Laila Mohamed Suhail: A day in the life of the CEO driving up Dubai’s tourism
Dubai: She is the driving force behind strengthening Dubai’s position as a world-leading tourism destination and commercial hub.
Meet Laila Mohamed Suhail, chief executive officer for strategic alliance and partnerships sector for Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) and its entities.
The Emirati achiever is responsible for identifying and consolidating all strategic alliances, partnerships and sponsorships for Dubai Tourism and its entities – DCTCM, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) and Dubai College of Tourism (DCT).
Laila is also board member and chairperson of Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group, the largest retail body for the gold and diamond jewellery sector in Dubai, and heads its marketing as well.
At home, she is a daughter, a sister to seven siblings and a loving aunt to 10 nephews and nieces.
We take the opportunity to spend a day with the DTCM CEO and chat with her on how she achieved success.
Laila starts the day with the Fajr (dawn) prayer. “It’s the best way to start my day,” she said.
Another morning routine is a call that she makes to her mother on her way to work. “My mother is my inspiration. She gives me strength like no one else.”
She added that the call to her mother gets her pepped for the day. “My mother was not educated but her wisdom and strength is inspirational. And so a talk with her first thing gets me ready for the day,” said Laila, who is an alumni of London Business School, who graduated in 2019.
Prior to her current position, Laila was chief executive officer of DFRE, the organiser of the city’s leading annual festivals, overseeing an entity that helped Dubai become recognised as the ‘Festivals Capital of the World’. She was with DFRE since its formation and became its CEO in 2008.
While at DFRE, Laila played a pivotal role in the development of a host of new retail festivals, from Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) in 1996, Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) in 1998, Modhesh World in 2000, Eid in Dubai in 2008, Ramadan in Dubai in 2011 and the Dubai Food Festival in 2014. “I am so proud to have overseen the 20th edition of DSF in 2015.”
What’s a typical day like
It is a day filled with brainstorming ideas, planning and strategising, said Laila. As CEO for strategic alliance and partnerships sector for DCTCM and its entities, Laila has several responsibilities when it comes to Dubai as a tourist destination and a city to live in.
“A lot of my day goes in strategising, planning and identifying brands that fit well for Dubai. My attention is on several things at a time. Prioritising is key for me to get through the day. I generally don’t waste time or an opportunity when I see the right fit for Dubai,” Laila said.
Under her leadership, retailers expect to grow by 20 per cent or more in 2022. New brands like Gigi Hadid is said to enter the market for the first time. PALEM, Irthi, Anthropologie, thegoodlife, and others are changing the concepts of traditional retailers.
As for events, this year will also see new fashion events like International Fashion Week Dubai, ESMOD Dubai 2022 Grads Step Out in Style. Moreover, there are new online additions as well such as Veppy, L’usturalia, Beach City, which are all expected to raise the e-commerce profile in Dubai. All this could not have been achieved without the expertise and skillful planning by Laila.
“I am always on the look for how to make Dubai more attractive for tourists and more liveable for its residents. Personally, I love shopping. So when I travel I am looking out for new fashion brands. When I see a brand that is not available in Dubai, I strategise and plan to get it. After all we are working towards Dubai being a one-stop destination for everything.”
Women in Jewellery
Laila said another feather in her cap is that she has designed a new concept for jewellery training and development programmes. Referring to her role at Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group, Laila said she always wanted to give back something for women who love jewellery.
“The focus of the concept is to launch jewellery brands and initiatives by women in the gold and jewellery sector. We want to create a marketplace to develop entrepreneurship in jewellery business. Since a large part of the jewellery business is for women, the idea of this concept is to give women a chance to come out with their creative ideas and give them an opportunity to flourish in the jewellery business,” she said.
Accolades and achievements
In 2015 she was awarded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Excellence Award for her unrivalled contribution to the city-wide festivals industry in Dubai. Previously, Laila had achieved a career milestone when she was awarded the Government Excellence Award by Sheikh Mohammed for creating a new benchmark for the highest sponsorship revenues during the 2000 edition of DSS.
Suhail said she had a very simple childhood. “I was born on the creek so I share a special bond with that part of Dubai. My family comes first. We are a big family and even today we all meet every weekend for special occasions like birthdays.”
She recalled starting her first government job at the Dubai Economic Department as a receptionist. Today, as CEO and other senior titles she carries, it stands as a testament to her hard work, passion and love for UAE and its leadership.
In 1995 she pursued a higher diploma course in programming and information processing from London City College.
Suhail said passion has been her key driver. “My job is my passion and I am also a very caring person,” said Laila.
24 hours not enough
“24 hours is not enough to do so many things,” said Laila. “Many people are expecting you to take care of so many things. Everything needs to be managed in 24 hours. Sometimes I feel it is not enough. But then I prioritise my job everyday based on the urgency. This way I am able to mete out a lot of work.”
In all this, Laila ensures she always has time for her family. “Family always comes first.”
At a glance
Who: Laila Mohamed Suhail
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer for strategic alliance and partnerships sector for DCTCM and its entities
Born in: Dubai
Morning ritual: Fajr (dawn) prayer, call to her mother
Favourite fitness regime: Walking, swimming
Her stress-buster: Meditation
Her favourite vacation getaway: Maldives
Favourite retail brands: Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vitton
Brand of a bag you carry every day: Louis Vitton