On November 18th the 22nd AEHT Annual Conference was officially opened in the large conference hall of the Valamar Lacroma Hotel Resort in Dubrovnik; around 700 participants were present – directors, teachers and students – and the proceedings were accompanied by performances from local traditional dance and music groups.
Before the ceremony, at a press conference where the local media were out in force, your reporter’s Croat counterparts were informed of the importance of the event thanks to explanations provided by the organisers and supplemented by several AEHT officers.
A member of the ‘Lindo Folklore Group’ in historic dress pronounced the official welcome, accompanied by impressive trumpet fanfares as the students paraded by behind the flags of their respective countries. And previously, the key to the City of Dubrovnik had been presented to Louis Robert, the AEHT President! The Ceremony was compèred by Nila Milicic Vukosavic, a famous Croat radio and television presenter.
In accordance with tradition, several guests had taken their seats in the front row ready to make their speeches. Antun Perušina, the ‘boss’ of the ‘Turisticka i ugostiteljska skola Dubrovnik’ greeted his guests and gave a brief history of his school, emphasising the considerable support he had received from the City of Dubrovnik and its City Council in organising the Annual Conference. He wished all the participants a fruitful and pleasant stay in Dubrovnik.
Louis Robert, AEHT President, took the floor next, stressing the great distances travelled by some delegations: the Estonians from the north had travelled more than 2,000 kms, the Icelanders had come 4,000 kms, while Colombians, partners of the St. Quentin-en-Yvelines school, had journeyed more than 10,000 kms! Louis spoke of the charms of Dubrovnik as a tourist destination, of the attraction of Croatia’s 4,000 kms of coastline, of Croatia’s sports men and women and of the country’s gastronomic delights; he cordially thanked Antun Perušina, his teachers and his students, for their warm welcome; and ended by wishing our students good luck and much pleasure in the competitions.
The Renaissance Group, a superb men’s choir, gave their a capella unaccompanied performance before we heard the speeches of local authority representatives. First at the rostrum was Andro Vlahusic, Dubrovnik’s mayor, who reminded his audience of the close link between tourism and the hospitality professions in Dubrovnik, ‘this most beautiful corner of the earth’, where close collaboration and the city’s rich history go hand in hand. ‘For the Pearl of Croatia the summer season has been highly successful despite the economic crisis,’ he concluded as he wished us all success for our Annual Conference.
Mrs Marija Vuckovic, deputising for the leader of the Dubrovnik-Neretva City Council, also took the opportunity to congratulate the school which had made such a Conference possible, as well as using the occasion to thank the Ministry of Tourism and to stress that the ‘Dubrovnik school is an incubator producing high-quality professionals.’
The Lindo Folklore Group then gave another performance of frenzied dancing, before handing over the stage for more speeches.
The next speaker was Ivo Mujo, deputy Minister of Tourism, who reminded his audience of the Croatian government’s action plan for the tourism sector, and of the growing number of students involved in this area. He also took the opportunity to congratulate the conference organisers.
The final speaker, Minister of Tourism Radovan Fuchs, said how happy he was that the Dubrovnik school had made the effort to organise this22nd Annual Conference, because in his view, tourism is a philosophy of life: ‘ We are proud of what has been achieved and of the success of our schools’, he declared, thanking all those who had worked hard to ensure the success of this Annual Conference.
As the ceremony reached its conclusion, AEHT President Louis Robert, mayor of Dubrovnik Andro Vlahusic, deputy city council leader Marija Vuckovic, and Minister of Tourism Radovan Fuchs – all symbolically rang four hotel reception bells, while the hall was filled with soap bubbles.
Following this ‘introduction’ the participants in this first official meeting of the 22nd Annual Conference came together on the terrace, with its magnificent views, for a convivial aperitif.