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In The Hot Seat – Sona Shah, Director of Marketing, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi

Tell us about your career and how you came to work in hospitality?

I started my career in marketing 13 years ago in IT marketing, which is very different to hospitality marketing. After 6 years at IBM UK LTD, one of the world’s largest global blue-chip companies I decided to try something different and applied for job at a private family owned British hotel company called Edwardian Group London as an Email Marketing Executive and throughout my time there the role evolved, I eventually became their Food and Beverage Marketing Manager. In 2013 I turned 30 and decided something needed to change, so I packed a bag and moved to the Middle East. I moved to the Middle East to learn about luxury hospitality and boy did I begin to learn a lot! 5 years later, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is my 3rd hotel in the Middle East and I have loved every minute of it.

Talk us through a typical day in the life of Sona Shah.

What I love most about my job is that no 2 days are the same. A typical day starts with a morning meeting with all our heads of departments where we discuss any major events. We are a very close team at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi and collaboration is key, so this first meeting in the morning always sets the tone for the day. The rest of the day is usually filled with meetings with publications or the internal team. Planning is key so I always try and make sure that I set some time aside to do the “day job” as well. With so many activities going on at the hotel daily sometimes you don’t start the emails until 5.00pm or 6.00pm especially if the day is filled with events or photography.

How does working for The St. Regis compare to other brands you have previously worked for?

Working for The St. Regis brand is like working for the Cartier or Louis Vuitton of hotels. I am really proud to work at such a prestigious brand which has become known for its impeccable service and iconic location. It’s certainly different to any of the other hotel brands I’ve worked at before and it’s always nice to be leading the team of a luxury product as it means our creativity can really be stretched and tested.

With so many hotels opening across Abu Dhabi how do you plan to remain competitive?

Since its opening 5 years ago The St. Regis Abu Dhabi has always had its own distinctive sense of style and way of execution. I think its important to understand that its not always about competition with your neighbours. To keep the demand within the hospitality sector high, it’s important that our sister hotels and those close by are also successful. It contributes to the success of the capital as a whole, including tourist attractions such as Saadiyat Island and Yas Island. We do try hard to offer our guests unique experiences in the city and that is what has made us different from the competition. From our Helipad Sunset Supper experience to our Brunch in the Clouds held in the Abu Dhabi Suite we believe these experiences are ones that create lasting memories and can only enhance the travel experience of a those visiting or wanting to explore Abu Dhabi.

Explain to our readers what it takes to become a respected Marketing professional.

I think the role of a marketing profession is one that constantly evolves. Just because you were good two years ago it doesn’t mean you are still good at what you do now. It’s important to keep up with the trends and in most cases even be the one that leads the trends. With the pace of digital tools evolving at such a rapid rate, it’s important to constantly look to learn new things, also listen to guests, colleagues, management and owners feedback and always seek new solutions and strategies, while paving the way and helping others to grow to.

What’s the most successful marketing campaign you’ve ran to date and what made it so successful

I truly think it depends on how you define success. I’ve been a part of a lot of great campaigns which have shown good revenue return and others which have not been successful in monetary terms but have been a great story and had great coverage and exposure for the brand. I truly believe that it’s important to define successful for you and your team before you set out to plan the project. Of course, as a business the overall objective will always be to make a good return but sometimes you can’t put a price on a good story and activation especially if it goes viral. I think reputation is probably the most important and any activation or campaign that strengthens your reputation is a successful one.

What can we expect from The St. Regis Abu Dhabi in 2019?

We just completed the great Red Bull Air Race Event last month and as the weather continues to improve into spring, we look forward to host a few more outdoor events at Nation Riviera Beach Club. Ramadan is fast approaching, we are excited to unveil our new look Ramadan concept in the next few weeks so there is plenty to look forward to in the first half of the year. At the end of 2019, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is gearing up to launch the boldly reimagined Asia De Cuba, the fan-favourite restaurant that will debut a new look and sparkle.

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