Louis Robert was elected AEHT President in Killarney having already completed a three-year stint as President from 2000 to 2003. He is director of the Alexis Heck Hotel School in Diekirch, Luxembourg and replaces Alfonso Benvenuto, the outgoing president. With his usual frankness Louis makes no bones about the fact that his probable election to the Presidency had been an open secret for the past year.
‘Yes, they had been working on me for a year to persuade me to take over from Alfonso. I had completed one period of office as president from 2000 to 2003 (Berlin, Linz, San Remo) and I was elected on November 9th in Killarney – unanimously and by acclamation of all the members of the Executive Board. Moreover all the vice-presidents were elected in the first round of voting. Klaus Enengl becomes vice-president with the functions of treasurer.
Over the next three years we will be concentrating on a number of matters. We mustn’t stint on our activities. Klaus Enengl our vice-president treasurer has the task of finding new resources through three-year partnership agreements with companies – and we need to find a critical mass of such companies. Then I want to be able to put in place a system for payments by electronic bank transfer, so that we can avoid time-consuming searches for information and additional bank charges.
Moreover each vice-president has closely defined functions. With Bogusława Pienkowska I would like to expand the ACCOR placements and find new companies able to offer similar placements. I will be keeping on my old responsibility for major fixed events such as the Annual Conference and Christmas in Europe. Alfonso Benvenuto will be responsible for Higher Education, Anna Paula Pais for seminars and festivals, and finally Neeme Rand will be responsible for communication and the website, for promotion of the AEHT and for the internet discussion forum.
In addition to this I would like to set up an ‘advisory body’ with the help of former presidents and vice-presidents, to consolidate our financial position and, as I have said, find new sources of finance, and improve the guidelines for the organisation of events and the competition rules. Speaking of competitions, I should like to congratulate the competitions sub-committee on their excellent work. And finally I want to develop a higher education presence within the AEHT – for the moment 90% of the AEHT member schools are from the secondary sector. We should also take a look at the countries which are not well represented and which do not often take part in our activities. This is a broad outline of how I see the next three years; of course we will have an update at the next Executive Board meeting next February in Italy…’
Alfonso Benvenuto was elected AEHT president in 2003 in Copenhagen and completed his period of office in Killarney; he makes no secret of his pleasure at handing over the presidency to Louis Robert. In fact he was hindered in carrying out his presidential duties by what he calls a ‘series of misfortunes’. But now that he feels ‘on holiday’ he can look back on his presidency, while remaining vice-president.
‘Despite my problems I was happy in my role of President and thanks to the work of my vice-presidents the AEHT has been able to achieve progress in realising its objectives. Especially in restoring good order in the AEHT’s financial situation by reducing travelling expenses and by developing electronic communication for example. Recruitment of new member schools and of professional members has also contributed to balancing the books.
Under the presidency of my successor Louis Robert the AEHT will enter a new phase and I am very pleased for him. For my part I will try to ensure that Higher Education establishments are better represented since for the moment there are very few such schools in the AEHT.
During the three years of my presidency there have been many opportunities for fruitful meetings but also for hard work in collaboration with my vice-presidents Louis Robert, Neeme Rand, Adolf Steindl, Michel Gaillot, Bogusława Pienkowska, Nadine Schintgen our General Secretary, Hans Russegger and Klaus Enengl our treasurers and of course John Rees-Smith our translator and interpreter. It was a deeply rewarding time for me and this makes me very happy.
Mary Owens is manager of the education policy section of Fįilte Ireland, and was the linchpin of the organisation of the 19th AEHT Conference in Killarney; rather like a blonde fairy, she is discrete, all-seeing, attentive to detail and very focussed on ensuring a successful outcome.
Mary was asked to give an interview shortly before the gala evening, but it was quite impossible as she still had a hundred things to deal with; so the interview had to be conducted later by telephone, once the pressure on her had abated.
At the start Mary Owens emphasised how glad she was to have been supported by her strategic team who had given their all to make sure the Conference was a success. She also said that since the end of the Conference she had received a great number of letters from participants, congratulating Failte Ireland on the enormous success of the event, not only as regards the competitions but also everything else. She added, ‘People were very glad that they took part in all the different aspects of the programme .
