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Q&A with Katerina Dixon AVP for Marketing (F&B) and Corporate Communications Shangri - La Group

Q&A with Katerina Dixon  AVP for Marketing (F&B) and Corporate Communications Shangri - La Group

Breaking Travel News caught up with a very busy Katerina Dixon AVP for Marketing (F&B) and Corporate Communications Shangri - La Group and asked a number of detailed questions about her role and the groups development?
With a remarkable international track record in the hospitality industry spanning over two decades, she brings a wealth of strategic marketing and communication expertise to her new role. Her valuable contributions will be instrumental in reinforcing both the Shangri - La Group’s brand visibility and reach in the coming years as they continue fortifying their position within the region.

BTN. How important to the group are sustainability and green measures, and what steps are you taking to ensure that your properties meet goals set?

KD. Sustainability is a cornerstone of Shangri-La’s operations, and we are committed to reducing our environmental impact through various initiatives. Our “Rooted in Nature” program, running since 2014, champions the use of locally and ethically sourced ingredients, reducing carbon footprints and supporting local economies.

We are implementing utility-saving initiatives such as optimizing chillers, rooftop solar installations, and desalination plants. Our goal is to drastically reduce single-use plastics by 2026, having already eliminated plastic straws, stirrers, and takeaway containers across all properties. One-third of our hotels provide filtered water in glass or plant-based bottles. Last year, we diverted 44% of non-hazardous waste and 74% of food waste through comprehensive recycling and composting programs. Our “Soap for Hope” program recycled 14.7 tonnes of discarded guest soaps into over 120,000 new soap bars for communities in need, and our “Linens for Life” partnership collects and recycles used linen. In the UAE, we have recently signed a partnership agreement with Goumbook in collaboration with Unisoap to implement the same initiatives across our properties in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In 2023, our Turtle Ranger program in Muscat saw 154 endangered Green Turtles and critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles give birth to 4,369 hatchlings on our private beach at Shangri-La Al Jissah, one of the top 5 turtle nesting sites in Oman. This year alone, we have already observed 80 nests since January, with over 2,383 eggs hatched. The nesting season lasts about 5 months, till end of May.


At Shangri-La Le Touessrok, Mauritius, our colleagues organize monthly beach clean-ups, filling piles of bags of garbage. These are all areas that we actively look to support as community-building is a cornerstone of our overarching philosophy.

In 2023, the beehives at Shangri-La Toronto produced 17 kg of honey used in desserts, cocktails, and as gifts for guests. Our hotel team at Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, regularly plants mangroves at Jubail Mangrove Park to support the UAE’s plan to plant 100 million mangroves by 2030. Sustainable practices prepare our hotels for future environmental challenges and market shifts, reducing dependence on nonrenewable resources and aligning with eco-conscious travelers’ values.

BTN. On the subject of sustainability, are your guests leaving feedback as to what steps you have taken so far and what they may like to see you implement going forward?

KD. Absolutely. Our guests are increasingly eco-conscious and provide valuable feedback on our sustainability efforts. Many appreciate our initiatives, such as eliminating plastic takeaway containers and offering filtered water in glass bottles. They often suggest additional measures, like further reducing our carbon footprint and enhancing local community support. For instance, guests have requested more electric vehicle charging stations, which we are now implementing across several properties.

We actively engage with our guests through surveys and social media to understand their preferences and improve our sustainability practices. This feedback is essential in shaping our future sustainability goals and ensuring that we meet the expectations of our guests while protecting the environment. For example, our “Rooted in Nature” program has been well-received, encouraging us to expand it further.

BTN.  Which areas are you as a group looking to spearhead future developments and why?

KD. Today, we own, manage, and operate over 100 hotels in over 76 destinations globally. Shangri-La Group consists of 4 brands: Shangri-La, Traders, Jen and Kerry hotels. China market remains a key area in terms of this year’s expansion. We have just recently opened two properties in South China, JEN Kunming and Shangri-La Nanshan in Shenzhen.

Last year, Shangri-La Group launched its very first lifestyle and entertainment development located on Sentosa island in Singapore. Spanning along Palawan Beach, it offers a new beach club experience with thrilling rides, vibrant attractions like HydroDash floating aqua park, UltraGolf’s challenging 18-hole mini-golf course, and HyperDrive—an electrifying indoor gamified electric go-kart circuit and unique dining experiences for all. For pet owners, The Palawan Dog Run offers a secure space for dogs to frolic off-leash. It already reigns as Singapore’s new premier beach destination!

