Women in Hospitality: Laurean Sahilices
Laurean Sahilices is the Cluster Assistant Director of Marketing at Pullman and Mercure Maldives.
As cluster assistant director of marketing at Accor Maldives for the Pullman Maldives Maamutaa and Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, Laurean Sahilices is an expert in hotel marketing, particularly digital, as well as a champion of women in marketing and women in hospitality. Her passion is to help hotels think outside the box by creating digital marketing strategies and understanding the complex digital world. She does this with a decade of international experience working in New Zealand, Argentina, Spain and Mexico.
The Argentine leads the marketing team of both Accor Premium properties from the Maldives and champions a workforce of over fifty women. Her work involves leading on digital marketing strategies, destination marketing, content creation, brand development and website development and optimisation and she uses her wide experience in communication as her muse.
Hotelier Maldives speaks to Laurean about her work in this exclusive interview.
HM: Why did you decide on your chosen career?
My background is in Communications and PR. During the last ten years I’ve specialised in hotel digital marketing because not only I love travelling, but also I love to connect with people from different cultures.
HM: Tell me about your passion for your role?
As hotel marketers, I believe that we have a special role in people’s heart as we are the responsible of creating unique experiences and ‘selling the dream’ moment that people will remember for the rest of their life.
My passion stands on how to connect all the dots in a very saturated digital world, based on the global brand guidelines, clear goals and strategy. Another area of my role that I enjoy a lot is building and growing the team members and sharing the brand passions and digital marketing fundamentals through regular training sessions.
HM: What does your role entail?
My role is Cluster Assistant Director of Marketing, where I lead the marketing team for two Accor Maldives properties, Pullman Maldives Maamutaa and Mercure Maldives Kooddoo. I’m responsible for creating an omnichannel marketing strategy for both resorts, that supports sales and is in line with the global brand standards. Also, a big part of my role is making sure the team is happy and updated with the latest updates in terms of digital marketing, so training the team and helping them grow is a big part of my role too.
HM: What kind of things do you do day to day in your role?
What is quite specific to this industry is that not two days are the same. Some of my daily responsibilities include reviewing the overall marketing strategy implementation across different channels, supporting the team with the execution, for example reviewing the content strategy, social media and supporting the different departments with any content creation or photoshoot needed.
In addition, I also maintain a close relationship with our head office to ensure not only we are up to date with the latest updates from the global brand team, but also how to find opportunities to feature our two properties in some global campaigns.
Finally, I’m also responsible for dealing with our external PR agency, and we have calls every other week, to discuss further content needs and opportunities to get more exposure in the media.
HM: Tell me about where you are from and where you have worked?
I’ve been lucky to live and work in some of the top dreamy destinations of the world. This includes Playa del Carmen (Mexico, where my love for this industry started. I went on to internships in the Canary Islands, Spain, where I met the five-star luxury industry for the first time doing an internship); and New Zealand, where I call it home as I lived there for five years, and I was the head of digital for a cluster of six hotels across the country. After three years with one of the leading hotel global brands, in April 2019 I received to opportunity to be transferred to the Maldives to work on a pre-opening project. Once I finalised it, I went back to New Zealand and in October 2019 I came back to Maldives to join Accor and look after the Maldives cluster.
HM: How has your career shaped you as a person?
I think that building an international career has helped me in the way I can translate challenges into opportunities by having flexibility and adjusting to different environments and people. To me one of the richest experiences is getting to know different cultures and becoming a world citizen. This has helped me to build resilience and self-confidence.
HM: What do you love most about the resort?
I love the ocean and the island life here at Pullman, we have a big and lush island and I could spend hours getting lost in the jungle or reading a book by the beach. My favourite spots are the vegetarian restaurant and our unique Aqua Villas – the underwater bedrooms.
From Mercure, I really like the fact it is a smaller resort, and my favourite part is the marine life beyond the water villas – where I could spend hours snorkelling there and discovering many colourful species.
HM: As a woman in hospitality, what challenges and opportunities have you faced?
I’ve enjoyed every experience in my career. Some of the challenges that as a young woman in hospitality include not being heard much by males from older generation. The fact I was 30-year-old women in a leadership role, meant I didn’t have “enough experience”. To be honest, nothing that can’t be proved wrong.
Another challenge that I faced as an expat who speaks English as second language, was the lack of self confidence in the beginning when it came to public speaking or having to present any projects to the leadership team.
When it comes to opportunities, I can say that there are as many opportunities out there as you can imagine. It all depends on how much time, effort and energies you put into developing yourself and connecting with other industry leaders. While in New Zealand, not only I had the opportunity to lead a team, I had the chance to lead the whole digital strategy for all the hotels in the country.
HM: Are there many women in your field to look up to and should there be more?
During my career I’ve met many incredible women in hospitality while travelling for work and digital networking too. I think that a lot more awareness about women in hospitality is needed and we should all keep growing together whilst we also encourage younger generations too.
HM: Do you think that the hotel industry is inclusive to women?
Yes, I think the hotel industry used to be men-led mostly, however during the last few years it’s fantastic to see more females in the industry developing their career and getting high roles in the industry. Also as per a report from UNWTO back in November 2020, “women make up to 54% of the tourism workforce”.
HM: Are there many opportunities for women at your resort – you say that you have a high female workforce – tell me about this?
Here in Accor, the role of women in hospitality is huge and it’s a supportive and inclusive global brand. Here at Pullman we have many women in leadership roles and we are always trying to maintain a gender balance and encourage more females too; for example we have a female executive chef, which to me is the first time I have the chance to work with a lady chef. We have about fifty women at the resort. The same in Mercure and also in the corporate office, where you can find females in high roles like global directors and VPs.
HM: What hobbies do you enjoy when you are not at work?
I’m an ocean lover, so when I’m not working the only place where I can be found is at the beach! I’m either diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding or reading a book under a palm tree.
HM: What advice would you give to people entering the industry?
This industry is fun, flexible and will let you discover the world and other cultures if this is something that you’re keen. The sky is the limit. Something that I wish I’ve learned when I started is that being busy is not a badge of honour, so look after your wellbeing while developing your career and develop a growth mindset based on lifelong learning.