Darren Darwin, our regular columnist and general manager of Anantara Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, on the important role that expertise plays in the industry.
I believe that real expertise is linked to human behaviour. For example a friendly and intuitive attitude outweighs skill. I mean it’s no good having a super barista if he or she is miserable.
Someone who smiles and genuinely tries to help is far better than someone with great knowledge but who barely acknowledges their guests, and only does the minimum to please. The expertise element in play here is the ability to be able to read and understand the guests’ needs, and deliver a WOW experience without being prompted or given clues. A real hospitality expert will understand what the guests’ requirements are, even if the guests themselves are not too sure.
Expertise or to be more specific, experts in hospitality, who are they? What do they signify to the brand and the consumer?
There are a lot of buzzwords floating around hotels: Specialists, Gurus and Champions. At Anantara we have Gurus, that are specifically chosen for their understanding of a precise skill. Nevertheless, attaining this skill is not enough, we also look for attitude, energy and a willingness to master the role beyond our rivals and the industry norms.
One of our Gurus that has stood out in terms of passion and enthusiasm, is someone whose role I created especially for Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort. His name is Mahir and he is our Mountain Guru. When we interviewed him, we saw a raw talent for expressing himself and telling stories about the mountain and local culture. We all instantly knew he would be a huge success, indeed Mahir is our most praised team members across all review platforms.
In the subject title, you will have seen I wrote about bending it like Beckham. I think expertise is very much connected to practice and the willingness to keep on learning and evolving one’s craft. American motivational speaker, writer and consultant Denis Waitley says, “Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience”.
No one would argue that David Beckham was not one of the best free kick specialists in the history of football. So much so that a film was even named after this phrase, “Bend it like Beckham”.
What many of you may not know, is that David spent countless hours after team practice on his own, curling hundreds of balls around a wooden wall of men, to perfect and hone in on his skill. Yes he had a natural talent, nonetheless, this did not deter him from tirelessly trying to get better each and every day. Also a good lesson here is to never be complacent, if you do, you can rest assured that another hotel or “footballer” will soon evolve faster and better than you.
I have my own little story to share here. At the ripe old age of 43, I embarked on my most challenging life experience. I decided to complete my MBA with renowned Swiss School Glion. Was I crazy? Perhaps, yet I really wanted to see if, a) I could do it, and, b) to acquire the best academic qualification in the hospitality industry, which in turn, I felt would enhance my overall expertise.
The journey was exhausting, with endless hours of research and writing assignments in the evenings, in addition to complex assignments at the weekends. This endeavour took three very long years, whilst at the same time, opening and operating a hotel. Nevertheless, I do not regret it for one minute. The learning I acquired alongside my current experience, certainly brought my overall expertise to a whole new level, not to mention a resurgence in my self-confidence.
By the same token I would also concur that expertise is gained from experience. According to Daniel Kaheman, “True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience”. We have to be patient, learn along the way, and at the same time have a keen sense of self-development and self-preservation. We do not stand still and wait, to be the best is to drive ourselves, to perfect our area of expertise to reach new heights week in week out.
Finally and to summarise, expertise is critically important to the success of luxury hotels, the competition is far stiffer nowadays, and therefore we really need to stand out, giving our patrons an experience that will last in their subconscious for a very long time.