UncategorizedAugust 26, 2021

Mohamed Shafraz Hafiz — Cluster Head of Digital Marketing & Social Media for Pulse Hotels & Resorts

Mohamed Shafraz Hafiz is the Cluster Head of Digital Marketing & Social Media for Pulse Hotels & Resorts. Our team sat down with Shafraz to find out more about his career in the Maldivian tourism industry.

Could you please give us a short introduction of yourself?

My name is Shafraz and I’m currently the Cluster Head of Digital Marketing & social media for Pulse Hotels & Resorts. I have been working in the field of destination marketing since 2004 and have witnessed closely how destination marketing trends keep evolving every year. Before taking on a cluster role, I was head of digital marketing for Kandima Maldives. I was part of their pre-opening team, formulating their digital marketing strategies and spearheading the global launch of the first lifestyle property in the Maldives. Prior to my engagement with Kandima Maldives, I was working as a private consultant specializing in design and digital marketing, catering to clients in the hospitality industry.

How did you start your career in the digital marketing industry?

As a graduate of Multimedia Arts, I was forced to learn different aspects of advertising mediums from TV, Web, Print, Animation, Digital, Audio etc, The digital arena really stood out for me, and peaked my interest. This was a time when the field of digital marketing was still at it’s infancy. This was the time when MySpace was the go-to social platform, and the world had yet to see the full digital transformation we are now so accustomed to.

Even upon returning home after my studies, digital was my area of interest. However it was hardly within the scope of discussion for anybody at that time, as the society itself had not yet become familiar with that area of interest. Therefore, I was forced to divert my attention to other areas for the time being. The first major opportunity that came across from the field was to work as a digital marketing consultant at the Tourism Promotion Board. At MMPRC I was able to work with the team to really push the boundaries and showcase some cutting edge, out of the box digital strategies which was probably wat got me the opportunity for Kandima Maldives and then subsequently Pulse Hotels & Resorts.

You are among one of the few Maldivian digital marketing experts working at the top level in the tourism industry. In your opinion, what are the reasons behind fewer Maldivians working in digital marketing in the tourism industry?

I believe rather than not wanting to join the field, it still is a question of opportunity. Yes, we see a lot of local talent being nurtured and opportunities being created for them in other areas the realm of sales, marketing & PR which is great. However, you do not see too many Maldivians in the digital arena.

There are two things to highlight here. One is that other than a handful of local hotel chains, majority of the international hotels chains already have their digital marketing offices  & teams setup elsewhere. Second is that for a lot of the properties, they feel it is more convenient to just outsource components to third party agencies. Therefore this restricts and highly limits the number of opportunities that may open up within the local hospitality industry.

Having said this, it is also important to highlight the fact that in the past few years, I have seen more and more local hotel chains actively embracing greater digitization, realizing the importance of the field, thus creating more opportunities than ever before.

Another issue I see is proper awareness among the leaders within the industry. Digital strategies can be set as short-term vs long term targets. We keep pushing the digital marketing teams to achieve so much short term targets that the importance of properly establishing long term strategies is almost always neglected.

How do you foresee the role of digital marketing in the marketing of the tourism industry in future?

First thing to note is what digital marketing provides. It provides an opportunity for us to get the brands, our message across to anyone anywhere in the world. If properly executed, it created the opportunity to level up the playing field for everyone. Who succeeds, that’s their individual creativity.

Having said this, with the world globalized more and more and our consumers getting smarter & more informed every day, there is no doubt that digital is where you have to bet your dollars and cents as the future of marketing.

What’s next it’s hard to predict. But there can be so many new avenues that can disrupt things. Take cryptocurrency as payment method for your holidays. This could open up a whole new traveler market. How best to utilize short form video marketing for hotels. Cracking the Chinese digital marketing machine. No one seems to have done this properly yet for the Chinese consumer market. Immersive virtual experiences through VR/AR & Mixed reality.

You have established & maintained the well-known local hotel brand Kandima Maldives. Could you share with us your experience and the main challenges you have faced?

Kandima was definitely an experience that has really helped me shape my thinking.

Taking Kandima as a local brand at its infancy and creating a global presence within a short few years, through highly calculated strategic marketing activities has been one of my greatest achievements.

Of course, this is the work of a lot of people and I am happy to have had the pleasure to have worked with them on such an exciting project.

At Kandima, the team had fully embraced a digital culture fairly quickly, helping us enable a high level of operational efficiency. Being smart with how we do things was also one of our core brand pillars, allowing us to implement tech-oriented solutions without much hurdles. Also, the fact that we had leaders and directors who understood the importance of digital marketing, and who were open to new ideas, and most importantly had the confidence in the team to execute them made it very easy for us to do things that were unique, and out of the ordinary.

You are currently leading the digital team for multiple top known hotel brands in the Maldives from Nautilus, Baros, Milaidhoo, Kandima & Nova. How challenging has it been and what is your secret to success?

A challenge is what what drives us all. It definitely is a challenge when each property is so unique and targets different segments in the market. However, this challenge is minimized when you have a great team working with you! There is no individual success, success is the team’s success. We work very closely with our ecommerce, revenue as well as sales & PR teams to maximize the potential of every single initiative we launch, as well as for us to help enhance and amplify everything that they do.

What advice would you give to young people eager to enter this field, especially digital marketing in the hospitality industry?

Be patient and never be complacent. Technology changes daily and is in constant evolution. Never stop learning, and always be open to learn from anyone. Knowledge is power, and always push yourself to go beyond your comfort zones. You might fail. That is ok. Lessons learnt from past experiences shapes us to become better future selves. You never learn without failing.

What are your future plans for your career? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 – 10 years?

I would love to see Pulse Hotels & Resorts expand globally… and for me to retire and sip some coconuts on an uninhabited island. But to be honest, only time will tell. I do not like to plan too far ahead but I’m very happy where I am right now, and I hope to grow further with Pulse as well.