BY Y. S. LIM
MANY hotels make the mistake of not offering more than the staple television or swimming pool for their guests’ recreation. So, a hotel with more varied diversions – such as a children’s playground, telematches and volleyball games – will certainly draw repeat visitors.
Managing a resort or hotel recreation programme requires loads of energy and creativity, but Shangri-La Golden Sands’ director of recreation Andrew Casci takes it in his stride and in fact loves every minute of the job.
Casci, who hails from the United States, has 10 years’ experience with various hotel and resort companies in the US, Micronesia, the Caribbean and Asia.
His immediate focus for Shangri-La Resorts Recreation is to make the Children’s Programme the regional market leader. The resort also offers facilities such as water sports, tennis, basketball, archery, volleyball and scheduled games and lessons such as aerobics, water aerobics, cooking and carving classes, tai chi and yoga.
What kind of qualifications are needed
Most directors or managers in the recreation industry have a degree in Sports and Recreation Management in which the course content is a mixture of business, marketing and physical education.
This degree is now widely available in the UK as well as North America, but is still a relatively new field. Most of the directors who have been in the field for 10 to 15 years come from hospitality and business backgrounds and have culled their experiences from various resorts and clubs, and through coordinating events.
What does the director of recreation do?
The position is firstly devoted to guest safety and security. Swimming pools, health clubs and recreation facilities must be safe to ensure that no injury or accident occurs. We are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of all the indoor and outdoor facilities with help from our Housekeeping and Engineering Departments.
Marketing is a big issue as well, and we have to constantly monitor the guest mix to determine what kind of activities will get the highest participation as well as satisfaction. Some activities may be very exciting and fun, but only to a few people. We try and maximise the fun for everyone.
Describe a typical day at work.
As a department head I need to communicate a lot with other departments on a daily basis. We need to know what is going on in all areas. Recreation is a high guest contact area and every staff member – whether a lifeguard or activities leader – has to know the answer to guests’ questions, whatever they may be. Briefings with department heads, supervisors and staff are always a priority.
It is important for a manager to get out everyday and see the guests. We can learn from their comments and try to arrange special activities and events to delight them.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of administrative work such as filling out reports and taking care of routine items. It helps to be fast on the computer so you can get these reports out quickly, leaving more time to interact with guests.
What kind of personality is suitable for the job?
A director of recreation needs to be very motivated and should like to be around people. I have had the most incredible conversations and met so many interesting people over the years. The more extroverted you are the easier it is to approach people and turn valued customers into valued friends.
What are the best aspects of the job?
Living in different locations, learning different cultures and meeting new and interesting people has always been my motivation. The sports and fitness aspects appeal to me too.
What are the worst aspects?
You work long hours in the hospitality industry, not only in recreation, but in all operational areas. The job can be time-consuming sometimes, but it is worth it because a lot of the hours you spend are with the guests and meeting new people.
What are the job prospects?
Directors of recreation in many hotels and resorts have gone on to be rooms division managers and, in some cases, general managers. It all depends on their character and ambition, whether they want to take the next step up the ladder.
What is the salary like?
The wages vary with the position. Some resorts have a recreation manager which is a mid-level position, whereas others choose to make the position a director’s job which has increased responsibility.
Wages are relative, and depend highly on the job location.In the US a director of recreation may make as high as US$50,000 (about RM190,000) per year, but in Asia where the cost of living is lower, they may only make US$10,000 (about RM38,000) per year. Money, however, should not be the main motivator in choosing this profession.
In Asia, although the field is relatively new, the fitness, sports and leisure industry is definitely on the rise and wages will increase with the demand for these professionals.
Did you find this article insightful?