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Vatel advances tourism careers

Prestigious global school opens doors in Polanco


Vatel advances tourism careers

BY KELLY ARTHUR GARRETT

The News
It wasn’t so long ago that hotel management as a course of university studies was something of an outlier. If you weren’t academically inclined, if law or medicine was beyond your reach, or if you weren’t up for working toward a degree in business administration — well, you could always go for some kind of tourism-related degree.

It’s not like that any more. The worldwide explosion of the tourist industry created a demand for highly educated, technically trained professionals. And where there’s a demand for educated professionals, the education sector tends to meet it.
As a result, tourism is now a highly developed, rigorous — and extremely popular — course of study at Mexican universities.
Specialization was bound to follow. So it’s no surprise that one of the most highly regarded and successful international schools dedicated exclusively to tourism and hotel management has opened its doors in Mexico City, with classes starting in September. The name Vatel — or the Vatel International Business School of Hotel y Tourism Management — is synonymous with the formation of young tourism industry professionals who are ready to occupy important positions anywhere on the planet.

Vatel is a global business based in France. Since its inception in 1981, it has grown to include 25 campuses spread over five continents. The new campus in Mexico City is the 26th. What it brings to the Mexican tourism studies landscape, among other things, is a relentless cosmopolitan perspective.
“When students enter Vatel they have to already have a good level of English and we teach them French,” says Said Boukili, director of Vatel in Mexico. “They finish their studies in France, and by that time they will have spent a good part of two years gaining experience in other countries.”

That last part is key. Students who choose to complete the full five-year program — thereby earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree — are required to spend a full semester in two different years working in a foreign country at a hotel that is partnered with the school for that purpose.
“After their second year, our students go to whatever country they choose,” Boukili says. “They work side-by-side with people from a lot of different countries. You may be Mexican, the person you’re working next to may be European, down the hall is perhaps a Brazilian ...”

Those two internship periods abroad are not for extra credit. They are an integral part of a Vatel education. “It’s not something that the education authorities require,” Boukili says of the mandatory service abroad. “But it’s what the profession needs.”
The value of the foreign experience is not limited to the development of an international perspective. Just as important — vital, in fact — is the hands-on experience.
“Our philosophy is that the practical is on a par with the theoretical,” Boukili says. “One of the problems in much of the tourism studies in Mexico is that graduates have a lot of theory but very little practical experience. For them to be able to fill positions while they’re young, really participate in operations, they need both.”

When Boukili and other Vatel executives talk about practical experience, they don’t mean looking over the shoulder of a manager in an office.
“To be a good administrator, you have to know everything about the business,” Boukili says. “Our students start at the very bottom — doing laundry, making beds, cleaning rooms, carrying suitcases.”
At the same time, Vatel students work their way through a demanding curriculum with areas of study that those outside the tourism business may never imagine. In addition to international hotel management, subjects include touristic culture, the structure and processes of the tourist industry and the travel industry, tourism and multimedia, rural tourism, tourism’s role in sustainable development, and many more.

According to Vatel spokespersons, graduates are capable of managing businesses, reporting to boards of directors, comprehending consumer expectations, analyzing and using new technologies, and a host of other skills generally associated with business schools, which is what Vatel considers itself.
So while Vatel graduates know how to do laundry and carry luggage, those are probably not the jobs they’ll start out with. Vatel’s prestige translates into high-level jobs immediately after graduation, and many students have already lined up employment well before graduation, according to Bouliki.
There are some 25,000 Vatel graduates in the tourism and hotel industries — Vatelians in the school’s parlance — which makes for a rich source of employment networking. A few hundred of those are Mexicans. Many more will be soon.

Vatel has had a presence in Mexico over the years, working in cooperation with other institutions. Now however, a full-fledged Mexico City campus, sharing the facilities of a venerable Mexico City cultural institution — the Alianza Francesa in Polanco.
This combination makes for a solidly European project, a point underscored in March when Elisabeth Beton-Delègue, the French ambassador in Mexico, hosted an event recognizing the opening of the Vatel school in Mexico.
Vatel in Mexico, she said, is emblematic of the renewed partnership between France and Mexico
“Vatel’s institutional model corresponds precisely to what we want,” the ambassador said, “which is to develop higher education hotel management practical education taking place both in France and Mexico.”