The 30th AEHT Annual Conference took place in Ostend, in Belgian Flanders, and was run by the collaborative efforts of the 14 Hotel and Tourism Schools of this Belgian province. The opening ceremony took place on the evening of November 13th in the enormous auditorium of Ostend’s Kursaal, in the presence of the majority of the participants, as several delegations had not yet arrived.
The evening ceremony was hosted by Ivan Picnik, and the proceedings were cadenced by performances from the VREDON ensemble, a dance group of various ages who danced to contemporary music, sometimes with and sometimes without flags and percussion. Ana Paula Pais, now reaching the end of her mandate as President, made a speech to the audience to thank the organisers for having put everything in place for these four days devoted to competitions, meetings, seminars, workshops and all the other important parts of the programme. She pointed out that 2017 would see the election of a new President; she then thanked the Head Judges and the members of the judging panels for the tasks which awaited them, encouraging the pupils and students to give of their best in the competitions. Before declaring this 30th Annual Conference open, Ana Paula Pais, for whom this was her final act as outgoing President, took the opportunity to express her very warm thanks to the ‘fantastic Ostend team.’
A little later on it was the turn of Peter Craeymeersch, Director of the Ostend Tourist Office and of the Kursaal, to take the stage to express his pleasure at hosting this event in Ostend. There were various reasons for this, he said, and proceeded to enumerate several of them. Tourism generated a large number of jobs, on the one hand thanks to the heavy investments which had been financed over the last 20-odd years, and on the other hand thanks to the many cultural and other activities, especially in the private sector and in the hotels. And we mustn’t forget the enormous potential in the area of catering, with three million tourists and more than one and a half million guest nights. He concluded by saying that he was very proud, as Kursaal Director, to be hosting this Conference, and that he was equally proud of his team led by Gwen Nys. And he ended by wishing us all a pleasant stay in Ostend.
The last speech was from Sanne Huygens, President and Director of GO! TA-Campus Wemmel. She was delighted, she said, that so many people were attending this Conference; delighted too about the contribution of the 14 Flemish hotel schools who were participating in the event. Sanne Huygens reminded the audience of the history and heritage of the town, including the jewel in its crown, the Kursaal; she spoke of the year-long preparations in collaboration with her teams to ensure that everything would be up and running for these few days; and she also mentioned, in addition to the usual ten competitions, the contest organised by the Palm Brewery, a highly valued partner in the organisation of this Conference. She made a point of encouraging her audience to make full use of all the opportunities offered by Ostend, urging them not to miss the excursion on Friday November 17th to visit the battle-fields of the First World War. And finally, as President of the Organising Committee, she also declared the Conference and Competitions open.