The Women Behind The Success of The St.Regis Abu Dhabi

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Abu Dhabi’s finest hotel shares the secret of its success is down to empowering its female associates who are striving to become the best that the hospitality industry has to offer…

Over the last year, The St Regis Abu Dhabi has been recognized for being one of the best performing hotels in the Middle East region in terms of Market share, Customer service and branded guest experience. Celebrating its 5th year of operation since its opening in August 2013 this Summer, the hotel has grown from strength to strength and this is notably down to some of its female leaders at the heart of the hotel’s team.

To mark the celebration of International Women’s Day, the St Regis Abu Dhabi recognizes some of their most inspiring female leaders, who are continuously driving the hotels success in a tough market by their leadership, passion, expertise and good old fashioned hard work.

Work, life, family, friends, health – it seems a woman has to be some sort of magical being to stay on top of it all. The dynamic women at the St Regis Abu Dhabi share their insights and own strategies on how they achieved success, work life balance and thrive in their workplace as they know it with their contribution.

Sona Shah, Director of Marketing, Executive Committee Member

With over 12 years’ marketing experience and various hospitality marketing roles in London, Doha Bahrain and now the UAE, Sona joined the capital’s best address in February 2017. A valued leader and currently the only female member of the Executive Committee at the hotel, British Expat Sona, leads the marketing department including the management of strategic planning, content development, digital landscape, events, brand activation, loyalty programs, public relations and advertising. With extensive regional experience, Sona brings strategic direction, vision, creativity and robust PR execution to the hotel which contribute directly to positive business results for the hotel.

Sona shares is a strong believer in coaching and mentoring those; “Women face similar challenges when it comes to their careers across the globe. There are certain preconceptions from society that can be discouraging, though old mind-sets are starting to disappear. I have been lucky to work with great mentors who have believed in me and promoted equal opportunities. I aim to lead by example as well in order to inspire others. The key is to wake up every morning with determination and go to bed with satisfaction of a job well done. You have to do what you love and love what you do, it all starts by setting yourself goals and defining what success means to you. Constantly look to learn new things, listen to guests, colleagues, management and owners feedback and always seek new solutions and strategies, while paving the way and helping others to grow to.”

Zoe Zkeri, Director of Spa

Zoe Zkeri hails from Greece and joined The St. Regis Abu Dhabi originally as Guest Relation Manager in June 2013 and was promoted to Assistant Director of Spa and Recreation in 2014. Zoe believes passion and pride in what you do is key; “The St Regis brand has a legacy which makes me proud to talk about to every guest, as every element in the hotel has a story to tell. I’ve worked in hospitality for 18 years and in many different hotels, but going into work at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi excites me every day. Having this passion and pride makes it easy to naturally focus on the guest’s need and to make them feel passionate to spend time here too.” Zoe explains. Zoe strongly believes that “we all make each other better by listening, guiding and inspiring and by finding a work-life balance: Women tend to manage everything at the same time with the wish of full satisfaction, but we have to prioritize and allow ourselves to let some things go. When you work in a spa, you have to first maintain your own balance in order to make your guests feel welcomed and relaxed”

Tanja Simolke, Account Director Groups and Catering Sales

German National, Tanja started her career at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi in 2012 as an Events Coordinator.  By April 2017 she has worked her way up to Account Director, Groups and Catering within the Sales department at the hotel. Tanja is a great example of commitment, hard work and honesty.   Tanja believes being recognized for her hard work through opportunities of growth, which in return keep her going to do what she enjoys is what success looks like to her. Tanja’s commitment has always enabled her to gain the trust of her superiors and customers, which is a contributing factor to her success.

Tanja believes it is important to focus on a balanced lifestyle and to make time for yourself. “I recharge by going to the gym and spending time with close friends. Friends become your family and support system as for many expats living in a foreign country.” Finally, she says “in order to be successful you have to overlook your fear of failure and take a risk.”

Anika De Jongh, Assistant Restaurant Manager, The Terrace on the Corniche

Anika is a great example of someone who has flourished at the St Regis Abu Dhabi. Anika started her career as an intern at Crystal Lounge in 2014. She has been promoted to Supervisory level the hotel’s at Azura Lounge in 2015 and then transferred to The Terrace at the Corniche, where she was promoted to Assistant Restaurant Manager in October 2017. Anika is very proud to work at a restaurant that continuously is within the top 5 restaurants in Abu Dhabi on TripAdvisor.

When describing what Anika loves most about working at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Anika said: “I am very proud to work for the St Regis Abu Dhabi, with all of the achievements, the variety of clientele and its reputation in the capital. The Senior Management empowers me to take decisions, to be creative and to motivate others, which makes me confident that I can be a great leader to colleagues from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds and nationalities and we achieve great results together with the whole team.”

Emmylou Pabualan, Revenue Management Executive

Emmylou a Philippines national, joined the hotel in its pre-opening stage. Emmylou took all opportunities to grow from a Reservations Agent in 2013 to the hotel’s Revenue Management Executive. Emmylou describes what makes working at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi special for her is that she is proud to be a part of a winning team. Emmy’s revenue team was recently Awarded Revenue Management Property Team of the Year for Marriott Middle East and Africa 2017. “Women’s leadership is an important topic to me and I strive to be the best I can be and believe it is important to start every day with a positive mind-set and to interact with everyone in a kind and compassionate way, no matter if it’s a Manager, colleague or guest.”

Karen Joyce Goce, Assistant Human Resources Manager

Working Mum of 2, Karen was also part of the pre-opening team and re-joined the hotel in April 2016 as Assistant Human Resources Manager. Karen shares that what she loves most about working at The St. Regis Abu Dhabi is the team spirit that comes from a good mix of people with 41 different cultural backgrounds, work experience and personal stories. She strongly believes that differences are actually make the whole team successful as different walks of lives find together in the end at one time. Engaging and motivating staff members as well as having an efficient and organized Human Resources department is what makes her job special for Karen. When we asked Karen how she feels empowered to be her best at work, she answered: “I am a working mum and I really appreciate that this is a not seen as a disadvantage. I do my best because I am motivated and valued. I know my opinion and decision in my area is respected regardless of my gender.”

Moustafa Sakr, General Manager said: “As with most Middle East Hotels a quarter of our staff are female and at the St Regis Abu Dhabi we are a diverse group of people working together and proud of our talented female team, so much so that in 2017 alone we promoted 18 of our female associates to a higher position. I am proud to have a strong female leader on my hotel Executive Committee as well as talented, ambitious and passionate female leaders that drive our hotel business across all departments to deliver the successful results we have achieved over the last few months. The results speak for itself, this is a great example of hard work and commitment our female colleagues at the hotel show. I strongly believe that when we encourage women to have the courage and confidence to actively use their leadership skills and expertise, we create a very sincere, trusted and balanced culture, with exemplary female leaders that inspire others at our hotel.  As a management team, we actively encourage work life balance at The St Regis Abu Dhabi for our associates and we have created a hotel environment I am confident all our associates can thrive in knowing there are endless possibilities for growth in the hospitality industry and beyond regardless of gender or background”

For further information, please visit