Report from ESSEC's Industry Leaders Conferences 2016-2017

By Victoria Estic, Msc in Hospitality Management - IMHI

Each year, the ESSEC Hospitality Management programs (MSc in Hospitality Management & ESSEC Global MBA) invites six industry leaders onto the ESSEC campus to meet with students and share their experience. It is the perfect opportunity for students to interact with senior industry leaders and to ask them in a casual setting – their own classroom – questions about both their careers to date and the sector in general.

During 2016-17 the first speaker this year was Mr. Olivier Chavy (Alumni 1988), CEO of Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts (MH&R). He took the helm at this Swiss based chain in September 2016, following on from Jean Gabriel Pérès (Alumni 1980), another Essec alumnus. Before joining MH&R, his aptitude for brand development, innovative design, personnel management, and client services led him to global architecture and design form Wilson Associates. During his three years with the company, he directed its high-profile resale process, taking Wilson Associates public on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Previously, Mr. Chavy held the position of Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands for Hilton Worldwide, managing brand performance for Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts, with responsibility for more than 50 properties and another 25 under construction. Before joining Hilton, he was General Manager and Area Vice President for renowned French luxury hotel and casino operator, Group Lucien Barrière, becoming at 27 the youngest General Manager of a 'Palace' hotel in Europe.
During his visit to ESSEC, Mr. Chavy talked about Movenpick Hotels and Resorts' main mission, which is "We make moments". For example, he shared some E-moments that MH&R provides to its guests such as "wifi that is available everywhere in the hotel", or "clients who have the possibility to do their check-in and check-out on the web". He also mentioned special moments from the food and beverage department such as "the chocolate hour, with Swiss moment of joy and life", or "the creation of healthy drink shots".
Mr. Chavy also insisted on the importance of brands. He reiterated "brand is not about the number you have, but how strong your brand is - there is nothing more powerful than brands". He added - "it takes 50 years to create a brand and only one year to kill it". He provided good tips such as "try to be loyal to the brand" and "if one day you have a doubt regarding your careers, take a look at Randy Pausch videos". Mr. Chavy also revealed the four pillars of his professional life, which are "Ethic, Loyalty, Honesty, Professionalism". He ended his conference by confessing "at the end of my life, I know I'll be back as a General Manager because it is a drug".
The second speaker was Mrs. Aurélie Vermesse (Alumni 2012), General Manager of Clarance Hotel, a 5-star boutique hotel in France. During her conference, she described her journey as a "fairy tale". Before embracing hospitality, she had over 20 years of experience in the retail sector with brands such as Danone, McCain and Auchan, mainly in the marketing field. In 2011 she decided to switch careers to become an hotelier. After graduating in 2012, she worked on her hospitality project for over 3 years, ultimately leading to the opening of the Clarance Hotel in Lille. In February 2016, the hotel restaurant was awarded one star by the Michelin Guide and the Clarance Hotel joined the Relais & Châteaux chain in September 2016.
During her visit to ESSEC, students asked her plenty of questions in which she answered with openness. She said that the biggest challenge was "how to manage people – which I find the most difficult but also which I love the most". She mentioned the key to succeed is that "you need to find the right team and the right people, that are involved in your company and are willing to give". "Energy" and "motivation" are two key words on which she insisted. She concluded with this positive note "it is a long way to create your own company, you need your own energy but it's worth it".
Our third industry leader this year was Mr. Giorgio Manenti (Alumni 2004), Managing Director at Eastdil Secured in London. With over 14 years of experience in hospitality real estate in both investment sales and corporate advisory services, Giorgio has transacted over $20bn of hotels real estate across Europe. His current responsibilities include leading the Hospitality Division for Eastdil Secured and facilitating global cross border capital flows.
During his conference, he took the time to speak about his personal career and gave very useful advice to students about what they should do in their near professional future. He said that students need to be able to master two basic but powerful skills in order to succeed in their career – being able to use Excel very well, and knowing to speak English perfectly. He also said that "during the darkest moments in your life, don't give up but keep going. It is thanks to these moments in life that you become stronger". He added, "I excelled at my career right after I took the biggest punch in my life". Mr. Manenti honestly and openness was very genuine and this trait of character was greatly appreciated by the students.
All ESSEC Hospitality Management students would like to thank Mr. Olivier Chavy, Mrs. Aurélie Vermesse, and Giorgio Manenti for their time. All three graduated from the ESSEC MBA and are a great inspiration and source of motivation for students. Thank you to both these exceptional leaders for accepting to visit us here at ESSEC, and to the academic staff, for helping to make these conferences happening.

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