Women empowerment has become the buzzword today with women stressing their independence and working shoulder to shoulder with men on equal terms. They are confidently taking up diverse professions, and establishing themselves as equal contributors to the success of a business, proving day in and day out that they can compete in any field.
One of the best examples today of women leading global companies and representing feminine power is Vice President and Global Brand Leader at Marriott International, Lisa Holladay.
Holladay is a self-made leader in the hospitality industry. She is responsible for the luxury brands of The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, as well as Bulgari Hotels & Resorts. Following a leadership role in public relations, advertising and branding for the Mercedes-Benz, AMG and Maybach brands, she switched careers and began her journey in the hospitality world, taking it by storm and never looking back.
Holladay joined Marriott International as Vice President of Brand Management, and then rose to Vice President of Global Brand Marketing. She created and executed the group’s global brand marketing strategy, and implemented key success drivers including e-commerce, CRM, brand partnerships and field marketing activities. “I feel privileged. I am not saying it is not difficult, but it is my passion so it is even hard to call it work,” says Holladay when asked about her various responsibilities.
Holladay’s passions align perfectly with her daily job duties. Her love for travelling and exploring different cultures and nations is a huge asset when it comes to understanding the mindset of diverse travelers, and bringing the best quality of service to Marriott International’s properties. “Food and beverage are a real focus for us right now,” she says. “Our guests have high expectations and demands; because they are paying a premium so we should deliver on that.”
Travelers have different expectations based on the purpose of travel. Understanding that and having emotional intelligence and being able to read body language is what Holladay believes differentiates Marriott International and gives it a premium service quality. “We have prior customer information across all of our properties,” says Holladay.
Holladay has transformed the design of the Ritz-Carlton hotels which used to be architecturally very similar. Now they are rooted in the local culture of the city in terms of design, food, beverages, and programs. Currently, they are working on the first-of-its-kind Ritz-Carlton Yacht collection, to be launched in 2020. It will accommodate around 190 yachts, and is expected to be small enough to ensure an optimum and luxurious experience.
Aside from ensuring best quality services globally, the model of the Ritz-Carlton is like no other. Employees are referred to as “Ladies and Gentlemen”, as part of the brand’s behind the scene culture. They are educated that employees are just as important and special as any guest that comes through the door. “They are not robots; we need their personalities to come through,” Holladay, adding, “I believe in hiring people who are smart, go-getters and want to do well. Accordingly, I truly aim to constantly empower my team.”
During Holladay’s short visit to Egypt’s Marriott International properties, the remarkable pyramids and magical Nile River, she had some insights into the Marriott International properties in Cairo, as well as the nature of Egypt’s hospitality industry. “There is an increase in demand and tourism is evidently growing. That is why we are opening the St. Regis down the road. We are planning to bring journalists from all over the world when we open the property,” says Holladay.
As for the status of women working in the hospitality industry, Holladay says that Marriott International has a strong active culture in terms of gender equality. Its management is composed of many women including the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Commercial Officer, Holladay’s own boss, as well as herself. She further added that there is tremendous opportunity for women in the industry at the operational level. “At Marriott International, we have a lot of examples of powerful women. We are lucky that we work for a company that is full of female role models at higher positions,” she concludes.