Arie van der Spek speaks to Sydney Paulden on the eve of the opening of the Glion London CampusThe hospitality industry is the second largest employer in the world, after Government. But how many people working in that mammoth industry have the benefit of relevant academic qualifications?
The answer has to be a very, very tiny percentage – which means that Arie van der Spek has a huge market to tap. Arie is Senior Vice President of Laureate Hospitality Education Worldwide and the person responsible for the imminent opening of their latest academic establishment, the London Campus of Switzerland’s Glion Institute of Higher Education.
Having spent close to 40 years as a hotelier in a wide range of countries, from Belgium to Argentina, Singapore to Germany, Arie rose to be CEO for 650 IHG properties in the EMEA region, with a total turnover of $1.8bn. He can be regarded as unrivalled in his knowledge of what it takes to run a hotel.
‘I drank a glass of champagne to celebrate each new opening and I was eventually drinking one glass a week’, he recalls. ‘But I now speak to friends who are opening a new hotel every day. Accor currently has 57 properties under construction in China alone’.
The word ‘hotel’ is an inadequate description
‘The word hotel is an inadequate description today’, he suggests. ‘The General Manager is virtually running a small town.’ He then goes on to point out that each new international hotel requires a General Manager, 7 Department Directors, 20 Managers and 400 staff.’
A GM’s responsibility encompasses the complex IT in properties where so much is computer-controlled. It takes in health and safety law, food preparation and much more. ‘There are complex regulations governing the swimming pools’, he points out. ‘It is no longer a case of just throwing in some chlorine’.
His theme is that the big players in today’s hotel world were founded by individual entrepreneurs who started as dishwashers and worked their way up. Today the hotel groups can’t just wait for senior staff to gather all the experience that is required to do their jobs effectively. Candidates who are pre-groomed with qualifications very specific to the hospitality business can be a boon to their employers and there are increasing numbers of jobs becoming available around the globe in the hospitality industry.
Now the latest is to open in London. ‘London’, he emphasises, ‘is a very important world hub for the hospitality industry and many students will choose to do at least some of their training in that city.’
The Glion London Campus (pictured here) is in Roehampton, near Richmond, Surrey and is now accepting students to start courses in August, 2013 for a Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management and Postgraduate Diplomas in Hospitality Management.