Brigitte Engering, director of Tourism and Management
‘We are very proud of the result ….’
The 24th Annual Conference was now already all but over, but before closing this chapter it is customary to ask the main protagonist what had been her experience of this Conference in her role as chief organiser. Brigitte Engering readily agreed to answer some of my questions, of which the first was inevitably, what had been her overall impression of the event.
‘We wanted to organise this Conference for the students and with the students’, she said, continuing ‘the main problems confronting the teams was that of accommodation. There are not many hotels in The Hague with such a large capacity, so it was a challenge to find hotels, not only because of the short time-frame but also because they needed to be within ten minutes walking distance of each other.’
Did you have difficulty in finalising the programme and finding sponsors?
‘Indeed, it was not easy to find sponsors willing to finance the Conference. We wanted to lay on a high quality Conference, and therefore we needed a large sum of money. Because of the economic crisis the situation was difficult in the tourism sector. For companies, providing sponsorship is not a priority at the moment! Fortunately the city government of The Hague together with Heineken and many others gave us a positive reply because they were convinced that it was important for this Conference to take place in The Hague and in The Netherlands.
Was it difficult for you to bring together so many people to organise the event?
‘No, it wasn’t a problem forming teams to organise this whole event. A lot of colleagues wanted to join us to organise this Conference, the biggest event we have ever held. A team of students from ROC Mondriaan and students from the teacher training programme have worked hard for ten months. And during the Conference all the students, more than 600 of them, as well as the teachers, around 300, have worked together to make a success of this Conference.’
One last question: what do you think of this Conference now that the final curtain has fallen?
We are proud of the result and we have received a lot of compliments. I think we did a good job …’
‘The gala evening was amazing …’
Klaus Enengl, AEHT President and Director of the Bad Ischl Hotel School, had several times admitted that he and the Presidium members had had anxious moments while arranging the 24th Annual Conference; and when last year Brigitte Engering had agreed to take on the organisation, it had been a great relief.
Now that this Annual Conference is already in the past, what do you feel?
‘First of all I should like to pass on to the ROC Mondriaan all my congratulations and a big thank-you for successfully pulling off the organisation of this Conference in just one year without having much time to do so. Furthermore, they did not just copy the previous Conference in Lisbon - they introduced new and interesting ideas.
What were the main strengths of this Conference in your view?
It was the students who worked hard at every level throughout the week, always smiling and always willing - in the hotels, in the bus, on the campus, everywhere. These young people hosted us in a most friendly way, which greatly impressed me.
Moreover I should like to emphasise that the various activities, whether for the opening ceremony at the church, for the ‘Heineken Experience’, for the evening at the AVO Stadium or for the gala dinner – all of these were important events for us because they showed us the type of culture and the way of life of the Dutch.
And what do you think of the Conference timetable?
Well, I though that starting the Conference on a Monday and finishing on Saturday was an excellent formula because it allows everyone to enjoy a rest on Sunday before going back to the daily routine on Monday.
What did you think of the gala evening and the closing ceremony?
They were both amazing! And in a church! An excellent menu, professional service, and a programme of matching excellence. The prize-giving ceremony was also well thought-out as there were no gaps or boring moments at any time in the evening.
And what about the competitions?
I thought that the level of achievement was very high – which means, by the way, that our schools are truly excellent training centres. And then let’s not forget that The Hague is a modern, ambitious European city, while Scheveningen on the coast was an ideal choice from the point of view of accommodation. I think I can safely say that these few days have been highly enjoyable thanks to meetings with people from other schools all over Europe, thanks to the exchanges that were thus made possible, and thanks to the opportunities to develop new projects with different people. And finally, I should like to conclude by saying that I thought the general atmosphere was excellent from every point of view.
Ingrid Eras, Head of Training with the Starwood Hotel Group
‘We demand passion, ambition, a positive attitude …’
Following the suspension of the arrangement with the ACCOR Group which for many years had opened its doors to our teachers for professional updating placements, the AEHT was in search of another partner to ensure the continuity of these highly necessary periods spent in the hotel environment. Hence the STARWOOD Group, contacted by Vice-President Hermann Siebens, had sent to the conference in The Hague their representative Ingrid Eras, Head of Training for the Group. She attended the General Assembly to give a presentation of her company.
To introduce her presentation we were treated to a little physical exercise for (almost) everyone that Ingrid Eras uses with her own employees. For many this produced amused smiles, but some resisted and remained seated! But straight away, clutching the microphone and with a video as a backdrop, Ingrid Eras went to work to give a detailed account of the Starwood Group. Nine brands, 55,000 employees, 1,058 hotels across the planet, every two weeks a new Starwood hotel opens in China.
Intensive use of social media Twitter and Facebook etc., and help to UNICEF by adding one dollar per night to hotel bills – thus netting 25 million dollars since 1995.
Having cited these and many other figures, Ingrid Eras emphasised that she saw partnerships between hotel schools and hotel companies as indispensable; she gave some examples, pointing out that ‘it is important to be trained, for example, in an airport hotel, so you know what it’s like when a plane-load of passengers turns up complete with bags and baggage …’
Being a practical woman, she had also worked out conditions for placements, pointing out that ‘a week is very short for a placement.’ But she put out a warning: ‘We demand passion, ambition, a positive attitude, creativity and team spirit.’
When asked about the number of placements on offer each year, Ingrid Eras simply added, ‘Everything is possible, we are open to the principle.’
‘Coming here was a great experience …’
Among the conference delegates were a man and a woman that you couldn’t really miss: Qurrat ul Ain, programme director and Naveed Asghar, director of the Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (ITHM) in Faisalabad in Pakistan. They were not talkative but observed everything; they had come to The Hague to immerse themselves in the AEHT, to explore how it worked and to experience its spirit. They were obviously delighted with what they had discovered.
‘It has been an excellent event, and the city of The Hague is as peaceful as it is attractive. Moreover this Conference was very well organised by the ROC Mondriaan and the AEHT. The host school has planned everything to perfection and has given us the opportunity to find under one umbrella the traditions, culture and atmosphere of The Netherlands – and there was a pleasant contrast between work and leisure. Thanks to this Conference I have had the chance to meet directors, teachers and students from tourism and hotel schools, and obviously this has been a great experience. Moreover it will be very useful for future collaboration. In short, I found this event highly instructive and full of promise for my colleague and for me. It has been a great experience to attend, and we very much liked it.’
Every year the Annual Conference (‘meetings’ in the French version) provides the opportunity for … meetings. Every year, when students I meet at random at the gala evening, so at the very end of the event, are asked what they thought or what they experienced during their stay, the same answers always tumble out: amazing, it was great, I/we have met other young people, from other countries, from other cultures, etc. Here are some of these young people: