For the week of March 4th – March 10th, participants from the Global MBA Hospitality Management major hit the road and headed from Paris to Berlin, Germany for the 21st annual International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF), held at Berlin’s Intercontinental Hotel. What a week it was!
For the 60+ hotel company CEOs, 180+ guest speakers, and over 2,000 attendees at this year’s IHIF Conference, this event was a chance for real estate and hospitality professionals from over 80 different countries to meet, network, initiate potential deals, and attend seminars on a variety of related topics. Overall, it was a chance for hoteliers to do what hoteliers do best: connect. We got to take part in the action by attending the networking events and reaching out to some of our new connections to meet and find out more about their part of the industry, which helped us work out more of our career details for ourselves and forge ahead in our own future post-ESSEC paths.
Included in the companies that attended were AccorHotels, Barcelo Hotel Group, The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Choice Hotels International, Dream Hotel Group, Hilton, IHG, Wyndham, and many, many more. What a roster! In addition to these impressive companies, however, were also an almost uncountable number of new startups and hospitality brands who were looking to promote their new ideas and expand their company personas. Several of us had opportunities to sit down with these entrepreneurs, as well as hear their startup pitches at several pitch competitions throughout the week. We are bowled over by the innovative ideas about to hit the marketplace.
In addition to the many great connections we made with the other professionals attending, we also got to take advantage of a total smorgasbord of professional seminars that were a great extension of our school courses. The first day opened with a detailed macroeconomic outlook of the world’s markets and continued with lectures on the importance of social design, the latest trends on the hospitality real estate market, the rising trend of serviced apartments, and breakouts featuring detailed outlooks on different major economies. Having just finished 3 weeks of intensive Real Estates Principles and Macroeconomics courses at school, these seminars made the theory in our classroom lectures sing and perfectly click into place in our minds.
One of the most inspiring lectures for several members of our group came from mountaineer and motivational speaker Cathy O’Dowd, who was the first woman to scale Mount Everest from both sides. She told her story of also being part of the first team to reach the summit of the harrowing Mazeno Ridge in the Himalayas: their preparation, their challenges, their costly mistakes, their unexpected turns of events and, ultimately, their triumph. Not only was it an amazing analogy in effective judgement and teamwork, but also a fantastic example of effective presentation skills that we will all be using for inspiration in the future.
On a personal note, that Friday March 9th was also my 30th birthday, which a few of us stayed on an extra day in Berlin to celebrate. Being far from my family and friends in the U.S.A., my classmates made certain that it was the perfect celebration over a nice dinner, a bottle of champagne (or two), and some wonderful quality time with each other.
We can never, realistically, expect a group as large, as international or as professionally ambitious as our entire class (79 participants from 23 different countries) to stay together for the rest of our lives: it is, unfortunately, the nature of our modern business world. However, I can honestly say that the friends I had around me for this milestone birthday (as well as other classmates from other majors we were missing!) are some I truly cherish and who, I believe, will be in my life for a long time to come. Maybe just as friends, maybe in professional partnerships. Who knows what the future will bring for us?
Many thanks to ESSEC for allowing the opportunity to meet these amazing women, who are all powerhouses of their own right, and for giving us the opportunity to attend this awesome conference. Go ESSEC Global MBA Hospitality Management!