generating activities to cater to our domestic markets, when it was clear that international travel would be significantly restricted. As a leisure-oriented hotel management group, it is always important for us to develop creative experiences to entertain our guests. This made our transition in catering to a domestic audience relatively seamless.

How has the group had to switch up its marketing strategies for the Patina brand launch in the wake of Covid-19?
We’ve moved further away from traditional marketing approaches and placed more focus on creative social media and digital marketing campaigns, leveraging our recently established affiliation with Design Hotels and utilising Zoom in order to host brand and resort familiarisations.

We have also decided to focus time and resources on the customer experience for Patina Maldives, with an emphasis on creative programming and overall operational excellence. As we all know, the most effective marketing tool is “word-of-mouth”.

Are future openings still continuing as planned?
Future openings for CHG continue to remain on track as our development partners take a long-term view of their investments.

For Patina Hotels and Resorts, we seek urban and resort destinations where we can be highly competitive in the lifestyle space. Markets that can appreciate the Patina brand’s strong emphasis on holistic sustainability, wellness, and experiences that cultivate creativity and social connections will be a key focus for us. We anticipate growing our Patina brand with a high degree of discipline, only selecting projects that can be unique in their respective destinations.

Although the majority of current hotel development activity is in Asia-Pacific (Ubud, Sanya and Osaka), we are consistently receiving inquiries for development opportunities in key international markets such as Americas, Europe and Middle East.

Now that vaccinations have begun across the globe, when do you think travel will return?
With international travel significantly restricted over the past 12 months, we have had great success with our domestic leisure guests. In particular, our properties in Singapore, Shanghai and Sanya have been enjoying robust demand from their local clientele; this trend has continued thus far in 2021.

With vaccination initiatives well underway across the globe, we believe international travel will begin to gain momentum in late 3Q2021. Luxury leisure travellers will be the first segment to venture to their preferred international destinations, as they have both the pent-up desire to travel and the financial capability to do so.

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