Sian Thomas, Area Director of Sales, Emaar Hospitality -The Address Hotels and Resorts, Vida Hotels and Resorts and Armani Hotel Dubai, United Arab Emirates was honored as this year’s Site Master Motivator during the IMEX Gala Awards in Frankfurt, Germany. Considered the highest standard of excellence from Site, the award recognizes an individual in the motivational events and incentive travel industry who serves as an ambassador of progress and betterment for their region and the global community. Sian has served as President of the Site UAE Chapter since its establishment in 2011.
“I have been involved with the Site community for many years and have grown both personally and professionally with the education, support, advice and enthusiasm that the organization, members and worldwide chapters provide,” shared Ms. Thomas, “ I am extremely touched and honoured to have been named Site Master Motivator 2014."
With over fifteen years of international hotel sales experience in the U.S., Asia, England, Ireland and the Middle East, Ms. Thomas is passionate about the hospitality industry. Since the Site UAE Chapter was established in 2011, she has served as Chapter President
Why did you choose to pursue a career in Travel and Hospitality?
I originally started my career in Food and Beverage, much to the dismay of my Father who felt that “folding napkins” wasn’t a real job. I loved the buzz of a hotel and wanted to know what really went on behind closed doors – where did the guests come from? If you who want to learn more about the behind the scenes at a hotel a great read is Hotel Babylon: Inside the Extravagance and Mayhem of a Luxury Five-Star Hotel by Imogene Edward Jones.
I was fascinated that there were so many components to the Travel and Hospitality Industry and wanted to experience them all – so after college I worked as a volunteer at many of the major racing and sporting events in England (Royal Ascot, Epsom Derby, and British Open etc.) Sure enough, I was tasked with the “tin of bananas” and “100 fish spoons as quick as you can” requests. Needless to say, with those experiences, I quickly learned the industry!
I continued my studies at what was then Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies in England receiving a diploma in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management followed by a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from New Hampshire College, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA.
After many years working at hotels in Europe, why did you choose to relocate to Dubai?
Having been extremely lucky to have already worked for hotels in the USA, Europe and Asia, ten years ago I moved to Dubai. When working with clients in Dublin, we were often pitched alongside key European destinations such as Prague, Barcelona, etc., and also Dubai. I didn’t know much about Dubai and started to research the Middle East region. The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing held their Client Roadshow at the hotel I was based at in Dublin and showcased such a dynamic destination with a long-term tourism strategy, that I decided I wanted to be a part of it.
What motivated you to assume a Site Chapter Leader position?
The Site EMEA Forum was held in Dubai in 2008 and we won a Crystal for the event! With such positive feedback we knew we wanted to work to become an official, accredited chapter. This opportunity allowed me to spend more time with key industry players in the region and gain an insight on future plans and strategies for Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the other surrounding Emirates. I have personally gained great education from my membership with Site and have met some wonderful people who have turned into great friends!
What are some of the educational activities and events Site UAE is doing to engage current and prospective members?
The Site UAE Chapter maintains an active Linked in Group page where we share news and articles with members. We have also just set up a Twitter account. This year we held a joint Cocktail Reception pre GIBTM 2014 in association with ICCA and had the pleasure of recently having Site Past President, David Sand, deliver a Seminar The “I” in MICE” in early June for our existing and new members.
We constantly ask for members’ input to ensure that we plan to deliver future events with substance and value and we regularly meet with members on a face-to-face basis during our working week. We hope that to host an Iftar during the Holy Season of Ramadan in July.
As this year’s Site Master Motivator, what words of wisdom can you share with young professionals seeking a career in the Travel and Hospitality industry?
• Gain as much working experience as you can in your free time.
• Seek an experienced, industry professional to be your mentor to help you with your goals and offer advice.
• Sometimes you need to take step backwards/sideways in your career to follow your passion.
• Keep up to date with tourism trends in your destination.
• Build up a network of industry contacts in your region.
• Ask your company to allow you to be part of the Site Young Leaders Program to meet/network with like-minded professionals!