Louis Robert, past-president
Louis Robert was an AEHT member when the Association was founded on May 13th 1988, and in Dubrovnik rounded off his second period as president, 2006 to 2009. He was president from 2000 to 2003, and four times vice-president since 1991. He now becomes vice-president for the fifth time. Evidence, if it were needed, of how closely attached he is to the AEHT, and how well he knows its inner workings. Now that he is two years away from retirement, Louis Robert looks back over his numerous mandates, and says, in the words of the song, ‘I have no regrets …’
‘In 1989 we were 30 schools from 15 countries. In 1991 in Turkey there were already 200 member schools. There was a sort of family atmosphere, there weren’t yet any problems. For my school in Diekirch joining the AEHT was very important because we were looking for foreign contacts and partners. You can imagine how useful that was.
As far as my last mandate is concerned, well I’m glad that I was president for a second time, supported as I was by highly competent vice-presidents, but I’m also glad to turn a new page and to become vice-president again as laid down by the statutes.
Here in Dubrovnik, the conditions for this 22nd Annual Conference are ideal. The weather is good and the organisation is excellent. Unfortunately for me, I have spent a lot of time in meetings so that I’ve missed quite a few opportunities for tourism.
What I dislike intensely about the competitions is that, in spite of a set of rules that we have drawn up, there are still some people who try to cheat, try to get around the rules. That is quite unacceptable. This is not in the interests of the students who are entered, and it’s sad to see teachers setting a bad example like this. I hate having to police the competitions, and yet there have still be problems this year.
There again, I’m very happy with the work being done by the Council of Elders. For the moment there are five of them. Yes, the AEHT is getting old! They are the AEHT’s memory. Then there is the Competitions Committee, and Christmas in Europe. That keeps a lot of people involved. As for myself, this time I’ll continue to devote myself more particularly to the Annual Conference and the Competitions. And in future we’ll need to work hard to find more partners – both among hotel and tourism schools and in the private sector’.
Antun Perušina, director of the Dubrovnik Hotel School
Antun Perušina always has his telephone to his ear and his eyes all around him and watching his teams – he has trouble staying still.He is responsible for 600 students, 70 teachers and 20 administrative staff, and his school is perched above the old city of Dubrovnik, providing him with a view straight from a tourist brochure. A twinkle comes to his eyes when I mention this.
‘Yes, I’m delighted that I had the opportunity to organise this conference. And doubly happy when I see that 700 delegates are happy to be here. I think they are all pleased with the place and the organisation. I’ve had 35 people reporting direct to me and running the various aspects, and for the meals, the cooking and the service, around 50 people. And of course I’m very thankful to them all for their dedication and professionalism’.
Problems? Antun Perušina doesn’t pretend there haven’t been any. ‘The biggest problem was finding sponsors to help balance a budget of €360,000, when you think that the economic crisis has not bypassed Dubrovnik! But the Ministry of Tourism and the City Council have given us a lot of help. And then you must have noticed that in the President Hotel we installed portable kitchen cubicles for the competitions – well, we’ll dismantle them and re-assemble them in my school!’
‘Another problem was the date of November 18th for the opening ceremony, to which we had invited a lot of VIPs. But this date is also the memorial day for the 1990s war, so there were a lot of remembrance ceremonies. But the VIPs who came made special arrangements just for us. And the last little problem was with changing money – but we’ve solved that’.
So are you happy? ‘Very happy. Now that it’s almost over we will miss you all here. But we’ll soon all be back to our daily routines at school …’
Klaus Enengl, presidentProudly parading his fine Austrian accent, the AEHT’s new president is obviously pleased with life.
He is the Director of the Bad Ischl Hotel School, and he already has considerable experience of the AEHT under his belt. So becoming its president gives him ‘ein positives Gefühl’ – a positive feeling
‘I feel honoured and proud at being elected. Now that I have this responsibility, I should like to try to bring in some new ideas – because we are always dealing with young people and because the AEHT is a Europe-wide organisation.’
Until now we’ve had the Annual Conference and Christmas in Europe. I’d like to go further than this because for me it seems that something is missing. That’s why I suggested an AEHT summer camp for young people. They mustn’t feel supervised in such a camp. Of course, there’ll be a programme, but it will be ‘locker’ as we say in German - ‘cool’. And we’ll have the chance to ask these young people what they want. Because we don’t usually ask them. Perhaps they have different ideas for the competitions? And then, the AEHT isn’t a savings bank’.
‘But that’s for the first year of my presidency – we’ll have to see. What we need to do is to extend the range of what we offer. For example, I see that we need to promote language learning in the AEHT, because languages are needed for communication. Also, more academic approaches could be put in place for high-level Europe-wide exchanges. And lastly, I firmly believe that we must revive the exchanges with the ACCOR group …’
Natalia Komanicka – interpreterNatalia Komanicka is an AEHT newcomer – she answered the call put out in a global e-mail for a replacement for John Rees Smith, who has been the English/French interpreter since the beginnings of the AEHT. John’s altogether British sense of humour and his style of translation were an integral part of the AEHT. Our new interpreter is 35 years old and for the past three years has been a French and English teacher at the Prešov school in Slovakia. Previously she had spent eight years in the United States, where her husband was working on his doctorate. They have three children.
Her broad smile and her blue eyes give her an indisputable charm – an asset for this task of interpreter of which she could gauge the scale during this Annual Conference. Interpreting is a true profession, in which you have to switch from one language to another to enable everyone to follow the debates at meetings, or to understand what is being said at the General Assemblies or in the official speeches.
None of this seems to phase Natalia, for whom this work is a way of making herself useful to the AEHT.
They’re sitting at a table on the terrace of the Valamar Lacroma and they’re obviously getting on well together. 20 year-old Fabien took part in the bar contest, and 21 year-old Aimée was a tourism competitor. Both are from the St. Quentin-en-Yvelines school. With them are 17 year-old Jerémy, a restaurant student and 17 year-old Lucie, a culinary arts student – both from the Bazeilles hotel school. How are they getting on?
At first glance they are very relaxed, the competitions are behind them and they are delighted. Here are some of their replies, in no particular order:
‘The first thing we notice is how important English is. Different people have different ways of working; it’s the first time we’ve taken part in a competition, it’s a good experience, there wasn’t any stress during the contests (really???), we’ve met some great people (as you can see!!); we’re all having a great time and the rooms are really good.’
Gorana Batinic is an 18 year-old reception student from the Split school. ‘It was really good, especially mixing with fellow students of other nationalities. Everything is well organised, and we get to meet a lot of people …’
Ivana Piplica, 18, took part in the flambé contest, Ivona Seric, 18, was in the bar competition; they both have the same comment: ‘we have lots of fun at an event like this’.
Alessandro Panella is 18 years old and a culinary arts student from Rome; Riccardo Luchetti , 18, took part in the bar competition. Both of them say that they are ‘happy to be here’. And it doesn’t take much to guess - you can see it with the naked eye!