Back-of-House: Meet the marketing and communications manager, Grand Plaza Mövenpick Media City

Maria del Mar Portilla Irastorza talks about her role, the challenges and her work strategies

Maria del Mar Portilla Irastorza
Maria del Mar Portilla Irastorza

Describe your job.
My job is amazing because every day there’s something new to do. I’m in charge of the marketing and communications department of the hotel. That means I’m always looking at new opportunities to position, advertise and promote our property. Always working on several campaigns including F&B, rooms, spa, M&E and more.

How long have you worked in the hospitality industry? 
For me, it hasn’t been a long journey as it only started 1.5 years ago, when I joined the pre-opening team of Grand Plaza Mövenpick Media City. However, it has been one of the best experiences of my life and career. Hospitality is about people and I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with a strong team that is not only highly skilled at its professional competencies, but it has what it takes to be in this industry: people skills.

Describe your hospitality journey.
I started my marketing and design career eight years ago back in Mexico, my home country. I’ve worked across several industries including F&B, Events and Hospitality. Prior to joining Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, I had the opportunity to lead the Marketing team for a Mexico-based events company, as the marketing & design manager.
    Life then gave me an incredible opportunity to move to Dubai and pursue a master’s degree in international marketing and management with digital marketing from Herriot Watt University.
    In 2017 I joined STREE Group as a senior marketing executive where I developed my skills in digital marketing and spearheaded several social media campaigns in the MENA region. In 2018, I came on board with Grand Plaza Mövenpick Media City, where I have been able to implement my skill set in marketing and successfully launched a 360-degree opening campaign of the property.

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What are your three biggest challenges?
The marketing and communications department is mostly the heart of the hotel as we support many other departments within the property, hence it is critical to be extremely organised and plan ahead although sometimes might be challenging.
At the moment, the market situation represents a challenge for every industry. Therefore, creativity plays a great role, especially for marketer’s professionals to be able to transform those challenges into opportunities and be ahead of the game.
Dubai offers an incredible cross-culture environment with many nationalities under the same roof. This sometimes poses a communications challenge when targeting different segments as each campaign should cater to their own interests while being sensitive and inclusive of the local culture.

Tell us about your work strategies
As a marketing and communications manager, I mostly follow five key principles as my work strategy:
• Always be organised and time sensitive.
• Clear and open communication within your team. Never assume anything.
• Market research comes always first.
• Quality over quantity.
• Listen more than you talk – my team has always great ideas.

Three things you absolutely enjoy about your job.
• Meeting new people – It is one of the things I enjoyed every day. Having the opportunity to meet different people from different nationalities, from guests to marketing peers or colleagues, it’s refreshing and exciting.
• Being able to use my creativity across our marketing and PR campaigns – As a designer, it is essential for me to bring the magic of creativity every day. From a single campaign to a food photoshoot: creativity is everything to me and my team, so we spend time brainstorming about new ways to capture and engage with customers and colleagues in the digital space.
• Being trusted by my team and senior leaders – I think this one of the most important achievements I’ve been able to accomplish. It motivates me every day to do more and better.


Describe your single biggest achievement.
Definitely opening a five-star hotel in Dubai has been the most challenging project I’ve been involved in but at the same time, the most rewarding one.
    From seeing the property during the construction phase all the way to opening its doors and welcoming our first guest, it has been an incredible journey and an unforgettable moment I will treasure forever. Moreover, being responsible of the 360-marketing campaign for the opening whilst positioning a flagship property has been extremely exciting and insightful.

Your favourite:

  • Advice received: Do what you love and love what you do, because that day work will take a different meaning.
  • Meal: original Mexican street Tacos
  • Holiday Destination: Japan
  • Hotel stay experience: I had one of the most authentic experiences back in Japan. It was a small boutique hotel where I was able to taste the local culture throughout. From a warm cup of green tea to a small mattress lying down the floor. Unforgettable!
  • Hobby: Photography, traveling, fashion and baking

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