Stella Fubara, spearheading Dubai tourism in sub-Saharan Africa
Stella Fubara is a Director of International Operations with the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM), a position she has held since July 2015; the principal authority for the planning, supervision, development and marketing of Dubai’s tourism sector. She is also the 2017 recipient of the West Africa Travel Personality of the Year award.
Stella overseas the Tourism & Marketing activities for the Government of Dubai in all sub-Saharan African countries with a specific focus on Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Zambia.
An accomplished leader in business and finance management, Stella has over two decades of impressive executive management. She is responsible for the operations of Dubai Tourism in Africa in line with the ultimate vision of positioning Dubai as the world’s leading tourism destination and commercial hub.
Stella began her professional career in 1999 as Financial Portfolio Manager at a global company, Owens Corning USA. In 2001, she moved on to become Senior Project Controller at Deloitte & Touche, where she set a remarkable standard for usage of tools and project management techniques for Deloitte projects on the East coast.
In 2003, she moved to Florida to take on the role of Project Finance Manager at Walt Disney World in Orlando, one of the most visited vacation resort and entertainment complexes in the world. Eventually assuming the Division Finance Manager position for the parks Costume & Cosmetology division.
When Stella moved to Wyndham Vacation Hotels & Resorts in 2007, as Director of Marketing Operations, her exceptional policy formulation skills and sublime financial management dexterity benefited Wyndham a great deal, resulting in additional responsibility for her as Director Operational Finance & Compensation.
Her zeal for innovation and opportunity positioned her to make a continental move to Wakanow.com; one of the fastest growing and largest internet travel sites in Africa in 2013, as Chief Marketing and Product development officer before her current role in Dubai.
Stella demonstrates effective management capabilities in areas of finance, forecasting, marketing strategy, product/business development and policy formulation. She also exhibits excellent leadership delivered in an efficient training team building spirit.
She sits on the board of a few organisations including: Africa Association of Women in Tourism, SCIMA (Sickle cell organisation), and Adamantine (Oil & Gas).
Stella is a Rotarian very actively involved in promoting non-profit and tourism growth activities across Africa, that empowers entrepreneurs in many industries. She is a frequent guest speaker/lecturer on Rotary platforms, tertiary educational institutions, private business forums, and government tourism platforms for many African countries.
Fubara is a recipient of several prestigious awards. She obtained a B.Sc in Business Management from Franklin University Columbus, Ohio, as well as a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in Finance & International Marketing.
I had a very loving upbringing. My parents were 100% involved in raising us. I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and I’m the 1st daughter, but 2nd of 7 children. My memories are of a father who bathed his children, played games with us, taught us academically, and was always available. All these while becoming the first black Professor of Geodesy in the world. My mother was amazing too. She was giving birth to children, managing the home, going through undergraduate, a masters program, and a Ph.D. and still had time to love us unconditionally. My parents are aged 83 and 77 respectively, and are still pillars of support to my siblings and I in every way.
Being Director, International Operations with Dubai Tourism
In my current role as Director International Operations with Dubai Tourism, I am responsible for activities in the African continent that promote Dubai as the best destination for every purpose business, leisure, MICE, entertainment, adventure, gastronomy, shopping, education, and so much more. My team caters to all the African countries, with a focus on Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
On two decades of impressive executive management
With over 30 years of corporate and management experience, I have lessons I learnt from every employer, every boss, and tons of colleagues. Most important is attitude. A physical smile shows in your voice, your written communication, and the way you treat people. It makes a difference to how people treat you. Integrity and transparency are also important. People need to know they can trust you, and rely on you to get the job down. And don’t forget creativity. Creativity allows you to think outside the box, and find new ways of doing things. There is a solution for every problem. Sometimes, the solution is to fix it, and sometimes the solution is to walk away. And finally, you can’t get to your destination alone. You need people, and people need you. So never forget to help others in their development, or no one will help you with yours.
Dubai’s successful positioning as a leading tourism destination and commercial hub. Lessons to learn
From a purely personal perspective, as a resident of Dubai, Dubai excels in everything it does because her leaders have vision and love for the people. Dubai takes care of everyone in the “now”, while ensuring that the next generation will also be happy. Dubai never lets the sun go down without plans to improve existing processes or infrastructure, or creating new ones. Every country can learn from the things that make Dubai a great destination to visit or live. I believe that if any country has vision and love for her people, tourism can thrive. The citizens have to believe in their country first, before visitors can be attracted successfully. The government must purposely focus on USP’s or pillars that will attract tourism. And most importantly, all infrastructures should work, and security must be efficient.
