I met Manon in Shanghai, at the international venue, “Café des stagiaires” (Interns’ Café), a bar run by French expatriates. She’s a student just finishing her fifth year of post-baccalaureate study with the MSc in International Hospitality Management offered by Institut Paul Bocuse, in partnership with prestigious business school, emlyon business school.
Photo credit: reussirmavie.net
"We finish off the program with three months in Shanghai because the tourism and hotel Asian market is experiencing unbelievable growth”, explains Manon. It’s true that in China’s economic capital, luxury hotels are popping up like mushrooms; futuristic high-rises that compete with one another through their daring designs.
So how does one come to choose to specialize in the hospitality industry?
For Manon, the choice was made quickly after her baccalaureate. She started out well in medicine studies but quickly felt her calling was elsewhere. “Firstly, I grew up in the French Caribbean, my dad was a pilot and my mum started a jet-ski rental company”, she told me. "And then, during a family sailing holiday to the Grenadines, I really thought about what I wanted to do. We went from hotel to hotel, from boat to boat… that feeling of freedom really attracted me and I also liked the idea of entrepreneurship; I realized I wasn’t going to have that as a doctor”. So the trade winds on that sailing holiday blew her to the shores of tourism and the management career possibilities specific to the hotel-restaurant sector. “I compared all the management and hotel schools and I fell for Institut Paul Bocuse”. Manon therefore dropped her anchor in Lyon, where Institut Paul Bocuse offers a Bachelor’s degree in “International Hotel and Restaurant Management”.
It was a choice that she would not regret: “Right from the first year you really discover all the aspects of the sector: you have classes in human resources and accounting, but you also learn to make up bedrooms, deliver room service, there’s a three-week cooking course and even a week of bread making…”. A very intense start: "It’s physically demanding, but to be a good manager, you have to know how to do everything because it’s a very practical profession”. "It’s also a very creative job, she adds. In the second year, we were asked to create a restaurant concept from scratch based on a place and a budget. We worked in a team with the students from the BA in Culinary Arts, it was really interesting”.
And then came the internships! Six months each year for three years. “In the first year, I worked at The Bristol in Paris. In terms of rigour, it doesn’t get any better because there are 600 employees for 220 rooms, but they were the most difficult months of my life!”. "In the second year, I went to work at the Sofitel in China, close to Canton, where I was Reception Manager for all foreign guests. It was an amazing professional experience, even if the living conditions were really hard. And then in the third year, I did my internship at the Sofitel in Brussels, where I was Events Manager: it was a smaller hotel and I loved everything, the internship, the city, the job…”.
After her Bachelor’s degree, Manon wanted to continue her studies, first with the year-long "LifeStyle Hospitality Management" specialisation at Institut Paul Bocuse, then with the MSc in International Hospitality Management delivered by emlyon business school and Institut Paul bocuse. "In order to work at management level, it’s better to have a Master’s level qualification”, she explained.
emlyon business school provides classes in management, whilst Institut Paul Bocuse brings in the hotel-specific training. Students also study business law applicable to the hotel sector, creating a winning recipe that attracts students from all walks of life.
"Having completed the BA at Institut Paul Bocuse, I had already learned a lot about the hotel sector, said Manon, but completing the course in Shanghai [as part of the MSc in International Hospitality Management] and visiting around 20 luxury establishments was fantastic. It’s a real advantage for your CV and is an opportunity to give out your business cards and make contacts”.
Useful contacts perhaps, but for what kind of work exactly? “Of course you can go for hotel management positions, explained Manon. For example, you could work as a chef in a restaurant or room or events manager in a hotel. To manage a whole establishment, you have to have several years of experience”. But that’s not all: "You can also get involved in sales, pricing and revenue management, or of course work for a caterer, in culinary consulting or innovation consulting”.
And then, there is entrepreneurship… more and more hotel management graduates are choosing to create their own concept, whether in a restaurant, hotel, tea room, gastronomic product line and so on. Manon is involved in her own entrepreneurial project in partnership with another graduate of the Culinary Arts branch of the Institut Paul Bocuse. So is she planning to come back to Asia? Not this time! She’s aiming to get back to her roots with a project in the French Caribbean.
Following her experience in Asia, the young graduate will therefore be returning to Martinique, but not to sunbathe on the beach: “We will have to undertake a market study, really understand what the competition is doing, define our concept of a semi-gastronomic restaurant and set up a finance plan”. It looks like the management and marketing courses will definitely come in handy then.
But isn’t she afraid of drowning in work? “I know that I will be working 24/7 on my project, but I’m not afraid of that, quite the opposite. It’s when you’re young that you need to try this kind of adventure. And also, it’s a job where you never get bored and where you meet different people every day” …
Article translated into English from the online magazine http://www.reussirmavie.net/
- original content in French written by Michèle Longour.