Industry Perspectives

Five minutes with … Shazia Din, Head of Digital, Sana Hotels

We catch up with Shazia Din, Head of Digital for Sana Hotels, to learn about her transition from the creative industry to travel, and the lessons she has learned along the way

Having lived, studied and worked in Dubai for eight years, latterly at advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, Shazia Din had always been focused on the creative industry within the context of digital marketing. An invitation to work in Lisbon brought her to Sana Hotels in 2018, where she brought her digital know-how from outside and applied it to the travel industry.

As Head of Digital for the European-based hotel group, her remit has shifted from creative to sales-driven projects, which according to Din has been both more demanding and equally exciting.

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Shazia Din, Head of Digital, Sana Hotels
Shazia Din, Head of Digital, Sana Hotels

Click.: What were the key moments in your career that defined your position now?

Din: Going back to basics was one of the key moments for me. When you want to implement any sort of strategy you have to be aware of the operational process - and be part of that. You have to be able to put your theory to practice and not just set out the goals and objectives. In managerial positions, knowing what you want to achieve is not enough at this stage, you should be able to define how to get there and lead execution. Over the years, this has become more challenging due to the fast-paced digital transformation of the industry. Lastly, a crucial moment in my career was not being afraid of digital disruption and adapting it to the business.

Click.: What have been your major successes?

Din: Truly focusing on what the customer wants and looks for and not just looking at targets. Nowadays, it is key to adopt customer-centric strategies within the hospitality industry. Increasing direct sales for Sana and educating stakeholders on the importance of this business.

It is just like the Blue Ocean vs Red Ocean Strategy: the red ocean is a scenario where everyone fights for the same customer [in an existing marketplace], but we also focus on the calm blue ocean scenario, finding a niche market in order to gain competitive advantage. Simultaneously, we pay attention to what the top companies in the industry are doing.

Another major factor defining this year’s success was the integration between various areas of expertise that allow you to work better and more efficiently.

Click.: What have been the challenges?

Din: Time. Time is one of the challenges that make up the travel industry - for the customer and for the business. When to book, at what time, how far in advance? Keeping up with constant consumer behaviour changes that are not happening in batches anymore.

Overcome this by investing time, money and knowledge into analysing data and adopting personalisation techniques. Understand your customers so that they can value your message.

Click.: What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

Din: I wish I had learned earlier that it is ok to fail. If I had known this I would have been more willing to not get it right the first time. There is no success without failure.

Click.: What has been the most surprising moment of your career?

Din: Seeing first-hand the power and performance you can achieve through team and collaborative work with the right people. Getting “my” people, that add value to the process and results of your work. Once you find people that fit within the DNA of your company, the surprises are endless and you should always protect them.

Click.: Did you have anyone that mentored or inspired you?

Din: Yes, there is one person that inspires me throughout, the CEO of Sana Hotels - my father, Nazir Din. Mentorship wise, I have been blessed with being able to learn from the loyal dinosaurs of this company! Destinations and places inspire me as well.

Click.: What one piece of advice would you have for someone starting out in the travel industry?

Din: Wake up every day believing that your day has 48 hours and not 24. Never lose your drive to exceed expectations.

 

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Topics
Takeaway
  • Shazia Din had been working in the creative industry in Dubai, when an invitation from Lisbon brought her back to Europe and into the travel industry in 2018
  • Blending her outsiders perspective with the pursuit of niche markets in which competitive advantage can be gained have led Din to make an impact since she joined Sana Hotels
  • Din believes speed of change continues to be a challenge for the travel sector, but not being afraid of this disruption and focusing on understanding customers has helped her overcome this
  • Finding the right team and surrounding herself with experienced mentors has shone a light on the power of people