The Young Hoteliers Summit organized by students at the École Hôtelière de Lausanne shows the future of the hospitality business to be in capable hands.
Last week I had the privilege of attending my first Young Hoteliers Summit, and I can safely attest that the future of hospitality is in excellent hands.
The seventh annual event ran alongside normal academic activities at the famed École Hôtelière de Lausanne. A total of 80 delegate students from 40 hotel schools around the world attended the conference. To qualify, students had to pass their own schools’ rigorous selection processes, and no doubt there were great personal or school grant expenses that needed to be budgeted.
This is Switzerland, and like its equally famed time pieces, the conference ran like clockwork over three intense days. And while there is no reason that students in their early twenties should not be able to organize a conference, I think it is worthwhile to mention that the conference was a success, and also stress that these are the industry’s future hoteliers in the coming decades.
I learned this is not a cheap school to attend, but the return on investment can be seen in the courteousness, politeness, intelligence, eagerness, organization and flexibleness, as well as that ingrained sensibility and hospitableness of what makes someone tailor-made for the hotel business.
Nations represented by the attendees included Taiwan, India, South Africa, England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, China, Canada, United States, Italy, Lebanon and The Philippines. I apologize if I have forgotten any.
Faculty also attended the conference, but were they needed?
Panels were organized with speakers from hotel companies such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (despite their very busy last few days), Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Dorchester Collection, from business consultancies, from investment and asset management companies and from other vehicles connected to the industry. The students managed lighting, sound, video and slides, organized gala dinners, networking, focus groups and hotel company-designed challenges.
I hopefully am far, far, far from being one of those people who bemoan all generations below theirs, but it was nice not to see the students slumping on sofas with headphones over their woolly hats and, seemingly, on a mission to text 24/7.
There’s also a pretty strict dress policy at the school, and why should there not be at a learning institution preparing hoteliers to serve guests at a hotel?
My favorite dress code policy is that beards cannot be grown during semesters. If a student has a beard at the start of a semester, that is allowed as long as it is trim and neat, but new ones—interdit; verboten; proibito, to use three of Switzerland’s official languages. (Switzerland has a fourth official language, Romansch, but I do not want to guess at its word for “forbidden.”)
I also noted during my time at the conference that students wrote and distributed news releases, organized transportation from area airports and train stations and seamlessly coordinated refreshments and cocktails during the evenings.
Attendees worked well into the evening and next morning on these tasks.
Despite several visits to Alpine countries, I have always been beneath the clouds. A trip to Innsbruck, Austria, several years ago revealed no Alps, and on this trip to Switzerland, the first two and a half days I saw only deep mist.
I mentioned this to the team there, jokingly, on my first introduction, but as I was doing some administration tasks on my last afternoon there, around 4 p.m. the majestic mountains on the French side of Lake Geneva slowly revealed themselves to this happy writer.
My visit to the École Hôtelière de Lausanne also was a revelation that brought a smile to my face.
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