An Interview with Reethi Faru’s former Head of Marketing & PR – Executive Interview Series

Meet Zayan Fayaz, former Head of Marketing & PR at Reethi Faru Resort in the Maldives

Zayan Fayaz was Head of Marketing & PR at Reethi Faru Beach Resort in the Maldives until recently. Located in the Raa Atoll, Reethi Faru opened in 2017 with Zayan overseeing the launch. He left to launch a marketing, branding and business development consultancy business focused on the Maldives. With a first hand experience of leading a marketing team for the launch of a luxury resort in a highly competitive market, Zayan offers exceptional insights into the industry of influencer marketing.

And today’s interviewer is David Gabriele, CEO of Swayy

David is the CEO of Swayy, the leading influencer booking, campaign and relationship management tool in the hospitality industry. Swayy is a tool to streamline the influencer collaboration processes specifically for hospitality venues – finding influencers that align with hospitality venues, arranging campaigns and maintaining relationships. In 2018, Swayy also won the Disrupt Awards at TTE, the largest travel technology event in Europe.

Interview Highlights

How did you start engaging with influencers for marketing purposes?

Zayan spoke to us about Reethi Faru’s initial experiences with influencer marketing, highlighting that it was a process of trial and error doing everything manually in the early days prior to using Swayy.
He explains that at the very beginning, the team first searched for influencers that have a strong following but are not necessarily celebrities – “4/5 of the chosen influencers delivered successful high-quality content, but unfortunately only two of them had a legitimate following”.

Influencers usually stay at the resort from three to ten days on average, while some collaborations lasted for two weeks. Although it depends on the specifics of each individual campaign, Zayan estimates the open market value of these trips to range from $2000 to $9000. Considering the scale of these investments, it was crucial for the team to ensure fruitful results.

But, as he explains, “ultimately the problem was not knowing if the engagements will pay off and if we are engaging with the right people”. This is when the team realised they need a method for evaluating influencers, but also a way of evaluating if the cost of the campaigns will bring any measurable outcomes.

How do you evaluate influencers?

Zayan explains how the team had a detailed step-by-step document designed as a guide for the process of vetting potential influencers – a standard operating procedure. Primarily, it is crucial to determine if their following is legitimate by checking the engagement rate, whether or not they communicate with their followers in the comment section and if they have any frequent commentators (loyal followers).

However, he also points out that “figuring out if these people are interested in a true win-win collaboration is a time-consuming process”. As a luxury resort in Maldives, their marketing team receives many collaboration requests, so finding the best match for an effective campaign can be a real hassle.

To cut down the time of finding and evaluating influencers, Zayan used Swayy.

What are the biggest challenges you faced in influencer marketing campaigns?

When it comes to the problems in the influencer marketing industry, Zayan highlights evaluating influencers’ validity and calculating ROI as major issues.

There is also an issue of “people claiming to be influencers when they are actually not, due to illegitimate following”.

So, what would be the solution to the mentioned issues?

Zayan believes the key is to improve the practises of how influencer marketing is currently being done or not being done; “being able to have reliable results and being able to monitor the effects of the campaigns is key”

Ultimately, “Swayy addresses the issues that many of us face when working with influencers”.

Educating hotels and informing them of the benefits of influencer marketing is also an important part of the process. However, Zayan observes that when it comes to educating on the subject, this is an area in the industry that is lacking in the Maldives. Increasing the availability of educational materials on best practices for working with influencers would certainly help hotels keep up with the trends in the industry and improve their digital marketing practices.

Reethi Faru Resort in Maldives

What are the key benefits of influencer marketing?

1. Promotional content & increased social engagement
As the most significant benefits of collaborating with influencers, Zayan gives emphasis to “getting high-quality promotional content” and “higher engagement across social media channels that will reach multiple markets”. Luxury island resorts such as Reethi Faru receive guests and influencers from across the globe.

2. Occupancy
When it comes to the long-term effects of influencer marketing, Zayan and his former team noted a higher occupancy at the resort 3-4 months after some of their successful collaborations. This is when the marketing team started approaching their guests with a series of questions, in order to better understand the motivations behind their decision to visit Reethi Faru.

As Zayan recalls, the guests were approached at more than 12 different events and were asked how they found the resort and why did they choose this resort in particular, amongst other questions. The common factor in their decision to visit Reethi Faru were actually the photographs of the resort that can be found on their website and social media.

In fact, according to Zayan, “around 80% of the guests spoke about the pictures, while 50% of the guests came solely because of the beautiful images found on our website and social media”. And as much as 90% of those images were produced by influencers the marketing team collaborated with, because their agreement allowed them to repost them across resort’s media channels.

These extraordinary figures are a great example of how, as he explains, “it is a very feasible option for resorts” if managed in the right way.

What influencer marketing campaigns deliver the best results?

According to Zayan, great influencer-produced content should portray emotional experiences and should tell a story: “It works well when we show the true experience, and it is great to have influencers to capture the moment”. This is supported by the fact that travel purchase decisions are heavily influenced by emotion.

Moreover, he also highlights the significance of crafting the key brand messages you want disseminated online. Once they find an influencer they could potentially work with, the marketing team evaluates which particular market they would fit into the most, and clarifies the briefing and brand messaging details.

Zayan highlights three different types of influencers whose values generally align with the resort’s brand:

1. Romantic couples

2. Families: Zayan points out that family photos tend to “communicate something a lot stronger”, often resulting in a higher engagement on social media through tagging and commenting.

3. Adventure/thrill seekers

Zayan ended up using Swayy to control the influencer process.

Reethi Faru Beach Resort in Maldives

What would be your holy grail in influencer marketing?

Zayan says it would be a tool that would make his life easier and would give him a peace of mind: “A system I can put all of my trust into, knowing that all of the influencers I invest in will be legitimate and will bring measurable outcomes”.

What was your experience with Swayy?

When he first heard of Swayy, Zayan recalls not entirely trusting the effectiveness of the concept and being “very sceptical”. However, he then explains: “Marketing these days is about being open-minded when it comes to new opportunities and this is what happened with Swayy. Once we tried it, we realised it works and that it is actually worth the returns over a longer period of time.”

He also added that Swayy is a very interesting concept that helps marketers in “being sure that the investment made on this influencer will have a return. It doesn’t have to be a financial return necessarily, but at least we can be sure that they are legitimate influencers and the content will reach a true following.”

Reethi Faru Beach Resort in Maldives


For more top tips from industry experts, check out our recent interview with Annalisa Maestri – Global Communications Manager at Dorchester Collection.


Having trouble finding professional, pre-vetted hotel influencers for collaborations? Click here to find out what Swayy can do for you. Or click here to have an informal chat with us.


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