The general manager of the Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas on work and life in the hospitality industry, exotic job postings and his idea of a perfect weekend.
Options: It is both an exciting and challenging time to be in hospitality right now. What has your Anantara Desaru Coast experience been like to date?
Christian Gerart: Amazing. The resort had just opened in December 2019 and then Covid hit! It has been a roller-coaster ride since with the start-stop motion of operations. The cohesiveness of Desaru Coast Development is one of the best working relationships I have experienced, enabling us to coast through things with their support.
I also love the experience of working with a pre-opening team, growing together from the moment the ribbon was cut. It is definitely a highlight working with the Desaru Coast Development team to make ours the preferred tourist destination in Malaysia, an effort we are happy to say has not gone unnoticed with TIME magazine naming Desaru Coast in its Top 100 places to visit in 2021 and our Anantara Residences recognised by the prestigious Asia Property Awards.
You’ve worked in some incredibly exotic places before. Tell us more.
It has to be the little private island of Mustique, where I worked for The Cotton House. It was indeed an amazing and unique experience considering all the celebrities who owned estates and villas on the island. The beaches are excellent, beach bars legendary and lifestyle second to none. Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island was another unique experience. There, I managed three boutique resorts for Anantara with its own wildlife reserve of over 15,000 animals, including giraffe, hyena, cheetah, ostrich and different species of gazelle.
But the most mystical — and this should be on everyone’s bucket list — is Anantara’s Qasr Al Sarab Desert resort in the Liwa Oasis, in the western region of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. It is right in the middle of the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world; it sometimes feels like the biggest sandcastle ever! The sand changes colour every hour with the sun and absolutely no light or noise pollution. It is the “best emptiness” I have ever felt!
How has the pandemic changed you?
I have learnt that everyone can succeed and that mutual support and teamwork is the key to success. Perseverance is another trait I have honed in recent times. Like most of us, the pandemic taught us to pivot and adapt quickly according to the fast-evolving situations. Thinking out of the box and coming up with unusual solutions are the new norm. So, remain agile and flexible as things can change in an instant.
What advice would you give to young people who want to make a successful career in hospitality?
Be patient and committed to what you do, be open-minded and ready to explore the world.
What are you reading right now?
Wunschdenken (it means ‘wishful thinking’ in German) by former politician Thilo Sarrazin about the problems plaguing Europe; Breatheology: The Art of Conscious Breathing by Stig Avall Severinsen; and Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. I love management-style books and have a collection of over 50 titles. But the one book I always reread is Good to Great by Jim Collins.
What about music?
My choice of music always makes people crack up as it ranges from Beyoncé to Adele, Yo-Yo Ma, Pavarotti and Italian folk singer Angelo Branduardi. It is a truly universal playlist that cuts across ages and genres.
What are your travel plans looking like for the year?
Germany — it has been a while since I visited the homeland. Spain, as my first daughter lives there and then Bali, where my wife and other kids live. I would also love to revisit Nias on the western coast of Sumatra, one of the best spots to surf in the world and part of the old hippie trail. And more exploring in Malaysia. I have not had the chance to travel much locally since I started my tenure here.
Considering you are a Desaru Coast insider, what are some of the best things to eat, see and do in the area?
Eat seafood. It is always fresh since we are by the coast. There are these amazing local spiny lobsters farmed nearby in Sungai Rengit. They can be served sashimi-style, fried or steamed — all cooking methods are delightful. But my number one pastime here is to sit by the beach and watch the waves, with a good book in hand.
Describe a perfect weekend for you.
Having family and friends around, ideally on the beach, for a barbecue, a couple of drinks and lots of laughs. When alone, I love taking my bike out for a ride that is, at least, a couple of hours long.
This article first appeared on Jan 17, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.