Mark Swinton – General Manager at Capella Ubud, Bali

The Participative Leader

Mark Swinton’s adventure in the hospitality scene goes way back to 1982 when he was working as a dishwasher at Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver. His passion for the trade has taken him to work for 10 international companies in seven different countries. His latest position as the general manager of Capella Ubud, Bali marks his approximately 17 years of leadership centred in Indonesia.

Mark Swinton

Q: Tell us how you got to Capella Ubud, Bali and what you look forward to the most as the general manager.
A: The journey to Capella Ubud, Bali has been an incredibly exciting and colourful passage which still continues within the camp. My days are a never-ending education about life. Although I’m designated the leader responsible for nurturing our colleagues’ dynamic minds as they pursue flourishing hotel careers, very often they are the ones teaching me. These moments of enlightenment become my day’s greatest joy!   

Q: How would you describe Capella Ubud, Bali to those who have never seen the hotel?
A: Entering Capella Ubud, Bali is like escaping into a story of yesteryear. The holy Wos River valley surrounded by old-growth rainforest and hand-grown rice terraces becomes the setting for a camp adventure unlike anywhere else in Indonesia. Set in the mid-19th century with all the modern comforts, the camp aspires to showcase Balinese heritage, natural beauty and unimaginable discovery complemented with personalised hospitality. We believe the greatest path towards discovery is to lose yourself in the hospitality of others.    

Q: Capella Ubud, Bali has a very unique and quite niche concept. What do you think is the biggest challenge for the hotel and how do you plan to overcome it?
A: We are blessed to have a very unique concept as you have rightfully identified which has received very strong interest from travellers from afar. The only constant in life is change; our greatest challenge is to further enhance and continually improve such a distinctive property with higher creativity. The key to continuous improvement is encompassing our property with a dynamic guidance team and establishing an atmosphere that allows them to perform at their highest ability.

Q: How would you characterise your style of leadership?
A: My dominant leadership style is the participative leadership style. The hospitality industry’s most valuable resource is people and I believe leadership plays a significant role in the success of one’s hotel. It all begins with hiring the right people, providing them vision and encouraging them to build. We hire leaders to empower them to lead, not to direct them. In the same breadth I have a responsibility to nurture their development which requires them to expand their mind, problem-solve, create and make important decisions which ultimately, they will advance from. My vision is to lead them to the entrance and encourage them to enter the realm of leadership to discover their own style and build their strengths. 

Q: You were originally from Canada but have been spending most of your working years in Asia. What makes you stick around in this neck of the woods?
A: I grew up enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty within supernatural British Columbia, Canada. This area possesses a youthful spirit of hospitality adorned with unparalleled natural splendour. I was fortunate enough to experience the beginning of this area’s tourism growth during the World Exposition of 1986 after which I was assigned to a three-month hotel assignment in Malaysia. This was my first introduction to the gracious style of Asian hospitality and I was completely captivated. Three months have turned into a life-changing 30 years of delight, which continues until today and it’s the people I have met along this journey that inspire me. I haven’t lived in too many Asian cities as I tend to specialise in resort lifestyle. However, having said this, without a doubt, my favourite Asian destination to live in is Bali.

Q: What is the most rewarding moment throughout your career?
A: This has only happened a handful of times, however bidding a guest farewell and seeing their eyes tear up with emotion. I know at that moment we have provided a souvenir far more valuable than any art or craft.  

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to get into the hospitality industry?
A: Firstly, be sure the hospitality industry is in your heart. This is an incredibly time-consuming business, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year; it will require sacrifice and great personal hardships but the more you put into it, the greater the reward. Act quickly, it’s a highly energetic industry requiring a swift pace to climb the steps. Lastly, be ready for the ride of a lifetime and commit to your dreams.  

Asia Dreams Volume 50

Capella Ubud, Bali

Jalan Raya Dalem, Desa Keliki

Bali 80561, Indonesia

T: (+62) 3612091888



IG: @capellaubud