Name: Darren Shaw
Position title: Area General Manager, Phuket, Thailand
Company name: Centara Hotels & Resorts
When and why did you join the industry?
Whilst studying back in 1987, I started casual bartender shifts at Government House Melbourne, Australia. My brother was second chef at the time and the lure of some extra pocket money was too tempting to refuse. This opportunity developed into a full time position and provided the most interesting service role!
What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy the day to day challenges as no two days are the same in this industry. Working in a team environment is rewarding especially when we need to pull together and deliver something special. When I look across the crystal blue water of Karon Bay, Phuket, on a blue sky day, I can’t believe this is my office!
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
Whilst I am proud of several achievements and awards in my career to date, I’m particularly pleased with the opportunity I have had to contribute to my community. Prior to my time in Thailand, I worked in the Fiji Islands, whereby my team and I were able to assist several local organisations in need. We set up a monthly program designed to identify community needs, raise funds and implement real, sustainable change and improvement. I have many heart warming experiences that were mutually rewarding.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
In my first role as GM I was provided a considerable amount of guidance from my owner. One piece of wisdom he imparted was the importance of building a strong management team. It may seem simple enough but too often as GM we do not develop potential, stimulate ambition or customise purposeful management training. Building a strong, reliable, creative and empowered management team creates many advantages for you, your business and your guests.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
Khun Suthikiati Chirathivat, the Chairman of the Board of Centara Hotels & Resorts is a role model and someone I admire. Recently I was fortunate to spend time with Khun Suthikiati and he was able to share his vision in creating Centara Hotels & Resorts. Starting from Central Plaza Lad Prao (now known as Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok) thirty years ago, Khun Suthikiati’s persistence and drive created Thailand’s most successful international hotel chain.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
Centara Hotels & Resorts can be distinguished from our international competitors as a provider of genuine, friendly and warm Thai hospitality. By ensuring our team members understand and embrace our core values, we can take comfort in that each guest is taken care of with the same intentions in each Centara hotel or resort.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
The Northern Lights, Angkor Wat, Serengeti’s great migration as a start!
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
A few years ago I was able to travel twice to India in a short period. The two trips were worlds apart. One trip was staying in luxury hotels, enjoying upmarket restaurants, stylish and hip bars and experiencing the finer aspects of what India’s bigger cities have to offer. The other trip was to experience India in all its rawness from the poverty in the slums to the beggars on the street. I have never imagined a country to have such contrasts and to be so confronting. India pulsates with a spectacular mix of people, traditions and landscapes. It was an experience that has challenged me, something that I did not expect and hope to return one day to gain a better understanding.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
As a traveller, I tend to be more spontaneous than structured (unplanned my wife would say) so I like to travel with my trusty iphone. This tool is my guidebook, my gps, my camera and my planner.
Good comfortable shoes, I have made the mistake before and swore I wouldn’t do it again!
And finally a guide to the best dining experiences the region has to offer, whether it’s eating at a local market or dining on the rooftop of a city hotel, I love a memorable dining experience where ever I travel!
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder. Destination, well I would leave it with him to select! I’m sure Sir Richard would travel somewhere interesting, in great style, to an unexplored exotic location and a party would never be to far away!
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
The overall direction the industry is heading in the next five to ten years is exciting. Clearly as an industry we are better equipped to catering for individual style, taste and budget. Industry operators are defining their offerings to each market segment as evident by the number of increasing brands. Operators are becoming more environmentally conscious, personalised, culturally embracing, genuine and appreciative of their clientele. The choice from affordable to exclusive vacations is growing in its offering and over the next five to ten years our industry will be as exciting and far reaching then previously.