By Pierre-Alexandre Kaouza, MBA in Hospitality Management, France, 2012-2014 2nd Year
I entered the MBA in Hospitality Management program having mainly worked in operations and, more specifically, in Food & Beverage. I learned about development during my first months at ESSEC and chose do to an internship in this field. I managed to find an analyst position at HTI Consulting, a consulting company specialized in Hospitality and Tourism based in Cape Town, South Africa, and operating all across Africa and the Middle East. I joined this company with another IMHI student, Pierre-Antoine Erny.
HTI’s core business is feasibility studies. The company has a tailor-made approach to a project and therefore every report is different. For most projects, an HTI employee travelled to the destination for a week or more. His or her tasks were to understand the market, and its supply and demand, by meeting with hotel companies (both local and international), NGOs, governments, and tour operators.
As interns, we remained at the office in charge of completing the first two sections of the report with an overview of the country’s social, economic, and political context, as well as a tourism overview. I worked on two feasibility studies from Day 1 till their submission to the client, one in the Seychelles and one in The Gambia. In both cases, Dario, the company’s vice president and an IMHI alumnus, travelled there. Since it was such a small company, only six people including the two of us, he did most of travelling and I collected the data from him after, which was not always easy since he was based in Barcelona. Once we received the data, we needed to review it, identify the gaps, and complete the information with additional research or phone calls. When we had all the information, I produced relevant graphs and summary tables with the critical goal of identifying correlation between events and facts, which I highlighted in the graph, bearing in mind the message we wanted to deliver. We then had to work on a supply and demand model and financial models. Our role was to play with the data and send what we thought were the best projections created by the existing models. In addition to these feasibility studies, I restructured an existing database and helped create a new one, made a report on the 3 and 4 star market in Cape Town, created, with Dario, a model to compare whether a management contract, a development lease, or a land lease was the best option for a client, and provided support for some parts of other projects.
This internship was really interesting for me. It was my first experience behind a desk and I was able to work on different tasks in completely different situations. It helped me understand how the hotel business differs from one country to another, depending on the local context, and that deep analysis is necessary before taking any action in Africa, as companies there cannot simply apply the international standards. The markets are not very well structured, so getting reliable data is a very tough task.
One challenging aspect of this internship was learning to work in a small and very busy company, where our managers did not always have the time to give lots of feedback. However, working on projects in many different contexts was very interesting. The experience helped me to understand that I want to work in development, which will definitely influence my choices when selecting courses in order to strengthen my skills in this area.