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AC 2023
Slide 1
AC 2023
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Louis Robert, past-president : ‘ Continuing to be open to the outside world’

Louis Robert, director of the Hotel School in Diekirch, Luxembourg, was elected AEHT president in Berlin in 2000, and has been vice-president since 1991. Now he has ‘returned to the ranks’, as the statutes require. After a presidential mandate of three years, he has handed over the presidential hot seat to Alfonso Benvenuto, and will now be vice-president again. Does he have any regrets?

‘None at all. I have been very happy leading the AEHT for three year, and it is a very good thing that there is a new president every three years. This prevents anyone from becoming too much of a fixture. And returning to being a vice-president for another three years is also an excellent thing, because it ensures continuity and continued support for the new president. This said, Alfonso Benvenuto is himself very familiar with the workings of the AEHT.

Throughout the three years of my presidency we have constantly tried to adapt the way we run the Association to the increase in the number of schools. And it is true to say that we have worked well together to ensure that one of us is present at the events we organise. In this connection, I should like to mention the importance of the European Christmas event, which we must maintain and support.

On the other hand, the membership of eastern European countries has been a great boon to the AEHT, whose support is much appreciated by these countries. I believe that the money which the AEHT uses to support them is a sound investment. Then during my three year presidency, there has been the transfer of the AEHT Head Office from Illkirch to Diekirch. It has not been easy. Let’s not forget the work involved in setting up the general secretariat, or the increased use of the internet, the development of the AEHT’s website and the increased use of electronic mail. I note that everyone wants e-mail, and it makes communication much easier.

Our calendar of events is becoming fuller and fuller, and new projects are being prepared. I also place a lot of faith in the Gastronomy for Peace charter which was signed at the General Assembly. This is yet another way of being open to the world. And further proof of this lies in the partnerships we have with schools in Mexico, Peru, Cuba, and other Latin American countries, as well as the partnership being worked out with Vietnam. We must encourage schools in developing countries and continue to be open to other parts of the world.

Louis Robert has handed over the post of President to Alfonso Benvenuto
Louis Robert has handed over the post of President to Alfonso Benvenuto

President Alfonso Benvenuto : ‘I have a dream …’

Alfonso joined the AEHT in 1989, a year after it was founded, and claims to be a ‘missionary’ for Italy, whose schools he has grouped into an association. His own school, IPSSAR Panzini in Senigallia, of which he is director, was the second school to join after the Milan school, and he and his school have taken part in all the Annual Conferences since 1989. He joined the Executive Board in 1991, and in 1995 he founded the Italian Association of Hotel Schools, of which he is the national president. In 2000 he was elected vice-president and replaced Ottavia Madaro in this role. Hi presidency will last three years from the Copenhagen conference. 100 of the 160 hotel schools in Italy are AEHT members, so Italy’s influence in the AEHT is considerable. What does the new president think of this?

‘I am very pleased to have been elected president. As you know, the AEHT flag flies over the AEHT’s member schools, and the AEHT plaque is attached to the entrance. This shows that those in charge believe in a European training for students in hotel and tourism schools. I believe that Tourism is the best way of making our young people believe in peace. And the way my predecessor Louis Robert led this quest for membership among Eastern European countries is an excellent thing.

As I said at the General Assembly, I have a dream: a dream of creating a European university in which the AEHT’s best schools will take part. I know that I can count on the support of the Managing Committee, but we will also need political support at the European level, and of course we will need to find funding. The great value of the AEHT is to enable people to meet and talk and understand each other. To give an example, ever since the Conference held in Sciacca in Sicily in 1992, multinational teams have competed in the competitions. This obliges the students to speak with each other and to speak a language which is not their own. This has now become official AEHT policy.

I hope to organise conferences for directors and teachers on specific subjects: school development policy (tourism in health spas, the quality of training, knowledge of languages and cultures, etc … ) There is also the possibility of holding certain events via video conferencing. And we must also give priority to establishing exactly how many people are involved in hotel and tourism training: how many students, teachers and other staff are involved in our member schools, and in other non-member establishments. We must work at this, and when we know the numbers involved, we will be betterplaced to hold discussions with politicians. We will try to arrange meetings with the European Union’s decision makers, as well as with ministers of tourism, because now we have considerable clout.

My other priorities for the three years of my mandate are
- to find opportunities to encourage schools to participate in our activities;
- to ensure effective communication throughout Europe;
- to make sure that the cost of our Annual Conferences is as affordable as possible for all participants.

The new President smiles, but he will not be short of work …
The new President smiles, but he will not be short of work …

Jean-Paul Bernard founding president :

The outstanding event at this 16th conference in Copenhagen will undubitably have been, as well as the election of Alfonso Benvenuto to the presidency, the presence of Jean-Paul Bernard, the AEHT’s founding president. Aged 62 years, having spent 31 years in education, first 5 years as deputy head at Bourges, then head at Thonon-les-Bains for 3 years, 16 years in Strasbourg, then back in Bourges since 1998, Jean-Paul Bernard is what you might call a ‘monument’ for the AEHT. Without him and his colleague Martin Bruder, the Association would not exist. Over breakfast on Saturday October 18th in the DGI-byens splendid dining room, He agreed to share with me some of his memories. Here are some extracts from that interview.

