The participants in the Opening Ceremony of the 31st Annual Conference gathered in the imposing auditorium of the WTC Hotel at 09.30 am on Tuesday November 13th. The ceremony was a rather sober affair, but pleasantly rhythmic, thanks to a performance of little sketches in the hotel lobby beforehand, provided as a way of entertaining the visitors as they waited!
The programme for the ceremony was introduced by Jildou Lycklama and Julia Schat who were both on brilliant form; next came a series of particularly lively dances performed by students from the ‘D’Drive’ Creative School of Friesland College, accompanied by song and music.
In place of the traditional procession of the delegations with their flags, the organisers had devised a programme in which the flag of each country was projected onto a screen accompanied by a piece of music appropriate to that country, with the rapid appearance on stage of one or two members of national delegation – the whole presentation for each country lasting around half a minute!
The series of speeches was opened by AEHT President Remco Koerts, who declared that he was very honoured and proud to be giving this his first address at an Opening Ceremony, especially since it was in Leeuwarden, the European Capital of Culture for 2018. While mentioning the province of Friesland, he emphasised the participation of the students from Friesland College and from Stenden University. He thanked all those who had contributed to the organisation of this 31st edition of the Annual Conference, declaring that ‘thanks to technical developments, society is undergoing rapid change … and we educators are looking around for new approaches to stay in the running! Schools across Europe want to cooperate together, and together we have a broader knowledge!’
Speaking directly to the students, he told them that winning a medal is not so important, but that the experience of competing is much more important, and that working in these sectors of the hotel and tourism profession is a matter of team work. In passing he quoted a local proverb which could be translated as ‘if something isn’t going as you would like it, try to find another path to success.’
He concluded by expressing once again the AEHT’s thanks to all the organisers, underlining that there were 530 participants from 19 countries, and that 278 students would be competing in the ten scheduled competitions. Remco Koerts wished everyone an excellent stay and wished the students good luck.
The Chair of the Board of Friesland College Carlo Segers, as well as Klaas Kielstra, MP for the Province of Friesland, expressed their pleasure that the 31st Annual Conference was being held in Leeuwarden and thanked the organisers for choosing this venue. Klaas Kielstra laid particular emphasis on the tourism aspect of Friesland and on the number of visitors, around 1.8 million in 2017, with an associated increase of 20,000 jobs in the hotel and tourism sector.
Both the speakers urged the students to continue their efforts to achieve a better future in their respective specialist fields, and wished them all an excellent stay in this capital of Friesland.
The final speaker was Tom Valk, Director of Friesland College, who spoke of his first steps within the AEHT, starting in Dubrovnik in 2009, followed by attendance in Lisbon, The Hague, Cervia and finally London and Ostend, where he was able to form an idea of how to organise the 31st Annual Conference in Leeuwarden. He made a point of thanking most warmly his teachers and students for their amazing commitment to this adventure, and wished the competitors great success in the competitions; and finally he wished everyone present an excellent stay, filled with fulfilment and new discoveries.
The ceremony was rounded off with music and dance with the same performers as before, and ended with a standing ovation from all those present. The event was fittingly followed by an aperitif consisting of a well-chilled Prosecco.
Among the key players who were out of sight, let’s also mention Director Job de Roo and his assistants Juliette and Sylvana, students of D’Drive, as well as Technical Director Smart Camels.