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Les Roches "We have a responsibility to give our learners the confidence and ability to tackle the sector's challenges and opportunities"

Carlos Díez de la Lastra is CEO of Les Roches worldwide, with responsibility for the school’s campuses in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, and Marbella, Spain. He was previously Managing Director of Les Roches Marbella, a post he held from January 2014 until taking on his global role earlier this year. Carlos has enjoyed a 25-year career within the education sector. Before joining Les Roches he was VP of Expansion Spain for Laureate International Universities, and he has also worked for Universidad Europea. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from IEDE.

What is the ‘DNA’ of your school?

Les Roches provides a unique environment in which to study hospitality management. Nowhere else offers such contrasting, but equally exclusive, campus locations. And once on campus our students become part of a cosmopolitan, caring community, enjoying highly personalized support throughout their transformational journey from enrolment to graduation and beyond.

From an academic perspective we look to challenge our students to think for themselves, to question the status quo, and to learn by doing. Our curriculum exposes our students to the knowledge and skills that they’ll need to thrive in a fast-evolving industry. On one side, this means getting them closer to innovation and sustainable concepts – and we provide this through our global innovation sphere which we call Spark. On the other, it’s equipping students with the personal resilience that we now recognize as even more important after all the recent turmoil with Covid.

What, to you, is the role of a hospitality school; and how has this changed over the years?

 First and foremost, the role of our school is to prepare students for successful careers in their chosen industry or sector. To begin with, this was almost exclusively the hospitality industry. More recently, however, we have embraced the wider experience economy, of which travel and tourism is a part, as well as other customer-centric industries. In addition, we have a responsibility to give our learners the confidence and ability to tackle the sector's challenges and opportunities - with the aim to create a more sustainable hospitality world.

You see this evolution especially strongly in our graduate degree portfolio. We still have a strong core of hospitality programs, such as our Master’s in International Hotel Management and our flagship MBA in Global Hospitality Management; but more recently we’ve created programs that respond to the evolving needs of the industry by delving into other related subjects, such as our Master’s in Hospitality Strategy and Digital Transformation. Ultimately, I think this better reflects the wide variety of career options which can be found in the hospitality universe.

Do you intend to address working employees through continuing education?

Vey much so. Today we offer two Executive graduate programs with flexible study: the Executive MBA in Global Hospitality Management and the Executive Master’s in International Hotel Management. Both these programs are designed to be studied alongside a full time professional role, so they are very much centered on lifelong learning and professional development. For example, all the participants in our Executive MBA receive personalized leadership coaching through a partnership we’ve forged with the executive search and talent consultancy, Morgan Philips.

Moreover, we’ve committed to building partnerships within the travel and tourism industry that will facilitate professional development for the industry’s future talents. One example is the Caribbean Hospitality Professional Development Program, which we jointly sponsor with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Education Foundation (CHTAEF). The program is a rigorous yet flexible academic course, designed to be studied alongside students’ current job commitments.

How have you reinforced your links with the industry during the last two years?

At Les Roches, one of the most important conduits between our students and the industry is our global innovation sphere, Spark. Through Spark, we invite the industry to work directly with students to assess the viability of new product and service concepts for the hospitality industry. To give just a flavor, we’ve run academic projects with partners which are developing concepts as diverse as all-over body driers, 3D facial recognition, even a robot barista.

There is also an incubation and pre-incubation service which is part of Spark, and through this we have recently partnered with the UNWTO on its ‘Awake Tourism Challenge’, which aims to identify innovators with potential solutions to aid the recovery of the tourism sector. The winners will be given support to scale up, including three months’ incubation with Spark.

 What innovations, programs and projects are you currently implementing – or would like to implement – in your schools?

 On the academic side, I’ve already mentioned the launch of new, part-time study executive degrees and the Spark academic projects. We’re also very excited about the launch of a new Bachelor’s specialization in Sustainable Developments and Practices, which is open to those studying in Crans-Montana campus. It goes without saying how important a topic this is within our industry, so we’re happy to enable our students to tackle it head-on through this specialization. 

Also in the area of sustainability, earlier this year we partnered with Lindblad Expeditions to run a competition inviting young people to come up with an eco-luxury hospitality concept. The winning entrant won himself a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands alongside a generous scholarship to study our Bachelor’s degree program.

Another interesting development for us is Indian School of Hospitality (ISH) joining us within the Sommet Education family. Indian nationals have traditionally been an important part of the Les Roches student body, and we are already working to create new pathways between these sister schools.

 What message would you like to send out to industry professionals?

First of all, I’d like to say I have observed an impressive resilience throughout these immensely challenging past couple of years. I certainly do not wish to tempt fate, but we do now appear to have emerged from the worst of the pandemic and, as many of us predicted, our willingness to travel appears undimmed.

In many markets the travel and tourism industry is recovering well, while in some business is already well above 2019 levels. I think we can move forward with confidence, and hopefully build upon the spirit of mutual support and collaboration which helped our industry get through the pandemic.

 What message would you like to send out to the youth of today?

Simply to recognize the incredible career possibilities that you can find within the world of hospitality; whether it’s a leadership role within luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants, bringing innovative thinking to hospitality services and technology, or pursuing your dreams as an entrepreneur.

 This is an industry with an acknowledged shortage of talent, both today and predicted for tomorrow. So there will be amazing opportunities for passionate, energetic and caring young people who are willing to earn their success and committed to making this a more hospitable world.

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