‘Yes, it’s true. With Martin Bruder who was my deputy at the Illkirch Hotel School near Strasbourg, we set off into the world to prospect for potential member schools. We travelled almost everywhere together. Martin Bruder helped me a lot because he already had the experience of setting up an association. As for the AEHT abbreviation, I can’t remember now who came up with it. Thanks to sponsorship and grants, we managed to get enough money together to start things moving. We had around 500,000 French francs. In May 1988, when we officially founded the AEHT, we held an extraordinary dinner at the Illkirch school for about 600 people. Haeberlin , Jung and other famous chefs came to the event, we had a decorator to deal with the two large dining rooms. It was really something. We charged for some of the tables, and this allowed us to finance the event in part.
But I had insisted that there should also be students present when the AEHT was founded. They slept in the school dormitories. We even had a little problem because one delegation refused this accommodation, and when off to stay at the Hilton. Bur believe me, they paid their own bill at the Hilton (a broad smile as Jean-Paul Bernard recalls this incident). But in general is went off like a dream, and there was even a champagne fountain. Then it was I who drafted 90% of the statutes.

After all, what was the purpose of founding the AEHT?

The fundamental idea was to allow schools to meet and to have exchanges, especially for students, This was the idea which gave rise to the AEHT. And if it has been such a success, it was because the time was ripe. We also had the idea of organising seminars for directors and teachers. In fact the AEHT actually spearheaded continuing education at the European level. This was something new. I remember that my school in Illkirch organised seminars on Champagne, foie gras, Alsace and Burgundy wines.

Did the Education Department follow up your initiative?

In fact the Association was run outside the education system. But we had the support of Strasbourg city council and of the European Commission.

How was the AEHT’s beautiful logo created?

We organised a competition, open to students as well as to professionals. It was I who made the choice, and I find that it is still appropriate. It is the image of a company, and reflects its high quality and its credibility. Yes, it is beautiful.

You were the founding president – why did you not continue in the leadership of the AEHT?

(another smile and mischievous wink) Oh yes. When I was drafting the statutes, I said to myself that being president for three years is a good thing, but that we needed a rotating president to allow other countries to take on the job. It was I who insisted on this clause. This is indeed how it works, and it works very well. Continuity is assured because the outgoing president automatically becomes vice-president.

How were member schools chosen?

Oh it’s very simnple. To start with only publicly funded schools were accepted. But a few years later it was in order for the AEHT to be opened up to other, privately funded schools, and that it fine – so long as the balance is not upset.

What have you felt on returning to the AEHT?

(Short pause for reflexion) I have deliberately not been to the Annual Conference for six years. But it is trued that I have been very moved to be present again an event that was, after all, very much my baby. But I have a simple principle: you have to let people get on with their work. I was very happy to be here in Copnhagen, but I won’t be back at the Annual Conference until Paris in 2008.

Jean-Paul Bernard
Jean-Paul Bernard

Sören Kühlwein Kristiansen : ‘I am happy that it is all over!’

At the end of the gala evening, Sören Kühlwein Kristiansen watched the hall gradually emptying. Clearly he was relieved as the man ultimately responsible for the organisation of this 16th Annual Conference in Copenhagen. He has been the director of the ‘Hotel og Restaurantskolen’ in Copenhagen since 1994. What did he think of this event?

The broad smile on his face says it all!

‘ Well, as you can see, it all went off well, or more or less. I hope that everyone will take away with them happy memories of Copenhagen. We started working on the organisation as long as two years ago. Together with the other schools, and in small groups: Aalborg, Silkeborg, Dalum, Esbjerg, Slagelse, Kolding and of course Copenhague. Mei-Li Wang was the coordinator. But I must say that it would have been simpler to organise everything on our own. And fortunately we have had excellent sponsors. Thanks to the little team led by Christian, to whom I am very grateful, the problems were solved one by one as they arose.

The big problem was prices. Copenhagen is a very expensive city, and we pay a lot of taxes. We had constantly to adjust the prices so as to follow the guidelines as closely as possible. This is a difficult task, and believe me, it can be tedious to be obliged to do it all the time. But all in all I have the impression that everything went well. In 1994 we had organised European Christmas here, and that was much easier, though there is an enormous difference of scale between a hundred and six hundred participants. But there you are, I am happy, it is all over…!

A smile from Sören Kühlwein Kristiansen : phew, it’s over!
A smile from Sören Kühlwein Kristiansen : phew, it’s over!

Dominique Mounien : ‘To measure up in the outside world, you need to prove yourself at home …’

For the very first time a West Indian school had sent a delegation to the AEHT Annual Conference. There were three members of the delegation from the Le Gosier school in Guadeloupe: Dominique Mounien, the director, with Guillomette Roche and Elodie Verepla. Here was the opportunity to find out all about this 6000 km journey from a warm to a cold climate.

Dominique Mounien heads up the Le Gosier hotel school, a completely new establishment with its first intake of 264 students at present, with plans to increase this to 500 in three years time. The fact that she is present in Copenhagen shows her intention to be open to the rest of the world.

‘It is true that Guadeloupe is a long way away, but the reason we are here is that, as you know, tourism is vitally important in the West Indies and in Guadeloupe in particular. And we are confident that tourism has a bright future in the Antilles.

Our task in Le Gosier is to pick up the challenge of training our young people, , and that is why we are here. We need to form partnerships, and to ask for help from others, and the AEHT offers us precisely this type of opportunity. And perhaps we too can make a contribution.

Ever since my school opened, I have pledged to give my students the desire to travel. In the hotel and tourism professions mobility is vital, and I always tell my students, ‘To measure up in the outside world, you need to prove yourself at home …

Ms Dominique Mounien, director of the Le Gosier hotel and tourism school in Guadeloupe.
Ms Dominique Mounien, director of the Le Gosier hotel and tourism school in Guadeloupe.

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