ROSEMARY MUGAMBI is the Regional Sales and Marketing Director of Serena Hotels (EA). She was the first woman lodge manager at Samburu Serena Safari Lodge before serving Serena Beach Hotel and Spa in various capacities. She tells NJOKI CHEGE what it takes to remain at the top
When I joined Serena in 1988, it had only five properties. Today it has grown to 25 properties spread out through East Africa in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Mozambique.
My mandate is simple — to create awareness of these brands locally, regionally and internationally and to ensure business for our properties by coming up with sales and marketing strategies for the Serena Hotels in the region.
At the time I joined 24 years ago, Serena Hotels had a management trainee programme for students and by the time I was graduating, I had been confirmed in my role and posted to Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge as a trainee manager.
As part of my career progression, I joined the management team at Serena Beach Hotel & Spa where I spent eight years in different capacities with a year’s interruption in between to serve at Samburu Serena Safari Lodge as an assistant lodge manager.
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At Serena Beach, I worked for four years as the human resource manager which I found challenging yet fulfilling.
It gave me an opportunity to have an active role in shaping the hotel’s human resource development, which focuses on staff well-being as the key asset. Besides this, I was able to interact with people from all walks of life.
My driving force was my belief in giving staff members the respect and ability to believe in themselves because you can have a superb property with excellent facilities, but if your staff do not own the idea, it may not work.
Additionally for me was the other positions that I subsequently took up in the operations department as the food and beverage manager and later as the rooms division manager.
It is also at Serena Beach Hotel & Spa that I was given the task of setting up Jahazi Sea Food Grill, which I consider as one of my earliest achievements.
This wealth of experience moulded me into being an all-rounded hotelier and gave me the capability to face challenges head on.
In 1997, I was promoted to take up a management position at the Samburu Serena Safari Lodge. Being in Samburu was another rewarding experience in my career path.
The people are warm and surrounded with a rich culture and unique wildlife that I found appealing. The team was also welcoming and joining them as the first woman lodge manager was delightful and thrilling, but this did not go without challenges.
Our most challenging moment came when a fire brought down the public areas of the lodge and we had to rebuild it.
All in all I had the most exciting three years of my life managing a beautiful property. During those years, sharing our facilities such as the clinic and water with the communities around the lodge and being integrated into the larger community was a humbling experience. I simply adopted their way of life. I learned to appreciate life and its simplicity.
In 2000, Serena Hotels gave me the opportunity in the sales and marketing department at the head office to serve as the group sales manager.
This was a new and refreshing challenge for me. I held this position until last year when I was appointed regional sales and marketing director.
At the head office, I am responsible for a team of about 30 and we have to make sure that out product is placed in the right context and targets the right markets.
WOMEN ON TOP
My experience through the years has made me a strong believer in giving women equal opportunity in any level of employment.
In the 23 years that I have been in the tourism industry I can attest to the fact that women in the hotel industry specifically do have to work twice as hard in order to prove their worth.
Ours is an industry faced with many challenges. It is a highly labour intensive industry with heavy demands that will definitely force you out of your comfort zone. It also requires you to work long hours and away from home.
Personally, my driving force has been the “I-can-do-this” attitude.