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Interviews

"It is up to you to imagine the hospitality of tomorrow!" Alain Sebban Vatel - Hotel & Tourism Business School

In our special Hospitality ON issue on hospitality management schools and trainings (No 308-309/May-June 2021) we interviewed Academic Directors of renowned hotel schools around the world. Here we unveil insights from Alain Sebban President & Founder of Vatel-Hotel & Tourism Business School.

What innovations, programmes and projects have been implemented in your school over the last two years?

At the Vatel International Convention in 2019 in Madrid, the directors of the 55 Vatel schools validated several innovations that have since been implemented:

 The Grand Oral, the new exam integrated into the Bachelor’s degree, to obtain the RNCP level 6 certified title of Manager in International Hospitality. During this oral exam, students must solve a concrete problem and explain their proposed solutions in front of a jury, drawing on all their knowledge, whether from their theoretical courses or from the professional experiences they have acquired during their three years of study. We applied it this year, in April 2021, and we had the pleasure to notice the good performance of the students, despite the complicated period we have been going through for more than a year.

 The pedagogical transformation, a new tool available to teachers. This is a huge project that began several years ago and consists of digitizing courses: content, resources, exercises, etc. In this approach, we rely on the latest generation of teaching methods such as active teaching, flipped classrooms, etc. Concrete example: to consolidate their foreign language learning, students have access to a platform on which they can practice at any time of the day or night. 8 languages are available today and Japanese, Korean and Arabic will soon be added to the list.

 Thematic focus, three areas to be explored in the 3rd year of the bachelor’s program. Students have the choice to study one of three areas in depth, including Entrepreneurship. This is an additional opportunity to refine one’s professional project, to validate or invalidate a vocation.

What approach(es) has your school chosen to train its students? What are the specificities of your schools?

We have learned a lot from the health crisis we have been through. We are more convinced than ever that our concept of teaching that combines theory and professional experience is a success factor for our students. Although we were forced to offer the theoretical courses remotely, our schools battled with the local authorities to keep practical classes in the hotels and restaurants. The teachers were wonderful. In the absence of real customers, they were able to adapt and develop new teaching techniques. Thanks to them, the students were able to return to school every other week and maintain some of their social life.

Another point to which Vatel attaches great importance is the internships. It is the school that places its students; it is thus assured that the internships carried out are in line with what the students must learn. The Vatel teams have been working hard since February 2021 to ensure that all students are placed, and 1,200 internship agreements have been signed in France alone for the summer season.

Has the COVID-19 crisis impacted the students interest in the hospitality industry?

In the short-term, perhaps! Students who entered the job market during the lockdown period had to deal with the full shutdown of hotels, restaurants, airlines... and the media reported on it. This is one of the reasons why candidates for higher education in the hotel and tourism industry were more difficult to convince. On the other hand, students already in the program quickly understood that the sector would offer them great opportunities in the years to come.

What do you think hoteliers need to do to attract & keep young talent?

To retain new talents, hoteliers must understand them better. For the past two years, we’ve noticed that:

 Young people are hyper-connected. But contrary to popular belief, this is not a passive attitude and even less a leisure activity. On their phone, they are serious, they work, they get information, they check, they analyze...

 They are constantly in touch with their community, which plays an essential role in their decision-making process.

 They have only known the crisis and that it has made them very pragmatic; they give more credibility to their networks than to ideals...

 They have a complicated relationship with the hierarchy. They are not impressed by it at all, but they have a lot of respect for competence.

 They do not care about fitting into the system. They do not want to succeed in the eyes of others, but they do want to grow. This means that the “flashy”, the external signs of wealth are not a priority for them.

 Their fulfillment is found in sharing, passion, and creativity. They like to work on projects, and they can give their time without counting the hours. But the other side of the coin is that as soon as they get bored, they go elsewhere.

We understand that to keep new talents, old recipes are obsolete. Above all, we must give them responsibilities, projects to develop and implement. You must trust them, pay them what they are worth and give them the opportunity to grow.

What message would you give to hoteliers?

Major crises are always followed by periods of great construction and innovation. 2020 and 2021 young graduates have been trained in the latest technologies; in recent months they have learned about adversity and are coming prepared with a fresh perspective on a changing market that needs to be rebuilt. Hoteliers can count on this new generation, which is very committed to corporate social responsibility, to design the hotel and tourism industry of tomorrow.

What message would you give to future generations?

The human being has always had and will always have the need to see the world. In his multiple journeys, he will always have to find lodging, food, and entertainment. Therefore, the hoteltourism sector still has a bright future ahead of it.
It is multifaceted and constantly evolving. Beautiful, ethical, and eco-responsible concepts are being born, offering innovative and useful services, which are both functional and warm, offering real experiences...

These major upheavals give free rein to creativity and inventiveness. And whether you decide to be the builder of your own company or the conductor of an orchestra in a group... it is up to you to imagine the hospitality of tomorrow!

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