Maram Kokandi on IWD: Women should not shy away from pursuing their passions

Maram Kokandi on IWD: Women should not shy away from pursuing their passions



The first Saudi Arabian female hotel manager in the kingdom shares her advice.

Not long ago, it was unheard of to find Saudi Arabian women working in hospitality. Today, it is a growing industry, which attracts many women – and I made history as the first-ever Saudi Arabian female hotel manager in the kingdom.

Being a hotelier has been in my blood since I was a child, as I was born and grew up in Makkah. The religious, historical site welcomes Hajj and Umrah performers from all over the world, and has a reputable hospitality culture.

Almost twenty years ago, I entered the hospitality industry. I enjoyed being around people, providing them with excellent service and helping them create memories to cherish forever. I first entered the industry as a gym coordinator at one of the international hotel chains, before taking up a hotel sales manager position. I was then presented with the opportunity to move to Dubai and worked in hotel sales.

Maram Kokandi

I went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international hospitality management at the Cardiff Metropolitan University, which was funded by the Saudi Tourism Authority. Upon graduating, I was handpicked to be the first Saudi Arabian female hotel general manager in Saudi Arabia by an international hotel chain. 

Since then, I have moved between a number of hotels in Jeddah and AlUla as general manager before finally returning to my hometown, Makkah, as hotel manager for DoubleTree by Hilton Makkah.

Over the years, I have been able to flourish and succeed in Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries through acceptance. In the countries that I studied and worked, I was accepted as a woman. Plus, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, new strategies, policies and laws have empowered women today more than ever before. 

According to the General Authority for Statistics for March 2022, Saudi women now comprise 33.6 percent of the Saudi workforce. That figure is up from 17.4 percent just five years ago. Now, women in Saudi Arabia can look forward to a promising career, as there is a renewed focus on women’s education.

Maram Kokandi

One of the many things I learnt during my journey, is that women who want to be leaders should not shy away from pursuing their passion, women should never stop learning or resign themselves to the status quo. 

One of the most important things a woman can do to become an influential leader, establish credibility and gain respect is to keep her message consistent. An effective leader is able to motivate and inspire others, make decisions quickly and with clarity, establish strong bonds with others and persevere in the face of adversity.

Reflecting on my own career journey, I realise that my hard work and dedication, together with the support of allies have contributed to these achievements. My ambition is to continue to grow, inspire and support others to thrive in their careers. One of my biggest achievements has been seeing my team succeed, which gives me a sense of purpose as a leader. 

And, the biggest reward of all? Being a source of pride for my family. 

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