Talking ’bout My Resolutions: Stephen Darling

Stephen Darling Regional Vice-President and General Manager, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts The deluxe Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which started in 1971 in Singapore, is making its first foray into North America later this month: a 62-storey five-star hotel set to open on West Georgia in Vancouver.

What was 2008 “The Year Of”? Great Change. The markets are creating a day of reckoning for many – the strong survive; the weak and marginal exit. The same is going to happen in the coming year in the hospitality sector, in both accommodations and restaurants.

What keeps you up at night? People. If we weren’t able to find great people, that would keep me awake. One of my great concerns for the future of our industry is getting great staff. But we had over 2,800 people apply to participate in our job fair, so the initial signs are very good.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would appear – or disappear – on Jan. 1? Two thousand well-heeled, nicely dressed, charming and polite paying guests show up at the hotel; the Canadian dollar dives, so that our neighbours to the south can again afford to travel north; the U.S. economy recovers; and Americans stop rereading Faith Popcorn’s book about “cocooning.”

In your world, what needs to happen to make 2009 a success? We need to deliver to our guests an emotional sense of both hospitality and peaceful calm. This January represents Shangri-La’s entry into the Western world after 37 years in Asia, so it’s an incredibly important year. Every hotel out there is delivering a bed, bath and toilet – that’s expected. But we give the emotional experience – and it can be taught. If we train our associates well, they will deliver thoughtfulness, grace and efficiency in a tangible way.