“Networking is not just about connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” - Michele Jennae
Each year, ESSEC’s MBA in Hospitality Management Program (IMHI) provides a few fortunate students the opportunity to attend the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, Germany. Focusing on bringing together major players in the world of hotel investment, this forum features a number of speakers and events that highlight key trends in the industry, while providing opportunities to strengthen existing business partnerships and to develop new ones.
This year, 2nd Year student, Elise Jarron; 1 Year Track student, Alex Kudla; and myself traveled to Berlin alongside Professor Nicolas Graf. The three days spent at the Intercontinental, Berlin proved to be a truly unique and valuable experience for the three of us. We had the opportunity to meet countless IMHI alumni, in addition to other industry professionals from around the world, as well as attending the many interesting and provocative conferences on the trends and challenges in hotel investment.
Elise Jarron summarized her experience at Berlin with two words: “exhausting, but rewarding. These few days have been a mix of meeting very interesting people, helping to organize the conference and sleeping very few hours. It is quite intimidating to network with such important people who are there for business, but so exciting. It’s been a great experience to participate in such a unique event, where all people from the hospitality world come together for a few days.”
Indeed, the experience, apart from being eye-opening, was also a lesson in time and energy management. In exchange for attending the conference, we were required to help prepare the event and assist in daily administrative tasks with the event organizers. All of this resulted in very little sleep for the three of us, but it was nevertheless a worthwhile experience.
Alex Kudla, who is making a career change from architecture to hospitality through IMHI, also found special value in attending this conference and believed that it “provided the perfect (and slightly intimidating) opportunity to rub shoulders with the Who's Who of the hospitality industry: from global CEOs to the glitterati of the business such as the fabulous Lara Ritter. For me, as an experienced design professional, the event was the ideal interface to discuss the added value of IMHI's MBA as an essential link for the concerns of the hotel business. Especially memorable moments included a panel that featured a lively exchange between the CEOs of Accor, FRHI, ClubMed and Interstate, as well as Ian Schrager's reflections on the anticipation of customers' desires. Decidedly less glamorous, but of almost pressing interest, was a breakout session that discussed the opportunities and risks for operators and investors who are facing an increasing 'sharing economy' built on the innovating models of companies such as AirBnb.”
Alex highlights another of the main takeaways from this conference: the opportunity to learn about different career paths in hotel investment. As future graduates, speaking to professionals working for diverse organizations and players within this complex world opened our eyes to the various roles that we could aspire to upon graduation. From asset management to development to consulting, we saw the many opportunities that exist and the many ways that we as individuals could provide value in the future.
Ultimately, the three-day conference was all about one thing – networking – and highlighted the value in bringing together people, ideas and opportunities in one place at one time. We are very grateful to have experienced IHIF and with new relationships, new ideas and new aspirations, we return to IMHI to complete the last few months of our academic journey.