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Tue 1 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Salty saviour

Having a lifeguard patrolling the world's most buoyant waterway might seem incongruous, but as Kempinski Hotel Ishtar recreation department supervisor Amer Braik explains, the sea still has its dangers.

The first time most people swim in the Dead Sea, they float in wonder marvelling at the water's unique buoyancy.

Watching over guests at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar in Jordan is recreation department supervisor Amer Braik, who is on the constant lookout for guests' well-being.

"In the Dead Sea it's very difficult to drown, you are just floating and relaxing on the top of the water," he explained. "But the danger of the Dead Sea is if you drink some of the water - if you drink just a little bit of it, it is very dangerous because you will not feel well and you will lose control. Also, if the water gets in your eyes you have to keep your eyes closed for one minute to try and get the salt out of your eyes."

Braik's normal working day begins at 8.30am or 2pm, depending on the shift he has been allocated.

"Every day I work nine hours, but sometimes if it is busy I will stay on and work 12 hours," he said. "The weekends are different to normal days and the public holidays are also busy. We have a lot of people coming on Friday and Saturday."

Braik said his first daily task was to take a tour around his department, checking the pools and pool surrounds for any areas that need cleaning or maintenance, and making sure that the resort's beach area was clean.

"I know from the reception what the resort's occupancy is, and whether or not we have any VIP guests, so I know what to expect during the day," Braik added.

"In the morning briefing, I allocate different roles to the various members of my team. Then I start working with my guys, and checking on them at every place they are working; making sure they have enough towels or anything like that.

"For me, I am jogging around all the departments all day, because I need to be everywhere. It's very big [geographically], so I am always running between the areas. It's not easy to make the tour."

During the day Braik and his team run activities such as beach volleyball and football to help entertain guests.

In summer he is also responsible for delivering an aqua-aerobics class for an hour daily, which is conducted in a special shallow pool.

"[Kempinski Hotel Ishtar] is the first hotel in Jordan to have aqua-aerobic activities like this," Braik explained. "There are also some services that we were the first in Jordan [to deliver], such as giving the guests cold towels and cold water sprays.

"At the moment I am working on a plan for services for next season, because I want to make something different for us. We face increased competition; at the moment we are at the top, but we need to work hard to make sure we stay at the top."

Braik said much of his effort to maintain the hotel's position as an industry leader had been paid dividends so far, with the department enjoying a good reputation within the hotel.

"Everything is a challenge for me, everyday has something different," he said.

"If it's not the guys I am working with, it's the guests. So my challenge is always to have my staff happy and comfortable. I am proud the recreation department is one of the best departments in the hotel [to work for].

"Since the opening in May [last year] we have not had any complaints or negative comments. This is my challenge, to keep this level up, and keep my colleagues working hard. Normally they work 12-hour days, but they enjoy it because they feel they are contributing something meaningful."

Not only are they contributing something to the guests' enjoyment, but the recreation department staff are also performing a vital role protecting their safety, Braik said.

As part of his training Braik has completed courses in CPR, first aid, pool maintenance, and managing water chemical levels, as well as lessons in customer service and complaint handling.

Although the hotel has not had any drowning incidents, Braik conceded that keeping a constant eye out for guests' wellbeing was one of the stresses of the job.

But his sense of achievement comes from the knowledge of what the resort had achieved in a short period of time, he said.

"The best thing about my job is that we have created something different here than [what is available] in other hotels," Braik explained.

"Of course we have the pools and beach for people to just relax and swim, but here we have so many other things for people to do. We have activities here that are unique in Jordan, and we have made it from nothing.

"We had a big empty space and now we can fill it with so many things for the guests," he added.

"Now guests are coming back more than three or four times in a month, so this is my challenge; to keep changing so that every time they find something different," Braik concluded.

By the numbers

Number of pools at resorts

- 9 pools

Length of beach front

- 450 metres

Time in the job

- 1 year

Average size of aqua aerobics class

- 7 people

Number of towels used by guests at pool

- 400 per day

Heated pool temperature

- 26 degrees

Dead Sea

salinity level

- 30 per cent

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