“We need to start with our own communities to bring back business. After all, the basic unit that started it all is the community. More than the power of advertising [it is] the people themselves, who must start believing again.”
The hospitality industry can be highly competitive, with hotels striving to not only offer the best accommodations, amenities and services, but also look to guest lifestyles to guarantee bookings. This entails communicating the benefits and offers that come with every stay, as well as the little nuances that can make a property stand out from the rest.
As Director of Marketing Communications at Novotel Manila Araneta City, Ervin M. Dona 3rd recognizes the importance of leveraging the aspects of the hotel he deals with through all available channels. He also describes himself as a marketing strategist and brand communicator with a passion for storytelling, a conviction for fairness, and free execution with attention to detail and a mix of creative and technical skills.
What he didn’t mention was the genuine warmth that helped him build a lasting and valuable relationship during his 20 years as a hotel owner, 12 of which in management positions.
A new idea of hospitality
Erwin’s successful campaigns include promoting Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan. The Philippine Heritage Vanguard Campaign won the 2018 Marketing Campaign of the Year award from the Philippine Hotel Marketing and Sales Association Virtus Awards. He was also a finalist for the 39th Agora Awards for Excellence in the Marketing Management category and was selected as a Panellist for Singapore’s Marketing Interactive’s PR Awards. He is among the industry leaders whose stories are featured in Ambidexter’s book Evangelists: Views from Leaders in the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands.
A graduate of St. Benilde’s College of Arts in Manila, he explained what sparked his interest in looking at art from a business perspective. “I believe that there is money in art if you know how to develop your creativity and unleash your marketing abilities to communicate it. Although I did not become the curator of the exhibition space, I have the opportunity to conduct PR events. and launches and transforms them not only as a brand story, but to increase awareness of our product and soon turn them into revenue streams.”
The college developed his discipline in general, and also became smarter and more inventive in finding solutions to even the most impossible scenes. “In the hospitality industry, it’s difficult to keep coming up with ideas that aren’t typical or traditional because the market will get tired of seeing the same concepts and offerings,” he shared.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge for hotel owners in recent years and Erwin has used this time to reconnect with his old self. “I see the pandemic restrictions as an opportunity to pause and enjoy every moment at home with my family,” he said. At the same time, he was forced to rethink his marketing and communications strategies.
“Novotel Manila Araneta City has tackled the challenge of developing new business opportunities outside of our hotel while reaching out to a wider market. I’m not tech savvy, but I’ve learned to see change as a new learning tool – I recently came up with and we created our own e-commerce platform, My Novotel Manila Boutique. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.”
The boutique is a game changer as it goes beyond food delivery but expands most of its hotel services into a holistic set of offerings. “It goes beyond ownership to reach out to a wider market and present exclusive offerings,” he explained. Now that in-room stays and events are allowed again, they are busy promoting the Food Exchange restaurant with its popular buffet promotions, accommodations in their 401 comfortable modern rooms and suites, and a ballroom with built-in LED walls.
History and community
Erwin is known for campaigns that go beyond hotel offerings and give guests a taste of history. He accomplished this by connecting the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar sites in Bataan and Quezon City to their rich heritage.
Now it invites guests to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the area where Novotel Manila is located. Novotel’s marketing team has designed activities based on the historical significance of the “City of the First”, where the Araneta Colosseum, the old neighborhood restaurants and other attractions evoke a sense of nostalgia for people who frequented this commercial center with their families during their childhood.
Erwin describes his childhood as simple and carefree. “My family had a construction business, so I grew up appreciating hard manual labor. We lived a normal but comfortable life. From my parents, I learned to always be generous in helping, especially to those who need it, always look back on how you started and appreciate the kindness of the people who were with you when you [started] building your own career.
Experienced hotelier Miguel Cerqueda invited him to join the Genesis Hotels Group as a Marketing Officer. “He was the first person to really believe that I could do this and work wonders for his managed hotels. I will always be grateful to the seigneur and will always remember his words: “Love your work, and it will reciprocate.”
The people and work environment at the hotel made him stay in the industry. “It’s a never ending process of creating great ideas… not just ideas, but great ideas to bring to market. I don’t believe in ‘pwede na yan’ (it will do).” to succeed and be competitive,” he said.
According to Erwin, to succeed in your role, it is important to follow the system with discipline and always think two or three steps ahead. “A solid marketing strategy is critical to the success of any business. If you don’t have a comprehensive marketing plan, you will lack focus and goals. Without concentration, you simply cannot achieve any of your business goals. will help you in planning the right strategies, from creating the right visuals to creating a captivating tone of voice. This is your direct bible from your audience.”
As a leader, he gives his employees freedom of action. “I trust my people and their forces. I give them the freedom to explore their ideas. The moment I chose you for this position, it means that you are capable of doing your job. I love collaborating with them, asking them what they think and always, always encouraging them to be so much better than the previous project. As Novotel CEO Maria Garcia says, “People testify to the success of the brand.”
Now that the Philippines is reopening to tourism, he advocates for Filipinos to start exploring the country. “I love the Love Local campaign because we value our roots and culture. I have seen the emergence of local hotel brands focused on Pinoy’s ingenuity, from patronizing our own local furniture to supporting local farming communities. We need to start with our own communities to rebuild the business. After all, the basic unit that started it all is the community. More than the power of advertising [it is] the people themselves, who must start believing again.”
Hotel Executive Committee Members (L to R): Nikko Mathias, Regional T&C, Accor Philippines, and Director of Talent and Culture; Massimiliano Pauletto, head chef; Ronnie Virata, CTO; Darwin Labayande, permanent manager; CEO Maria Manlulu-Garcia; Erwin Doña 3rd; Teresa Galindo, Director of Guest Relations and Sustainability and ALLSafe employee; Matt Salcedo, Former Head of Food and Beverage; Sam Tse, Commercial Sales Director; and José Rasalan, CFO. PROVIDED PHOTO
My mother, Flocerfida. She always taught me the value of kindness. A person does not have the courage to ask for a favor if he is able to do it. A little act of kindness doesn’t hurt.
Have your own small fund for the elderly and single mothers or single parents. They cannot be left alone.
First paid job
Two decades ago, I worked as a freelance columnist/writer, men’s magazine stylist, and graphic artist.
Manifest, pray for protection and blessings, light incense and drink hot water.
I can be a tutor for children! I recently learned how to teach and I love learning from my elementary days.
social media time
Daily. At work, we need to check the behavior of our audience, how they interact and react.