The global citizen talks about how she secured one of the most important jobs in the Middle East
Deveekaa Nijhawan has lived in 10 countries and visited over 50 cities. She currently serves as the global head of international public relations and communication for Qatar, an important role in shaping the country’s tourism strategy, and history in the making. Qatar is the smallest country and the first country in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup in November 2022.
Deveekaa Nijhawan is proud to call Qatar her new home. She loves the cultural authenticity and diversity that the country has to offer. In her role in public relations and communications for Qatar Tourism, Nijhawan promotes the unique destination in key markets, including India, the US, France, Germany, Turkey, Spain, and Italy, as part of the country’s strategy to become a world-leading tourism destination.
Nijhawan was born in Goa, India. Growing up, her father’s hospitality career required her to live in Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Oman, Spain, and UAE. She also lived in Mumbai for a few years and graduated with a degree in Business Management from the University of Warwick in the U.K.
“I attended Indian and international schools and learned to adjust to new places very early in my life. It was a wonderful experience.” Nijhawan attributes her success to her global exposure and the confidence it instilled in her. “Had I not lived in so many countries, I would have not learned about different cultures, perspectives, and meeting several unique and interesting people, who have played a role in shaping my global mindset. My experience made me a people’s person, always interested in building connections and genuine relationships.”
Nijhawan started her career at Dunn & Bradstreet in the UK, and then transferred to the UAE. She was specializing in marketing when a random meeting with the General Manager of Le Meridien Hotel reoriented her to her family’s legacy in hotels. She embarked on a career there, and during her early days in public relations at Le Meridien in Dubai, Nijhawan launched one of the largest ballrooms in Dubai. She also launched a new hotel with the Prime Minister of UAE in attendance, as well as 10 of 18 different restaurant concepts in Dubai. In 2016, she was one of the youngest hoteliers to be accoladed as the “Best PR and Marketing Person of the Year” by Hotelier Middle East in the Middle East and Africa region amongst 500 nominees. Nijhawan also was awarded the “Best Marketing Leader of the Year” award by Hospitality News Middle East.
She then traded the bustling city for a position at Niyama Private Islands Maldives. “Moving to an island from the hustle and bustle of a city can be challenging, but I acclimatized easily due to my global upbringing. I built relationships quickly to create a family away from home,” says Nijhawan. Here she also received great recognition as a young leader who repositioned the brand at a very competitive destination, pioneering several of the industry’s first partnerships and celebrity collaborations, and garnering over USD $25 million in international PR coverage.
Her passion and strategic vision were quickly rewarded with a promotion to lead the PR and Communications strategy for all of the Anantara Hotels & Resorts in the Maldives. She also led several sustainability initiatives, created a coral regeneration hub, and conducted educational workshops for plastic recyclability, food waste, and sustainable living for the local residents.
A year ago, Nijhawan transitioned from hospitality to the tourism industry. She now plays a critical role in supporting the international public relations and communications strategy, influencing how Qatar is perceived as a tourist destination, and working toward Qatar’s National Vision 2030, with a goal of welcoming six million visitors a year by 2030. Her team targets spending 12% of the national GDP on tourism, bringing Qatar in as a top 20 visitor spend destination in the world, and positioning Qatar as the world’s leading tourism destination.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 has created buzz about Qatar, but there are new cultural attractions, world-class hotels, sustainable architecture, and other sporting events also planned. With her team, Nijhawan launched the “Experience a world beyond” campaign late last year, reaching 2 billion people promoting the memorable and fun experiences one can have in Qatar.
Nijhawan cites, “Leading the PR and Communications strategy for a destination at a global level, as a female from the Indian subcontinent, makes my family and me very proud. I can leverage my resources and my voice to make a difference. I have a chance to work with other women leaders in culture, education, business, sports – and to give other women a chance to grow and shine as well.”
Throughout her career, Nijhawan has believed in herself and has been driven by her passion. She articulates, “I have always believed you are accountable for your own destiny. If you are sincere, honest, determined, and passionate, you will achieve success and make a difference. It is critical that one knows their worth and is willing to make their voice and opinions heard. Failures are bound to happen, but what is important is how one learns and rises from there.”
Nijhawan’s positive attitude, open-mindedness, and cultural adaptability have led her to be one of the most influential Asian women leaders in the world. She advises other women: “Observe and listen, so you can adapt to achieve a common objective together. Believe in yourself, that you deserve the best, and always look at the positive side of how you are making a difference in whatever you do.”
This article is part of a new series, Indiaspora Features, which commissions journalists to write about topics of interest for the global Indian diaspora.