Emile Schelfhout is a 23-year-old ambitious hotel & hospitality professional who recently graduated from Hotelschool The Hague with an MBA in International Hospitality Management. He is currently completing his MSc in Corporate Finance & Banking at EDHEC Business School in Nice.
Having previously worked in five hotels and a cluster management company, he has been exposed to all departments and gained a profound understanding of a hotel’s daily and longer-term challenges. Additionally, he established valuable insights into ways of thinking applied by hotel managers, which is of the highest importance when engaging in cooperation with hotels. This understanding, combined with his MBA and MSc education, makes him someone who comprehends and can implement operational excellence, strategic performance, and people leadership.
Emile has recently been appointed to head up and lead the HSMAI Europe Student Council, about which he comments:
“Since I joined HSMAI Europe in March 2020, the association has boosted my professional growth. I cannot wait to share this experience with other students. The council provides the perfect means to do so. We want to help students standout, and support them in their journey to becoming young professionals in an environment that promotes inclusivity, responsibility, and sustainability. The fact that this council operates across hospitality business schools makes it the first of its kind worldwide.”
Q: The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for everyone. What helped you cope with the uncertainty and stress?
A: The pandemic started right in the middle of my MBA education at Hotelschool The Hague. That was also when I reached out to HSMAI Region Europe to find out whether there was any way I could contribute to an industry I am very passionate about. For me, volunteering with HSMAI and assisting in their purpose to support the hospitality industry was the perfect way to cope with all uncertainty that came together with this virus.
Q: Are there any new skills you have developed or that you want to develop in the future?
A: Currently, I am exploring the world of Finance, Banking and Investment at EDHEC Business School. However, in addition to focusing on the development of hard skills, I seek to learn every day from small things happening around me. There is so much to learn from people around us. As a junior in the industry, I can see experience and hard skills are very much appreciated. However, development (and proof of) soft skills seems to be more important than ever before.
Q: What skills do you think will become more relevant in the years to come?
A: Communication and openness to different points of view are two soft skills that are very much underrated, especially in the polarized world we live in. Of course we are finding ourselves in a digitized world and following up on these trends as a professional or student is important, but at the core remains to be able to work together towards common goals to truly make an impact. Discussions are extremely valuable, and listening is an integral part of this. I realize this sounds very obvious, but from my experiences it is not a common skill at all.
Q: The pandemic forced us to reconsider leadership. What are your thoughts and how have you adapted?
A: A genuine & compassionate leadership really makes a difference, I guess that’s why we’re all so fond of Arne Sorensen, former President & CEO of Marriott International. Daring to admit that the situation was not what we hoped while showing modest signs for optimism was key. However, today I believe hospitality needs a different kind of leadership, one that dares to stand up, makes changes in our way of operating, and stimulates our communities to go along and do the same.
Q: The entire industry faces the challenge of attracting and retaining talent. Do you have any thoughts on this that you would like to share with us?
A: This is indeed a trend you see in any industry, unfortunately also in ours. However, I do believe that without a pandemic, we might have ended up in the same situation. For many years our industry struggled with this phenomenon. We want to work on this with the Student Council.
Q: How would someone who knows you describe you?
A: This would be a combination of integer, determined, reliable, and positive. They might also add impatient every now and then, that is definitely something to work on.
Q: Where does the next trip go, privately or at work?
A: I very much look forward to joining all HSMAI members at the HSMAI Europe Commercial Strategy Summit on January 25 & 26 in London. This will also be the first time our student council unites and discuss the importance of culture and leadership in our industry.
Q: Describe a perfect weekend for you.
A: The perfect weekend balances out time to meet with friends and enjoy nature, we are spending so much time inside throughout the week anyway. Although I must admit a Sunday afternoon of watching a formula one race is also something I enjoy.
Q: Is there a book or podcast that recently inspired you and that you would recommend?
A: There is one book in particular I enjoyed reading a lot recently. Reed Hastings’ book “No Rules Rules” describes how he created a company that totally challenged the status quo. I believe there are a couple of paradigms we also might need to shift in our industry, just like Netflix’ CEO did. In addition, I listen quite a lot to the “Skift Daily Podcast”. It coves hospitality news around the world in only four or five minutes, I think it’s indispensable for anyone in the business of hospitality.
Q: Is there anything else you want to share with us?
A: The HSMAI Europe Student Council will meet for the first time in January. I am so much looking forward to seeing all of them and discussing amongst each other what students today need from their future hospitality employer. In the meantime, we plan to launch a survey in which we collect feedback from students across Europe regarding the same. We’re doing this for students, by students, but also with the industry.