BTN. Wellness is a key facet of travel today; meeting the needs of healthy lifestyle travelers is vital to groups like Shangri-La. What are your plans regarding this area for the future?

KD. Wellness is indeed a priority for Shangri-La. We are enhancing our wellness offerings through various initiatives. Our properties feature state-of-the-art fitness centers, luxurious spas, and wellness programs that include yoga, meditation, and personalized fitness training. For example, our Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa in Mauritius offers holistic wellness retreats combining fitness, nutrition, and relaxation therapies. We are also integrating wellness into our dining options with healthy and organic food choices. Looking ahead, we plan to introduce more comprehensive wellness retreats and experiences that combine physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. By focusing on wellness, we aim to meet the growing demand for health-conscious travel and provide our guests with holistic and rejuvenating experiences.

In Hong Kong, we have recently launched a nature-inspired oasis nestled in the heart of the city, YUN WELLNESS. This concept, at Island Shangri-La, is a one-of-a-kind space where eclectic influences come together to form a whole that is as perfectly balanced as it is nourishing.

Featuring a luxurious community area and spa, a 28.5m outdoor swimming pool, an innovative gym kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment and a hair spa, this soul-soothing urban oasis offers a diverse range of holistic treatments and services, bringing together a team of wellness practitioners who are top in their field all under one roof.  We also create spaces for mothers-to-be and postpartum mothers to get together, supported by an extensive range of practitioners to support them on their journey.

BTN. Connecting with your customers, old and new, is important, but so too is the communication to your thousands of staff concerning future changes and developments. How do you manage to do this?

KD. Effective communication is critical to our success. We utilize a multi-channel approach to keep both our guests and staff informed. For our guests, we use digital platforms, social media, and personalized communication to share updates and engage with them directly. For instance, our “Find Your Shangri-La” campaign has been instrumental in connecting with our guests. For our staff, we have established robust internal communication systems, including regular town halls, newsletters, and an internal portal. Training and development programs are also in place to ensure our employees are well-informed about new initiatives and developments. By fostering a culture of open communication, we ensure that everyone is aligned with our goals and can contribute to our ongoing success.

BTN. Lastly, and as any traveler will tell you, a stay in any good hotel can be defined across four areas: check-in, the welcome you receive when you arrive, the room and hotel amenities, relaxation, wellness and leisure facilities, and lastly, the dining options on offer and the chance for the hotel to shine. Tick all four of these boxes, and you will have won the hearts and minds of those staying with you and look to see them return. What sets Shangri-La hotels apart from others when addressing these key four areas?

KD. At Shangri-La, we excel in four key areas by providing exceptional and personalized experiences. Our seamless and welcoming check-in process often includes unique touches like a refreshing drink or a warm towel. In Muscat, guests are greeted with an authentic Omani welcome, setting the tone for a unique and heartfelt experience right from the start. At Shangri-La The Shard London, hand-written welcome notes on the glass windows add a personalized touch that leaves you in awe as you enter the room, making you feel like you are above the clouds, with 360-degree views of the entire city.

We cater to all our guests, big and small, with a variety of family-designed rooms. Within Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, there are 21 themed rooms of various sizes and themes: Airship Voyage, Fairy Garden, Enchanted Castle, Underwater Treasure, Safari Adventure, Treetop Hideout, Hong Kong Wonders, Campervan Haven, Garden Lodge, Fisherman’s Cove, Space, Winter Wonderland, Mermaid, Beach, etc. There’s also a themed lift lobby that looks like a train station, and along the themed corridor, different animals are placed on each door at eye level to kids. This way, children don’t have to remember their room numbers; they can simply remember the “rabbit room” or the “dolphin room,” making their stay both intuitive and fun.

BTN. What defines Shangri-La unique as a luxury hotel brand?

KD. Shangri-La stands out as a luxury hotel brand due to our unwavering commitment to providing “hospitality from the heart.” This philosophy is deeply rooted in Asian hospitality traditions, which emphasize genuine, heartfelt service. Our founder, Robert Kuok, believed in offering a level of hospitality that goes beyond the ordinary, and this belief continues to guide us. Our properties are designed to reflect the unique cultural and natural beauty of their locations, creating a sense of place that enhances the guest experience.

For instance, the design of Shangri-La Shougang Park in Beijing incorporates elements of the city’s industrial heritage, while Shangri-La’s properties in tropical locations often feature lush gardens and open-air architecture. Additionally, we continuously innovate to meet the evolving needs of our guests, such as introducing new wellness programs, sustainable practices, and personalized services. By combining our rich heritage with modern luxury, we create memorable experiences that resonate with our guests and keep them coming back.