‘You can’t just talk about it, you have to experience it!’
The 27th AEHT Annual Conference took place in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, from 17th to 22nd November 2014. It brought together more than 600 directors, teachers and students from 90 schools in 29 countries. Following the 26th Annual Conference in 2013 when we celebrated the AEHT’s 25th anniversary aboard the cruise ship Costa Mediterranea, there is no doubt that the Belgrade conference fulfilled all its objectives.
There is no denying the participants’ enthusiasm for the Annual Conference, thanks to a conference programme which each year is redesigned, made fuller and improved to give all the participants an excellent impression not only of the organising school but also of the host city, region and country.
The Belgrade College of Hotel Management, headed by Professor Slavoljub Vicic, was no exception to this rule when they organised this 27th Annual Conference. There was high class accommodation at the Crowne Plaza hotel where all the competitions, without exception, also took place. There was also the cultural programme with various visits to allow the participants to take the temperature of the city of Belgrade; and as for the opening and closing ceremonies, the high quality of them was praised by all the delegates.
As for those constant and immutable items of the Conference programme, the meetings of the Presidium, the Executive Board and the General Assembly, all of them chaired by Ana Paula Pais in this her first year as President, it seems that they marked a turning point in the life of the AEHT with important decisions taken for the future (see General Assembly section).
As for the competitions themselves, they too enabled a large number of students to compete together in an atmosphere that you could call Olympic – with one or two exceptions – under the watchful eye of teacher-judges, and in conditions which for the majority of the contests were almost perfect.
The teams of teachers and students from the organising school also provided part of the arrangements for the transfers and other services, for welcoming and looking after each delegation to make everyone’s life easier and to sort out those little problems that are an inevitable part of such a gathering. We should mention the amazing smiling efficiency of the BTA (Belgrade Travel Agency) to whom the work of arranging visits, travel and accommodation had been sub-contracted.
Put in a nutshell this 27th Annual Conference, while being unlike any other, had points in common with all our conferences: firstly the European spirit, then the spirit of sharing and competing, not forgetting openness to others in a spirit of friendship. Louis Robert, a former AEHT President, summarized this very well in one sentence on the final evening: ‘You can’t just talk about it, you have to experience it!’ How right he is!