For the last 10 months all industries across the globe have learnt to adapt and adjust to a new normal. Like most industries, the hospitality industry continues to look for ways to not only survive but thrive. Third year students at Swiss Hotel Management School (SHMS), remained optimistic that they would still host the annual World of Hospitality (WoH) banquet, even if it was adapted to suit the current restrictions.
The World of Hospitality event was created over 10 years ago to give SHMS students a practical, real-life experience of putting theory learned in the class into practice. It involves creating, organizing, and delivering a banquet for at least 350 people.
This year’s partner, IMeet Hotel (by Bidroom)- the first B2B, global hospitality event connecting hoteliers and travel professionals to the future of the industry; was scheduled to host their November Swiss Alps edition event at the Swiss Hotel Management School campus in Leysin. SHMS and Bidroom have been official partners since 2019, which allows them to share knowledge and expertise, and cooperate on events, research projects, and internship opportunities for students.
With restricted travel due to the pandemic, SHMS leadership team saw this as an opportunity to adapt and adopt an online format. While SHMS had previously hosted online events, hosting a live one, was new, and required a totally different approach. As Kristian Lupinski from Bidroom explained, “Virtual events are something very new brought on by the global pandemic. There are a lot of uncertainties when conducting virtual events - internet connection - organizing multiple speakers - or even just attracting attendees leading up to the event.”
Ludovic Cosandey, a lecturer at SHMS and the World of Hospitality Event Director, shared that I Meet Hotel was willing for the event to go ahead once a brief was provided and SHMS demonstrated they were able to rise up to the challenge.
Students take the lead and plan the event from A-Z
Students worked very closely with Bidroom in order to produce a high-quality virtual event. They were tasked with shifting their focus from event planning in the traditional sense to creating an event theme, to selecting topics, identifying speakers, and proposing the concept to I Meet Hotel for approval. At the helm leading the students was SHMS Student Event Director, Anita Santoso. She and the team of 68 students went to work on shaping the virtual event.
Anita said this change in direction gave her and the students an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. With the support and guidance of the WoH Director, they brainstormed topics they felt were relevant to them and the industry, focusing on issues such as sustainability, communication, and life after the pandemic.
Once the topics were agreed upon, they identified the speakers who were experts in the areas selected, contacted them, and confirmed their willingness/availability to be part of the event. The team outlined a plan and shared it with I Meet Hotel for approval, who were impressed with their creativity and determination.
"As these students are the future leaders of hospitality, participating and building an event of such high caliber is a testament to their determination to excel in the hospitality industry," says Kristian Lupinski, PR and Event Manager, Bidroom.
Once approved, the students went into action, setting up different sub-teams: speaker management, logistics, virtual media, and communications.
Having individual and sub-team responsibilities helped students develop a range of skills in leadership, communication and interpersonal skills. For example, Anita, the Student Event Director, described how she developed leadership, people management, and time management skills. This is even more impressive knowing that she suffered a personal loss – the sudden passing away of her beloved father, a week before the event. She remained committed while grieving, remembering how her father encouraged her to take on this responsibility, and wanted to make him proud, even though he wouldn’t be around to hear how it turned out.
As these students are the future leaders of hospitality, participating and building an event of such high caliber is a testament to their determination to excel in the hospitality industry.
Learning from industry experts and learning by doing
The event was opened by Michael Ros, co-founder and CEO of Bidroom, followed by talks on the future of the hospitality industry and how the hospitality industry could reinvent itself, sustainability, masterclasses on local dishes and Swiss wines and champagnes, the do’s and dont’s of connecting with customers online, the importance of local tourism and its impacts, and future food and beverage trends.
At the end of the event, the students gained two-fold. Learning new skills: leadership, time management, communication and interpersonal, and also from the presentations full of industry insights that will help them as they go into the job market.
As Kristian Lupinski from Bidroom so rightly put it, “A lot of energy went into this edition of I Meet Hotel and it shows. The quality and organization of speakers, graphic design, masterclasses, and attendee engagement show that the students built not only led a successful event but gained professional skills they will carry onto their hospitality future careers.”