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Emile Schelfhout – Chair of HSMAI Europe Student Council

  • MBA graduate from Hotelschool The Hague
  • Currently studying Master in Finance at EDHEC Business School

We caught up with Emile Schelfhout to talk about the latest activity and gain insights from the Student Council.

The Student Council officially launched at the beginning of the year. Can you give us an update on what’s been happening?

We had such a great response from the hospitality schools in the region and members to date include:

  • Breda University of Applied Sciences – Netherlands
  • Ecole hotelière de Lausanne – Switzerland
  • ESSEC Business School (IHMI) – France
  • Hotel Management School Maastricht – Netherlands
  • Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern – Switzerland

There are students from seven different countries, across three continents. We continue to welcome other schools and are keen to make sure that we have representatives from UK business schools too – we don’t want to get involved in the politics of Brexit! For any schools interested to know more about the membership they can contact

The students on the Council meet at least once a month to share their thoughts about current business trends and how these could impact on their career path. We also exchange valuable insights on our studies, internships and other work experiences. It’s an exciting time as we are planning some great events this year including an in-person event curated by ESSEC Business School on May 11th to inspire students in their professional growth. At the end of June, we are organising an event in London as part of the HSMAI Europe Commercial Strategy Week. Another event is planned in November 2022, which will be curated by EHL in Switzerland.

In this month’s edition, we have a focus on sustainability in the hospitality industry. How important will this be for members of the Student Council when they seek employment?

It’s an extremely important topic. Sustainability is something many hospitality students place great importance on when seeking their first job. Employers who are not committed to being a responsible business will have a very hard time appealing to the new generation of students. It goes way beyond a brand’s values and a company’s historic track record; it is about what concrete actions these companies manage to deliver. For a long time, the industry has talked about the importance of a brand not just taking care of their guests, but also their employees. Today, it’s also about how they take care of the local community and their contribution to society.

What are the main hopes and concerns discussed at Student Council meetings and events?

Certainly, from all the discussions on the Council, students hope that future employers in the industry will understand how much they can offer to all different departments – not just the operational side, but the commercial, sales and marketing and technology side as well as other industries outside hospitality.

This will be extremely important when they apply for jobs in say one, two- or three-years’ time – to be considered for that job in Marketing, Sales, HR or Finance. Hotel & Hospitality Management degrees increasingly focus on the commercial – financial, pricing, sales, marketing management, and even data management. Some students are taking professional certificate programmes outside their degree to ensure they stand the best chance of getting the job and are not being side-lined because their degree, let’s say, didn’t solely focus on marketing or finance.

Today’s undergraduates and recent graduates really can make such an important contribution to the industry – even in their first job.

Another crucial part is leadership, which very much connects to the sustainability topic. From an early stage of their studies, students discuss different kinds of leadership and what they find important within the culture of a company. Getting this right within your brand and also communicating these efforts with integrity is crucial to attracting new talent. In anything we discuss, purpose and contribution to society keeps coming up.

What can hospitality brands do to support students?

Getting valuable work experience and internships is, of course, a great help – but it’s also about keeping the conversation going throughout their studies. Students need mentors, guidance, to be able to have access to first-hand insights and advice from those working in the industry – whether that’s a conversation over LinkedIn, a phone call or even a chance to meet. They want to hear from the leaders and senior management – and I think there’s also a great opportunity, certainly for the big hospitality brands, to inform more about the company culture, not just on the local level but the overarching values and essence of that brand. That is also why we are launching a brand-new event in May that will help students engage with professionals and vice versa.

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