A SPECTACULAR OPENING CEREMONY AND … IN AN UNUSUAL SETTING!
For the AEHT Annual Conferences, ‘every day is a new dawn’. This proverb once again turned out to be true in The Hague for the opening ceremony on November 8th. The ceremony was held in a church – a real one, still used for services, the Church of Our Saviour, a few yards away from the ROC Mondriaan campus. This was truly a first in the history of the AEHT!
A church full to overflowing with the 600-odd participants at the 24th Annual Conference, all bemused by the solemn setting of this building, and, a little later, even more bemused by the floorshow performed during the intervals by the ‘FIFA’ group of The Hague. In front of the entrance to the church the ‘Feestkapel De Blaasknarren Leidschendam’ brass band give lusty renderings of Dixieland to welcome the assembled delegates!
The parade of the delegations from 32 countries, each preceded by its national flag, was as usual one of those unmissable parts of the Annual Conference, as each delegation was announced by two students: Jacqueline Hoshihara and Rick van Wichen.
The pleasure of welcoming the assembled delegates fell to Brigitte Engering, general director of the ROC Mondriaan School of Tourism. She wished everyone an excellent stay, and urged them to work in exemplary fashion during the competitions.
She admitted that the challenge of running the Conference was no small one, but that she had taken it up with pleasure thanks to the collaboration of her teams; she then ran briefly though the programme they had put together for the four-day stay in The Hague.
The Chair of ROC Mondriaan’s executive committee, Ms Jos Leenhouts, mentioning a ‘world in turmoil’ and congratulating the AEHT, emphasised the ‘quality of the education given here.’ She also mentioned that they ‘did not receive much help from the Ministry of Education, but were given excellent support from the authorities of the City of The Hague'.
Jan Van Zijl, Chair of the ‘MBO Raad’ board, emphasised the vigour of the vocational training system which he represented, as well as the unique opportunity to learn from other countries and from other cultures. The professionals bring a lot of value-added and he added that the hospitality sector was doing a lot of work on this subject. But he also expressed his regret that financial problems are being felt everywhere, and spoke of a pilot exchange project which met the AEHT’s objectives. ‘Confidence arrives on foot but leaves on horseback’, he said, speaking of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and emphasising the ‘importance of meeting '. He asserted that ‘international experiences are a necessity, let’s get out of our trenches and broaden our horizons.’
Bram Gräber, Director General of the Transavia Airline, gave a detailed presentation of his company which is part of the Air-France-KLM Group and employs 2,000 people and transports 5 million passengers per year. He gave details abut Transavia’s development in particular and about the development of air transport in general.
The final speaker was AEHT President Klaus Enengl. He spoke humorously of the floorshow performance ‘which would never have been possible in Austria, the parish priest would have had a heart attack.’ In a more serious vein he spoke of the economic crisis and the political crises, urging his audience to enjoy this temporary respite, as ‘this week was an excellent time to forget everything.’ He encouraged us all to share our views and to get to know each other, and urged the students to do their best during the competitions. ‘Just by being here, you are already winners,’ he told them.
Referring to the difficulties encountered in organising the Annual Conference and Christmas in Europe because of would-be organisers withdrawing from their commitments, he warmly thanked Brigitte Engering and Remco Koerts for agreeing to arrange the 24th Annual Conference without having much time to do so. With a sonorous cry of ‘Enjoy’ Klaus concluded this somewhat unconventional opening ceremony!