Restaurant table booking

Darren Shaw

Darren Shaw, Area General Manager of Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket and Centara Villas Phuket

October 2014

How long have you been with Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket?
What’s your position and what attracted you to the job? I’ve enjoyed working with Centara Hotels and Resorts for close to three years. I joined Centara Karon Resort after managing a resort in Laguna Phuket. In December 2013 I moved across to Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket as Area General Manager. During my early stages of living in Thailand, I followed the progress of Centara Hotels and Resorts through the media and it was evident it was a company that was growing rapidly.

What were you doing / where were you living & working before?
Prior to arriving in Phuket, my family and I were living on the Coral Coast of the Fiji Islands. While operating as General Manager for a beautiful five-star island resort, my family grew from three to four members. We enjoyed three and half years in this majestic location.

Where are you from? What is your hometown?
I was born in Melbourne, however spent most of my adult life on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

What’s special / different about Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket? What are its unique points?
Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket draws its design theme from the classic Sino-Portuguese architecture that characterises Phuket Town. Our resort is set directly on the sands at Karon Beach, backed by a green hill, and grouped around its own water park. The resort offers a memorable holiday experience for everyone: couples and families will love the exhilarating leisure activities, the water sports, and of course the water park. Accommodation offers a comforting and relaxing ambience for all and for guests preferring seclusion the villas provide exclusivity along with great views, and come with the ‘club category’ benefits. The award-winning SPA Cenvaree is a luxurious treat and has suites for singles and couples.

Tell us something about your role in the business?
As Area General Manager my day-to-day role is to directly manage the resort as well as oversee Centara Villas Phuket and our commercial bakery and laundry as well as our staff accommodation in Chalong.

What are the main challenges as they relate to your role?
To continue to ride the fluctuations of the tourism industry by ensuring we remain one step ahead. By doing this we hope that our low periods are not too low and our high periods are fully capitalised on.

…and what are the biggest difficulties you have to overcome?
I don’t think we have challenges too big and we manage our challenges as they arise i.e. if the labour market has skill shortages then we train more, if our business levels drop we work on better offers in the marketplace.

What’s your main target market?
Like most resorts in Phuket we draw from the mainstream markets visiting Phuket such as the Russian, Chinese, Scandinavian and Australian markets, however we’re also very fortunate to have excellent business partners from nearby regions such as Singapore, India, Hong Kong and within Thailand that drive our business throughout the year.

What’s your approach to marketing? How does advertising figure in that approach?
Marketing is as important today as it has ever been. The only difference today is that it is more diverse and more complicated. The challenge for business marketing today is qualifying how measurable it is. Was your promotional campaign successful? Can you readily support this with data either way?

What do you like most about what you do now?
I enjoy working with a team of professionals in one of the most beautiful locations in the world. From a personal view point I love having my family share this experience with me and we thrive on a life of adventure while making a living!

And what do you like least…?
Quiet periods! Usually around May each year, our occupancy drops. It’s a time for performing ‘spring cleaning’ and our annual maintenance program. It’s not as exciting as high season with a full hotel of guests and plenty of buzzing activities.

What do you (and the business) hope / expect to achieve within the next three-five years?
Each year, our resort has improved in most aspects. I think our resort’s reputation will continue to grow internationally; hopefully our Sunday Brunch’s popularity grows in the local market.

What do you see as your biggest successes to date?
Our business growth, despite challenging circumstances in recent times, and improving our guest experiences by focusing more on what our customer is looking for and less on what we think they should have!

What changes have you seen in the market in your business sector since you started? How have you responded to them?
When I first arrived I noticed a strong leaning towards European and Scandinavian tourists. This shift has moved to China and Russia. Of course we have adjusted our focus and learned to cater better to their needs. Our resorts also cater better to their language and dietary needs as well as their social preferences.

Is Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket involved in any CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programmes? If so, please outline briefly.
Centara is very active in our CSR program. From beach clean ups, to orphanage visits or to fundraise for a good cause. We are also Earthcheck Silver and Greenleaf qualified.

Please give us an overview of your typical day ‘at work’. How do you schedule your time?
Every morning at 8:30 we have a daily operations meeting attended by our key managers from sales, front office, housekeeping, food and beverage, spa and property operations.

After morning brief its email time as I attempt to sift through and prioritise the messages to help us quickly organise, plan and co-ordinate work as required. The majority of my day is spent at various times strategising and communicating with our team on sales, marketing, finance revenue management and operations planning.

We either host a lunch with prospective or current suppliers / clients, local dignitaries, senior managers or have lunch with team members in our staff dining room.

After lunch, it is time to check more emails and to catch up on daily correspondence.

Typically, I’ve got a long list of follow ups from outstanding reports, phone calls to make and return, review our forecasts and update action plans.

By late afternoon it’s time for another walk to ensure we’re ready for dinner service, the theme nights are ready, the a la carte restaurant preparations in place, the club lounge is looking good, and the bars are fine tuning their preparations.

Before I walk out the door I check on my offsite responsibilities such as our commercial laundry and bakery in Chalong, our centralised staff accommodation and our nearby sister resort Centara Villas Phuket.

How would you describe your leadership style?
First and foremost, a smart manager surrounds himself with best available, talented management team. The key elements of managing a productive team are to maintain open lines of communication and absolute transparency. I strive to keep the team highly motivated at all times and constantly work together with each team member to ensure their own growth and career development.

What is your over-riding ambition at this stage in your life?
It’s fairly simple; to enjoy my work, drive the business on behalf of the owner and achieved the desired results. Also to balance my work life and my personal life, spend time with my family and build a better future for us.

Centara Grand Beach Resort