What do you do when your plans to be a planner doesn’t go as planned? If you’re David Doucette, executive director of Internet marketing for Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, you pursue another option that, in turn, winds up being your dream job. Here, Doucette shares how his best-laid plans led to something even better.
Advantage: Tell us how you landed in hospitality.
David Doucette: Well, my university major was actually urban planning. I even interned with the City of Toronto planning department with the hopes of being hired, but the economy intervened. When I graduated, the City was under a hiring freeze, but a classmate told me about a job with Delta Hotels & Resorts. I started with the company in 1991 as a reservation sales agent, fully intending it to be a stop-gap position only, but a few months later I was promoted to the automation department. Then, a few years later, I was recruited by my current company.
So now it’s more than 20 years later and you’re still in hospitality. You must have decided you liked it.
It took me a couple of years to make the mental shift to pursuing a career in hospitality, but when I did, I found myself enjoying my work and advancing professionally. Our product also is very appealing and a pleasure to sell. People become very excited when planning their vacations, and it’s rewarding to know that you’re helping them make memories. Personally, I also am passionate about travel—I definitely have wanderlust. I have a goal to visit 50 countries by my 50th birthday. Currently, I am 45 years old and am up to 43 countries and counting.
What part do you play in helping creating memories?
In my current role, I manage the online presence for our three brands: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Raffles Hotels & Resorts, and Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts. I work with the senior executive teams for all three to execute Internet strategies, as well as oversee the content management for our websites, the web-based support and training at all our hotels, and our social-media presence. Bottom line: my job is to drive qualified traffic to our website and ensure the customer has an enjoyable online experience once there.
How do you evaluate the customer experience?
We consistently mine data via various analytic tools to determine which strategies are working, such as which promotions or loyalty programs are resonating with guests. Our websites continue to drive an increasingly greater share of our business, so we quantify the impact of our online influence as much as possible.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
As a global company expanding into new markets, we have to keep key elements in line with local culture and customs. For example: proper dress and no alcohol in our marketing to the Middle East. Website translation also can be particularly tricky with regional dialect differences. While translation services have improved dramatically, we realize it is impossible to have a perfect translation due to cost constraints and, in turn, have to make compromises.
How do you manage staff and interact with coworkers around the globe?
Time, of course, is always a factor. Fairmont is based in Toronto, Raffles in Singapore, and Swissôtel in Zurich, so flexibility for calls or virtual meetings is necessary, due to the time-zone differences. I have 15 people on my team, including one in London, one in Singapore, and one in Zurich, so I have to be diligent about making sure communication is strong and everyone feels included in our day-to-day work and have the tools they need to achieve their goals.
What traits do you feel allow you to be successful in your role?
I believe in nurturing connections with people. In my more than 16 years with the company, I’ve developed many strong relationships. At almost every hotel we operate, I personally know someone that I can pick up the phone and call. At our corporate office, I strive to create an atmosphere of support so that other departments feel comfortable coming to me for advice and assistance. I also have a very good memory. My boss cannot believe it, but I know the phone number for 80 percent of our hotels without having to look them up! But my memory also allows me to read professional articles or data and retain that information for future use.
What’s next for you at Fairmont?
The next few years will be very exciting—and busy. We have 50 new hotels in the pipeline across the three brands to launch, which will increase our properties by 50 percent and expand us from 28 to 35 countries. There also has been discussion of opportunities to add a new brand to our lineup. And, of course, boredom is never an issue since technology and social media are constantly evolving, so we are constantly tweaking our content and navigation to make it better.