Almost two years after “Hands On” Horst Schulze voiced his vision for bringing ultra-luxury to Saint Lucia’s legendary hurricane hole, I was more than intrigued to finally visit the resort that has seen a whirlwind of evolution since Capella brought its double-star livery to the hillside at Marigot Bay.
In February 2014, the man whose obsession with service excellence made Ritz-Carlton into the gold standard for high-end hospitality in the 1990s stood in front of a battalion of journalists and spoke of Capella’s passion for creating excellence through its people, who make repeaters out of 95 per cent of their guests at the company’s resorts around the world. From the cityscape of Dusseldorf, Germany to heritage-listed colonial buildings on an island in Singapore to the coastal cliffs of Ixtapa, Mexico, Capella Hotels and Resorts have been converting affluent customers into dedicated brand loyalists since 2002, creating an ultra-luxury niche in the tourism market at the recession-proof high net worth level.
In May 2013, Forbes magazine was predicting a bright future for ultra-luxury, explaining that in the previous year “the combined wealth of ultra-high-net-worth families increased by US$566 billion, enough to buy . . . every luxury hotel room and suite at every luxury hotel and resort in the world for the next decade.”
Quoting Douglas Gollan, editor-in-chief and Group president of Elite Traveler Media Group: “Their population is projected to increase by 50 per cent in the next decade. The ability of luxury companies to provide more products and services to these consumers is only limited by how much effort they put into it. There is a lot of demand, but there is even more untapped demand.” All of which makes this particularly thin slice of the market share a very competitive diet to thrive on, but at Marigot Bay, as with the other Capella properties around the globe, they challenge themselves to be the best, every day, in every way, for every guest. Despite the industry sentiment that questioned whether the resort’s lack of beach front would be an issue, the transition began in 2014, taking the serene, picturesque bones of the existing architecture and transforming the property into a work of modern decor and design.
Now with carefully considered changes to the public spaces and gasp-inducing upgrades to guest rooms and suites, a fashionista’s eye for style which fuses wonderfully with the unobtrusive hardwood buildings and lush manicured grounds, and a paradigm-shifting programme of human resource development to build a team capable of delivering the dream, Capella Marigot Bay is set to enjoy its second busy season in Saint Lucia. The campaign to make investors happy starts in earnest and recently-arrived General Manager Daniel Canas is ready to lead the charge.
Sitting down with Canas over a divine dinner of local parrot fish and grilled asparagus—” one great local dish is worth a menu of mediocrity,” he says, although that word doesn’t often enter the Capella vocabulary—I confessed up front to being a big fan of his boss, and this seasoned hospitality professional immediately relaxed with the admission that he is very much a “Horst acolyte.” Canas has very strong and pragmatic views of how things “can” be done, not just how they “should” be done, and humbly remembers meeting his daily inspiration, wondering if the man himself would even remember. With 22 years in the high-end hospitality industry under his belt, Daniel Canas has lived and worked in almost as many countries, so taking Capella Marigot Bay to the next phase of its evolution is a challenge he is more than happy to meet head on.
Despite playing in the highest league of the ultra-luxury game, over the course of our conversation—and a wickedly jaw-dropping chocolate dessert—I gather that the secret of Capella’s brand success and source of Daniel Canas’s personal passion are one and the same: Exceed Guest Expectations. In the same way that Horst Schulze empowered Ritz-Carlton employees to go the extra mile to satisfy every customer, Capella puts the guest experience completely in the hands of its team members.
The personal assistants reach out to every guest ahead of their stay and can organise everything from a basket of fruit to a mega-yacht charter from their desk in the hotel library; the restaurant staff remember exactly how a certain guest likes his or her steak and articulately describe the menu until the choice seems impossible to make; the maintenance guys appear as if by magic should any tiny issue occur with the amenities. Canas says recruitment is key to finding the perfect team, and he is already confident that his team is getting there fast.
The Southern Caribbean is picking up steam as a yachting destination, and Saint Lucia is trending as a main hub for super- and mega-yachts owing to its close proximity to the French islands in the north and the Grenadines in the south. Historically famous as a safe shelter for mariners, Marigot Bay has been called one of the most picturesque bays in the Caribbean, and the views from Capella certainly maximise the beauty of the surroundings. Attracting super-and mega-yacht owners and captains to drop anchor in Marigot Bay is the job of marina manager, Guillaume Chaillot, who is himself a licensed skipper of yachts up to 90 metres or 280 feet in length.
Capella Marigot Bay Marina has 42 berths and 20 moorings, with a depth of up to 20 feet which is unusual for a marina, but the bay’s topography makes it suitable for the biggest yachts and it is also sheltered throughout the hurricane season between June and November. The full-service marina offers everything from in-berth refuelling to food and water provisioning, with personal assistants supporting captains and crews with every requirement and request.
Chaillot has managed large-scale marinas internationally, as well as being an accomplished sailor in and out of competition; his vision for Capella Marina is to develop the location into a private haven for high net worth clients to use as a long term base or a short stop getaway, by providing the type of attention to detail that this end of the market expects and more—of course. This is, after all, Capella.
Travelling to the Monaco Yacht Show in September, Chaillot sang the praises of Saint Lucia as a destination, and Capella Marigot Bay Marina as the only ultra-luxury alternative for wealthy yacht owners who wish to enjoy a superb range of high-end amenities when they want a break from life on the ocean waves. The approval of Marigot as hurricane-safe by a clutch of international insurance companies is a very good reason to choose Capella; the attraction of bespoke services and upscale amenities at the resort also make it a uniquely attractive destination and land base.
Visits to international boat shows in the Bahamas, Antigua and Miami followed, in a tactical campaign to put the Capella Marigot Bay Marina brand on the sailing charts for the 2015-16 season, which Guillaume Chaillot is confident will lead to an increase in super- and mega-yacht charters taking up dock space in Doctor Dolittle’s former anchorage of choice.
Capella Marigot Bay reflects Capella Hotel Group’s commitment to sophisticated, yet subtle luxury. By providing a tranquil environment and, above all, a personal connection and access to the real Saint Lucia, the resort allows you to enjoy the best of the island’s culture, cuisine, and traditions at your own pace.
According to the resort website: “Every detail of our Capella Marigot Bay has been designed to fulfill your every desire—whether it is as simple as a day spent relaxing by the pool or something as ambitious as exploring the island’s rainforest.
Guests enjoy complimentary Internet access and in-room refreshment centre, flexible check-in and check-out times, two freshwater infinity pools, a unique welcome amenity, privileges at the Capella Library, and a beautifully designed relaxation lounge reserved for hotel guests and their friends. Four beautifully appointed restaurants offer a range of dining options, and the pampering treatments of the Auriga Spa are tucked away in a Zen corner of the garden.
According to Capella Hotel Group, typically, Capella Hotels and Resorts offer:
- An intimate and secure environment with the facilities expected of the world’s finest hotels.
- Distinctive interiors that incorporate local design elements.
- Limited meeting space—a maximum of two boardrooms for small meetings.
- Banquet facilities for local catering and social events.
- Multiple food and beverage outlets.
- Restaurants reflecting a contemporary, upscale concept.
- Fitness and spa treatment facilities.
- Guest-only lounges with personal assistant services.
- Guest rooms often integrated with a mixed-use residential component. M