Ana Paula Pais, AEHT President
Ana Paula Pais had been a Vice-President since the Killarney Conference in 2006, and was elected President of the AEHT for a four-year stint aboard the Costa Mediterranea at the 26th Annual Conference in 2013. She is Director of the Coimbra Hotel and Tourism School in Portugal, and in fact oversees three schools in the same region. With a year of her presidency behind her, what are here views about her role and her work?
‘Being AEHT President is both a unique opportunity and a great responsibility. It’s up to me to keep the Association on track and to make it grow, which I do with great pleasure, with the help of my Vice Presidents and of Nadine Schintgen of course, with whom I organise the tasks. I also have the benefit of much appreciated help from several teachers in my school in Coimbra.
As for the AEHT, I have noticed that we have lost some schools as members, and we need to get them back because obviously the schools represent the AEHT’s greatest asset. We have adopted a new strategy for me and my Vice-Presidents whereby we are implementing a fresh distribution of the different countries to ensure that they maintain closer links with their national representatives. We’ll be holding a meeting in Spain on December 11th to find the best way of being closer to our member schools.
The other important matter is that of the competitions. What’s more, I’m glad that in Belgrade there have been very few complaints. But by keeping in place the eleven coordinators for the eleven contests, we will in future have a guarantee of stability and efficiency.
I’m also glad to see that in many countries events and competitions are being organised under the aegis of the AEHT. We are following this up too. At next year’s conference I’d like to arrange technical seminars aimed at school teachers and directors. The idea is to get them interested. We are going to try some academic seminars with experts from such and such a field, etc.
Do you also have meetings scheduled with the world of politics?
Yes. That is vital. For example, to maintain the subsidy from Luxembourg – whose government I should like to gratefully thank by the way. You can imagine that this subsidy is very important. And in the European Commission we are in a position to form close links with key people.
After one year of your mandate, are you satisfied?
Oh yes, and for several reasons. I do as much as I can, and apparently people seem to be pleased with what I do. Our work is a collective effort, as I was telling you, with my team at my side. What’s more, the support of companies is important. We already have a number of partner companies, but this is not yet enough. In order to have sufficient funding we need more support. And then we have to improve our communications. The AEHT and the AFLYHT (Association Française des Lycées d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme, French Association of Hotel and Tourism Schools) will be exchanging information and I hope we’ll be working together. I also want to promote quality in everything that the AEHT undertakes, as well as to offer new services to our member schools.
A final question: the Presidium has proposed, and the General Assembly has agreed, that in future the competitions will be held using exclusively English. Why is this?
It's very simple and the idea had been around for quite a time. We did it to simplify things for everyone. In this way all the students taking part in a competition will take this on board as a given. There will no longer be those unending arguments we had in the past, and it will make the judging panels’ jobs so much easier.
Slavoljub Vicic, Director of the Belgrade School
This interview was made possible with the help of Mihaela Lazovic, an English teacher and translator, and furthermore by email. The head of the Belgrade School was very busy, but nevertheless answered questions in writing. Here is the essence of his replies:
Did your school have any difficulties in organising this Conference? Especially in terms of transfers, accommodation, etc?
Of course there are always little problems but we managed to sort them out as quickly as possible. In any case there were no major problems. The transfers ran extremely smoothly, thanks to the additional help from the Crowne Plaza team.
How many people from your school took part in the organisation of the Conference in Belgrade? In terms of teachers, students and others?
Around ten teachers and 35 students were involved in one way or another in organising the event. In addition we had the benefit of help from several sponsors.
During the event and after it, did you observe any reactions, positive or negative, from the participants?
Yes, obviously, a lot of positive reactions and equally obviously a few negative reactions. But that’s usual. There always are.
Do you think that the Conference has been an excellent way of promoting Belgrade, and by extension the whole of Serbia?
Ah, of course. From every point of view.
Why wasn’t it possible for interested parties to visit your school?
Our college is right in the middle of a rebuilding programme, and that is why we thought it better not to arrange a visit.
Are you please with the financial outcome of the Belgrade Conference?
You know, the final accounts have not yet been drawn up. We will know when they are!
In conclusion, as Director of the organising school, are you pleased that you were able and willing to organise this major event?
Absolutely. My organising team and I are very happy with the outcome of this conference.
Lydia Mladenovic, Director of the BTA Agency
Beside the information stand staffed non-stop by students from the Belgrade school there was the stand of the ‘Belgrade Travel Agency’ with three people including Lydia Mladenovic.
The task of organising the excursions, the transfers and the accommodation had been sub-contracted by the Belgrade school to this Agency which had therefore had to deal with more than 600 people. This didn’t bother Lydia who, with a smile on her lips, said that she had seen worse since she had been in this business! She laughs openly: ‘Problems? Of courser there have been, but with my colleagues we were able to deal with them. I’ve been in this business for a long time. It’s true that sometimes things hotted up when dozens of tired people arrived from the airport, tired from their journey, and all of them saying they want different things. We have to find ways of making last-minute adaptations. But we manage!’
And there she is again, this time listening to someone in need of tickets for an evening at the opera…!
Delighted young students
Every year the students are different, but each year there’s no need even to ask them whether they’re happy to be here. Their smiles say it all. Just before a competition I meet up with Anna Warash from the Carinthia school, Ylenia Bonicci from Senigallia and Finbarr Collins from the Cork CAT. They are waiting their turn for a contest and don’t seem worried or worked up. Rather they are delighted to be in Belgrade, a fine experience that they will remember all their lives.
The same impressions for Lisa Wunder and Alina Pacher from the Carinthia Tourism School in Austria, which I gleaned just before the closing ceremony and the gala dinner. They too are absolutely delighted with this Annual Conference which, for them, besides the competitions, was an opportunity to meet so many young people from different countries.