Darren Darwin has come a long way over the past thirty years. From military beginnings in northern England, he forged a career in hospitality, learning his trade in Barbados, Bulgaria, Oman, and Russia, in addition to picking up an MBA from the renowned Swiss Hospitality school, Glion, along the way. Today, home for Darren is Sri Lanka, an hour or so south of Colombo, where he is Cluster General Manager with responsibility for the Anantara Kalutara Resort and Avani Kalutara. With a wealth of experience to draw upon, Darren is settling into his new role very nicely, and was happy to share his latest thoughts with Hotelintel.co.
What’s the most challenging aspect of running your hotel?
It’s a very different pace compared to the Middle East; however, I’m adapting quite well now after almost ten months here.
What kind of opportunities do you see here in this location?
There’s huge potential for MICE through adventure with our Activity Tower and new beach. There’s also good wholesale potential with numerous indigenous and adventure activities, not forgetting world class cuisine with several options to choose from.
What are your unique selling points?
We’re surrounded by water, with the Indian ocean on one side and the Kalu river and lagoon on the other, plus we’re only a one-hour drive from Colombo and the airport.
We also have the only large ballroom in Sri Lanka and even Southeast Asia with beautiful floor to ceiling views out over the ocean.
From the Middle East to South Asia, what are the challenges you have faced when it comes to managing people?
In the Middle East I worked with over 40 different nationalities and around 75% were expats, whereas here it is 97% local, which is great – it just requires a different skill set.
As long as you respect the country you work in, you can adapt and blend in well. It’s just important to show more patience and a deeper personal approach to coaching.
What do you love most about your company?
I like the freedom to be innovative and to plan your own destiny. We are accountable for the commercial results, but we’re also empowered to achieve those results through our own strategies, rather than being driven from Corporate.
What’s your favorite thing about your hotel?
I would have to say being surrounded by water, as well as the numerous activities we have on offer, and of course the friendliness and energy of the team.
What's your advice to those who want to work in the hospitality industry?
Always be innovative and try new things, stay humble, and most important of all, stay consistent.
Would you advise getting a degree in hospitality like you did, or is it better to work your way up?
I received my MBA at 44, and it did make a difference. However, one of the reasons I did so well in my MBA was because of all the past experience I had acquired beforehand. Nevertheless, a degree does give you an edge in this very competitive marketplace.
And if you were to hire someone would a degree matter?
I think education is very important and it requires sacrifice, focus, and self-discipline, all of which are important traits when making the decision who to hire.