The Spanish hotelier in Singapore using activities to drive repeat stays

Plus: Advice for recruiting from San Francisco’s best hotel operator

Hospitality Daily is a non-boring summary of stories for busy people who want to get better each day at providing hospitality.

Today, you’ll read about:

  • The Spanish hotelier in Singapore using activities to drive repeat stays

  • Advice for recruiting from San Francisco’s best hotel operator


The Spanish hotelier in Singapore using activities to drive repeat stays

There was a moment during Covid-19 when Fernando Gibaja wanted to throw in the towel. It was the very first day when the Capella Singapore reopened, and breakfast turned into a nightmare. “Honestly, I think it was the most difficult days that I have in my life. There was a moment that I was thinking like, I quit, I cannot do it. It was really tough.”

But Gibaja and his team quickly sorted out the issues and 24 hours later, completely changed the way it served breakfast. Now, it’s working like clockwork. “Ask any general manager, or any food & beverage director, we never thought in our lives that we could do 400, 600, 700 breakfasts, a la carte – we never thought of that.”

It is this period of firsts, experimentation and adaptation that has kept the Madrid-born hotelier energized the past 20 months. From a period of uncertainty – not knowing what would happen when the pandemic first happened – to now its greatest period of creativity, Capella is enjoying healthy increases in average daily rates and RevPar, thanks to the huge array of activities and experiences that its team has put together to tap the staycation market.

“We have more than 40 activities that we have done over the past few months. I’m very lucky to have a team full of creativity, motivation and willing to do things. You cannot believe the strength of the people when it comes to creativity – honestly, it is magnificent.”

He adds, “We have guests who have been with us over seven to 10 times in one-and-a-half years, to the point that many people were asking, what are the activities that you’re going to have because based on that, I will make my booking.”

One market it has garnered a reputation for is its “Pawcations” where guests bring their “furkids” for villa stays. Being a dog lover himself, Gibaja says, “I always say to the team, if you want to win the heart of the family, look after the kids as well as the fur kids.”

Imagine, he says, a beautiful bed prepared for the fur kids, with their name on it, as well as amenities. “We treat them like another member of the family.”

I love this idea of constantly creating new ways to provide hospitality and encourage repeat stays.

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Advice for recruiting from San Francisco’s best hotel operator

Earlier this week, we met Michael Hraba and learned how he addresses the labor shortage holistically - plus why hospitality is a beautiful profession. I know many of you are dealing with staffing challenges, so wanted to close the week with sharing his advice on recruiting.

First, who thrives in a hospitality career? “If I go to a movie or dinner with someone, sometimes I can’t even enjoy the movie or dinner, because I’m worried about the other person enjoying the movie or dinner. That’s an example of what you give of yourself in hospitality. We just want to give of ourselves to make your day better, whether that’s a plate of food or whether that’s an experience at a hotel.

“That kind of notion of aloha runs through people that are empaths. And it does draw certain types of people to the industry which makes it a really cool community of dedicated and caring people that will expend their energy.

“There’s so many touch points from a staffing perspective, from an amenity perspective that makes hospitality really fun. The whole notion of surprise and delight is sort of born into people, people who like to host. 

“In thinking of a new group of people that might really enjoy hospitality, look for the people that like to host in their home and have a really fun time planning parties. Those people would fit right in.”

But it’s also important to set expectations. “One of the big issues with recruiting in hospitality is that we have not set expectations about what it’s like to work in hospitality. Hospitality work is hard, and we haven’t communicated that. And that’s why it’s just become a job and people burn out and get out. 

“I heard Uber’s head of China interviewed for a podcast recently. She said growing up, her dad always kept telling her life is supposed to be hard. Three years ago, I would have thought that’s dark. Now I’m thinking, ‘I wish somebody had said that to me.’ We need to show how hard work can be good. The philosophical joy of what hard work can mean. That’s something that we have to rebuild. 

“When I think about recruiting for hospitality, I think about people who would welcome the challenge. Military veterans would probably find hospitality to be a cakewalk. I also believe in people getting a second chance, and perhaps there’s more of an opportunity for people who were formerly incarcerated and have been through counseling to work in our industry.” 

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