Home CommunityPeople Priya Banerjee, Director of Sales and Marketing at Angsana Laguna Phuket, on how passion, teamwork and communication are the keys to success in the industry.

Priya Banerjee, Director of Sales and Marketing at Angsana Laguna Phuket, on how passion, teamwork and communication are the keys to success in the industry.

by Shaan Bajaj

Selling sanctuaries

By Shaan Bajaj

“It never stops – I got married, had kids, but my passion to be part of this industry has stayed,” Priya tells me on a phone call during one of her rare free moments as she travels through Europe to meet clients. Her voice fills with excitement as she speaks of her reasons for choosing to work in hospitality. Destined for a medical career, like the expectation for many other Indian kids, Priya had the courage to let her heart sit in the driver’s seat. “I was a little different,” she admits. “While I was pursuing my medical degree, I suddenly realised that I wanted to do hotel management. It was not greatly accepted at the time, but thankfully, my parents supported the switch.”

She wasted no time and enrolled into Robert Gorden University, where she pursued a BA in Hospitality; and the Institute of Advanced Management, Kolkata, where she graduated with a degree in Hospitality; as well as a Digital Marketing course from Imperial College London. “I started working at the front desk, as duty manager and other positions like that. I worked morning shifts, afternoon shifts, night shifts. The lifestyle was not easy but I loved my job.” However, after gaining an understanding of how the industry runs at an operational level, she was eager to learn more. She decided to pursue her MBA in sales and marketing at Symbiosis International University and eventually her hard work resulted in a role as a sales manager with Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts. Looking back at her time, she says “I am very lucky that I started with such a great brand. I learnt a lot from my time there and gained an understanding on business ethics and how hotels receive business.”

She’s since worked at a variety of renowned hotels across India and Thailand including InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton Worldwide and ShangriLa. In July 2022, Priya joined the iconic Angsana Laguna Phuket, which is part of the Banyan Tree Group, as their Director of Sales and Marketing. When I asked her to elaborate on why she chose to move, she shares that “The Banyan Tree Group is known for its luxury. They have different concepts I wanted to explore from my previous roles, and being a part of the group is a great opportunity.”

As sales and marketing is often responsible for maximising revenue within the hospitality industry, I asked Priya how she ensures success in such a significant task. Agreeing with the description, she tells me, “marketing is the pillar for selling everything.” She highlights two significant areas to focus on: her team, whom she describes as her strength; and her own commitment to “evolve as a person, to keep challenging myself and gaining knowledge.” She also says, “You can accomplish amazing things when you build a trusted team. To do that, you need to make clear goals and objectives, and then it is easy to drive numbers.”

With more than 15 years of experience within the industry, I was curious to gain her insight on how the industry has changed and where it is heading. “When I started, everything was manual. We relied on registers, normal black-and-white computers, and human connection. Relationships used to be one of the biggest things. In a more digitalised world, things have changed.

Before we used to drive different segments, today we have online channels, websites, social media, email, GPS, and more. It is about the performance of these channels. Now content is king because your content talks. If you want your customer to engage, your content needs to be great.”

The digital shift, magnified by COVID, has caused significant changes in consumer behaviour and with content now at the core, I enquired where that placed the role of people, since the hospitality industry relies heavily on the human touch. Priya confidently explains how people benefit from the role of technology, specifically in sales. “While content is more important than ever, technology makes it easier to connect with people from anywhere and create content accordingly. Human interaction is a road that will run parallel within the industry. Our smiles talk, and provide guests with more confidence.”

I asked her for any advice she had as a leader for others aspiring to be like her, and she tells me, “Communication and teamwork is most important. As a leader, we have to be a team player too. Give the same amount of support, energy and hard work that we expect. It motivates the team as they see you as a colleague and friend too. Once they feel confident in you, they want to give their best.”

As we talk about her journey to where she is now, I ask her what her biggest accomplishment has been throughout the years and conversely, her greatest challenge. Staying true to her passion, she says, “I feel a sense of accomplishment and joy knowing I have contributed in the best ways and have given the best average rates to the properties I have been associated with.” Being the people person she is, she also shares how proud she is of supporting her team and the client relationships she has built. As for her biggest challenge, she cites the pandemic. However, relying on her grit and perseverance to ride out COVID, she took the time to study a digital marketing course from Imperial College Business School and relished the time with her kids and family.

Societal expectations for women can often be incredibly demanding, with the pressure of being career-driven, a great mum, wife, and so on. As it’s clear that Priya is someone who juggles it all with an impressive amount of grace, I wanted to know her secrets and any advice she could spare. “It’s not easy but my passion drives me,” she responds. “I feel energised by my work. There will be ups and downs but always bring your focus back.”

For women who may be struggling, she leaves a gentle reminder: “Don’t lose your identity. Yes, you may be a mother, sister, and a wife, but you are also you. You have to do what makes you happy. I do not want to categorise women by saying, ‘you’re only complete because you’re working,’ but rather, what makes you happy is the most important thing. Some women might face challenges with working but don’t give up on your dreams; in today’s world, there’s always a way as there are flexible opportunities.”

She also credits her success to her family, kids and husband. “I feel like this is not possible without support from your family or partner. It allows you to feel comfortable because you know everything is fine at home. The comfort makes it easy to do anything. I am thankful to my parents, who have always supported me, and my partner who stands beside me and lets me pursue my dreams and supports my decision. It gives me the confidence to keep working. Finally, my kids are very young but they feel proud of me. Sometimes they call me superwoman because they can see that I make the effort to be both with them and at work” – a fitting moniker, I feel, for someone who looks for greatness in all she does.

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