Arie van der Spek: Pearls of Wisdom

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Arie van der Speck, senior vice president of Laureate Hospitality Education and one of the team behind the launch of Glion London
Arie van der Speck, senior vice president of Laureate Hospitality Education and one of the team behind the launch of Glion London
After a long career in the hotel industry, which included a stint with IHG as a chief operating officer, Arie van der Spek is now the senior vice president of Laureate Hospitality Education and is helping to launch a London branch of hospitality management school the Glion Institute of Higher Education.

I am an old hotelier. ​When I was responsible for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) I opened one hotel a week. If you asked my successor today he will say it is one per day.

If Accor opens 54 hotels in China that means they need 54 general managers. ​They also need 54x7 department heads, 54x20 supervisors, 54x400 employees. We can’t deliver that at the moment.

Glion London will help UK hospitality businesses which are desperate for talent. ​They are not desperate for casual labour – waiters, cleaners or housekeeping – they want people who already have a superb managerial background.

Our students have a balance of theoretical and practical training. ​You can employ them in your business as supervisors; they will grow through the ranks to potentially become general managers.

If you ask any student today where they want to study London is one of the cities they will mention immediately.

London is where hospitality is happening. ​There are fabulous international hotel brands which are well established and they create additional management training opportunities for students.

When I was a student I had no choice where I studied. ​I wanted to study, my parents let me study and there was a university in my country. I have grown-up daughters and when I ask them what they would like to study they say ‘Barcelona’. I said ‘I asked what, I didn’t ask where’.

We want no single nationality to dominate. ​Half of the students will be European; around seven per cent will be British.

Glion London does have competition from other universities and training schools.​ They operate on a different price level and they provide education differently. The UK student has a choice.

Students either need to find a sponsor, which can be their parents, or they can use the student loan system or they may have made some money themselves.

86 per cent of our students get a job or multiple offers three months before they graduate. ​78 per cent of our students will get to at least director or general manager level during their careers.

Many students raised in hospitality schools end up in banking or other industries.​ I would call that a waste.

I don’t like to call hospitality an industry.

The best hospitality leaders are great networkers, they are flexible, they are team leaders and they are motivators. ​I didn’t say anything about cleaning a room or grilling a steak. You can get the required skills from a Hotel Management degree.

You need to know how long it takes for a chambermaid to clean a room. ​It takes 14 minutes to clean a room so they can do four rooms in an hour with a five minute break.

You need to have luck in hospitality. ​There are circumstances where you won’t be in control – bird flu or terrorist attacks for example. If your hotel is on the wrong spot you could either be empty or full. If you have a hotel in Rome when the Pope dies you hope the Cardinals take a long time to elect a successor.

Brian Lincoln, the ex-chairman of Bass, was an inspiration in my career. ​I remember how he was adamant about quality, motivating people and developing young talent.

The road to success is always under construction.​ That was something Brian Lincoln always used to say.

The complexity of the hotel business has changed in my career. ​In the past it was about bringing guests in, giving them a great experience and making sure they left happy. In my day maintenance checked the chlorine level in a swimming pool by walking into the room and sniffing, in today’s hotel you have an engine room with monitors and computers.

General managers still need to be generalist but they need to have specialist knowledge too.

Some hotels in Europe cost £1m per room to construct.

Hotel guests look for value. ​You can still start and grow a hotel business from scratch which adds value to a specific segment of the market.

I recently searched on the internet for innovative hotel concepts.​ In an hour I had found around 35 where entrepreneurs had said ‘I can run this business model’ and they had successfully opened one or more venues.

Value can mean anything from people flying business class to Malaysia to sleep in a tent in the jungle or a couple flying on a budget airline to enjoy their wedding anniversary in a five-star hotel in Barcelona.

The best hotel is the one that suits your individual business or travel needs. ​If you stay overnight in a Travelodge you don’t get real service but you get a fabulous experience because what happens addresses your needs.

The ‘empty nest’ group, or people who are 60+, are the biggest spenders of hospitality worldwide.

There is still a shortage of hotels. ​There are also a number of properties which need to be taken off the market because they are a disgrace to the industry.

I am always impressed that lots of my students say they want to build their own hotel brand.

Related topics: People, Hotels, Pearls of Wisdom

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1 comment

Thank you Arie!

Posted by Frances Kiradjian, Founder - BLLA,

You're an ICON in our industry Arie. Proof is in your Pearls of Wisdom. Shows that a 'real' hotelier has more than just wisdom...they have to have 'heart and soul' as well as a great education.

Loved spending time with you in Berlin earlier this year! Support what you're doing at GLION. How can we help?

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