Particular reference was made by participants to the layout and organization of competitions and the access to these by all delegates.Delegates also enthused about the opening and closing ceremonies where students were the central focus.
Failte Ireland is very pleased with this feedback as much time and effort was put into achieving these objectives by the core organizing team lead by Mary’s colleague Anne Dearey.
By now the problems that arose are but a distant memory, but Mary mentions two of them: firstly the fact that a lot of participants had not clearly indicated their arrival details (or not even informed us of them at all), which caused difficulties in coordinating the shuttle buses and airport collections. And secondly the difficulty of finding judges for the various competitions.
And what about the financial aspect of the Conference, obviously a very important matter? Mary bursts out laughing: ‘We’re busy doing the accounts and they should be finished by next week. But I do hope that we’ll be able to balance the budget in the way we planned.’
Finally, Mary said how extremely pleased she had been that John O’Donoghue, the Minister for Tourism, had been present for the presentation of the prizes for the various competitions. ‘He was very glad to take part in this prize-giving ceremony, and was impressed by the dynamism of the students from AEHT hotel schools.’
In conclusion Mary Owens declared, ‘We are very happy and very honoured to have been the organisers of this 19th Annual Conference. Everything turned out well ….’
Dominique MOUNIEN and Patrick CELESTE
The magic of the AEHT…
Three of them have crossed the Atlantic from Guadeloupe to come to Killarney. Dominique Mounien, Director of the Lycée Archipel in Guadeloupe accompanied by Patrick Céleste, a food service lecturer. They have with them a student Rémy Diakok, who is competing in the ‘food service’ competition.
No one could say they are not enthusiastic! Their school opened in 2003 and has 471 students; and in this Caribbean island, which is a French départment, tourism is a major asset. Dominique Mounien makes no secret of it: ‘In the last five years the population’s attitude towards tourism has changed. It is a development opportunity. And if it hadn’t been for the AEHT we wouldn’t have met our partners in the COMENIUS project with Malta, Italy and Finland. We also have contacts with Turkey and Luxembourg… It’s the magic of the AEHT! Because our school’s intention is to build international links with the help of the Region and the Education Department. We are delighted to be here and we’ll be back!’
Fabrice Osty is 20 years old, looks like a young movie star in his first film and is in the second year of an HND in culinary arts and food science at the Lycée de Saint Chély d’Apcher; at the time of the interview he didn’t yet know that he had won the first prize in his competition category together with his Estonian partner.
‘It’s the first time I’ve taken part in a competition like this one and it’s a fantastic experience. We’ve exchanged our knowledge and culture. Of course there are winners but even if I don’t win anything I don’t mind. We have pooled our knowledge …’
Regina Wasner is 18 years old and admits that this is the first time she has experienced a European atmosphere such as this. She is a management student at the Bad Ischl hotel school and has taken part in the management competition. ‘I found the atmosphere really great and this enabled me to have good exchanges of views with my fellow students. Especially about the ways different schools operate in different countries. It’s really great to experience all this in such a nice atmosphere’.
This 18 year-old Italian from the Arma di Taggia IPSSAR took part in the culinary arts competition with a Swedish boy. He is happy. It went well and it’s the first time in his life that he has taken part in such a competition at such a high level. ‘It was great’, he says in hesitant French, and he’ll be leaving Killarney with his head full of an amazing quantity of memories.
This 17 year-old girl from the Ullvigymnasiet Köping in Sweden took part in the food service competition with a Turkish partner. She admits that ‘it was a bit difficult to communicate with him. It was the first time I’d been in such a competition. But it was really great!’
In the restaurant service competition Gaelle Sundelin, 23 years old, was with a Slovenian partner. She is from the Aaland school in Finland and has already made a career for herself. She is not short of praise for this Conference: ‘It’s the first time I’ve taken part in an event like this, the organisation is excellent, both generally and in the competitions. I simply don’t want to go back home!’ She bursts out laughing, to the approval of her teacher Gunilla Forss. Gaelle didn’t know either, at the time of the interview, that she had won the gold medal together with her partner.