Rising above the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic
Safety measures are extensive. Dubai has also ensured its citizens and visitors embrace safety measures strictly. Despite international travel being dramatically hamstrung in 2020, Dubai’s share of the global market rose by 0.3 per cent YOY, the only city to register a positive spike, when international tourism declined by 74%. This achievement was testament to Dubai’s undeniable consideration as one of the world’s safest and top priority destinations for international, leisure and business tourism. Also, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, close to 76% of the population are now fully vaccinated.
Are Nigerians the highest visitors to Dubai in sub-Saharan Africa?
Yes, Nigerians are the highest visitors from Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigerians visit Dubai and always have a blast when they come. The experiences they have and share often encourages others to do same.
Professional career years at Owens Corning USA and moving on
Transitioning between companies can be challenging, regardless of whether you liked your old company or not. In the early stages of my career, I transitioned frequently. I guess because I hadn’t quite found a fit for me, or maybe I didn’t have enough experience to stay. As I became more aware of myself, I learnt to find companies that matched my experience and creativity, and I became more stable. I started out in college with Nationwide Insurance, then Owens Corning, 3 years at Deloitte & Touche, 5 years at Walt Disney, 7 years at Wyndham Hotels & Resort, and now going into my 7th year with Dubai Tourism. When transitioning between jobs, it’s important to remember the value you bring to the table. Always keep in mind why you were hired, and focus on the quick wins you can deliver. Study the culture of your new company and hopefully, you did this before you accepted the job. The culture of the company is one of the major reasons for attrition.
Experience at Walt Disney in Orlando
My time at Walt Disney World in Orlando was beautiful. It truly is the happiest place on earth for both the guests and the “cast”. At Disney, all staff are called cast members, as we are constantly on stage for our guests, delivering stellar service and experiences. Disney doesn’t just take care of her cast members, but also family. Disney has the best perks for their staff of any company I’ve ever worked for, both staff and immediate family have daily free access to any of the 4 parks that make up Disney World. And when your family is visiting the park, you can grant free entry to friends. The discounts across numerous restaurants, retail establishments and so on, are usually between 20-40%, and only require you to present your cast ID.
Passion for tourism
I would say I’ve always had a passion for tourism, but did not label it or recognise it as such until I joined Deloitte & Touche. While in secondary school, I wanted to be in aviation, as a pilot or flight attendant. I thought it was glamorous and exciting. Instead, I started university in the Electrical Engineering department. It was a mistake and a horrible fit for me. I was miserable and eventually ‘dropped out’. Back then, this was unheard of for a Nigerian family and my parents (both Ph.D. holders) were mortified. My godfather came to my rescue and convinced me to try a degree in Business, Accounting, or Finance. I eventually got my first degree in Business Management with a minor in Accounting, then my MBA with focus on Finance and International Marketing. This education positioned me for all my roles in Nationwide Insurance, Owens Corning, and then as a Project Controller with Deloitte & Touche. While at Deloitte & Touche, I was on a project with Disney, and that was my first real exposure to Tourism. The rest is history, as they say.
What every top female executive must know
Being a woman in management can be tricky if you are in a company with a culture that does not recognise that male/female styles can complement each other. A female senior executive must know and have the same experience as her male colleague. What to do as a female differs from country to country, and organisation. There is no one-size-fits-all advice as a female. However, you must maintain your integrity, do not compromise yourself, and no shortcuts to success would be the universal rule for both genders.
On women supporting women
Women supporting women is second nature to me. I believe in it wholeheartedly. Women have a stronger emotional antenna than men, and the support we give each other at work and in life is often the needed development to get through the next hour, next day, next week, next job, next relationship and so on. Picture this. Can you imagine being in a situation and needing help, and a fellow woman is in the position to help and doesn’t? Imagine how that will make you feel. Pictured that? Now, your response to that is a reason why you must also ensure you support your fellow woman because, the same way you do not wish to be ignored or not responded to when in need is the same way you must never do so to anyone, male or female. Just be good. It always pays to show empathy.
Greatest lessons of life
All my life lessons have taken me to where I am today. I’m certain that I get a new life lesson every year, which means I have 50+ great lessons!
The two things I live by are firstly, the need to keep my heart and my hands clean at all times. This ensures that God always takes care of me, because I have no evil in my heart, and no intention of hurting anyone. It means I go to the altar with a clean spirit, no unforgiveness in my heart, and God will always answer my prayers. Remember, that to receive help from God or human, you must first help others.