To mark this year’s International Women’s Day, we caught up with some inspiring female alumnae from Les Roches in Crans-Montana and Marbella.
Graduating from Les Roches does not automatically guarantee success in the industry, although many of our alumni do achieve greatness thanks to their experience at the school.
For this year’s International Women’s Day, we spoke to 10 women who have gone on from Les Roches to excel in their field, whether that’s in hotel management or in another hospitality discipline, to find out how the school helped accelerate their careers and what advice they have for current women students looking to progress.
When two weddings were almost cancelled, Les Roches Hotel Management Diploma graduate Evelyn Mills stepped in and saved the day. It inspired her to build a highly successful career as a wedding designer and planner.
Now founder of Marriage Maestros and Wedding Maestros, Hong Kong’s first ever wedding planning establishment, and Wedding Maestros, Evelyn went into hotel management training after graduating in 1991. She now arranges multi-million dollar wedding experiences for high net worth individuals. This year, she is celebrating her company’s 20th anniversary.
“My dream is ultimately to offer ‘East meets West’ wedding solutions on a global scale,” she says. “The weddings were meant to be one-offs, but ended up being the start of something much bigger. It was Les Roches that ensured I was ready. I’m so thankful I studied there.”
Inma Muñoz, now General Manager at Iberostar Grand Portals Nous in Palma de Mallorca, arrived at Les Roches with two passions: hospitality and leadership. As well as the knowledge and intercultural environment, she found the practical experience on the Postgraduate Diploma invaluable.
“For me, the difference was putting what you learned into practice,” she says. “You get involved in every job – cook, steward, waiter – so you get to understand every job and that’s hugely important.”
Within three years of graduation, Inma had reached General Manager level, giving her the chance to put into practice what she learned at Les Roches.
“Les Roches was the first step in my career and I have always felt supported by them along the way.”
“There is nothing like doing what you love every day and it was amazing to gain that experience before graduating.”
Making sustainable travel the norm and not the exception is the mission Maria Olazabal, Founder & CEO, Eco Hotels & Resorts and BBA graduate from Les Roches Crans-Montana in 2014, has set for herself.
Established in 2019, her company is a hand-picked selection of more than 20 sustainable luxury hotels and resorts around the world with another 30 set to join the ranks soon.
“Les Roches showed me how to live your work life,” she says. “There is nothing like doing what you love every day and it was amazing to gain that experience before graduating. It’s shaped my outlook ever since. Not only that, Les Roches taught me to view obstacles as opportunities to grow and learn.”
Having graduated in 2014 with a BBA in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Elena Fabbrini traveled the world working for Cipriani Group then, following a spell at Sketch and then the Treehouse Hotel in London, launched her new start-up – Nest – in Italy.
Nest is a website and app that features the best of Italian hospitality, culture and products, delivering unique experiences that are proudly ‘Made in Italy’.
“My goal is to promote Italian hospitality in a fresh, innovative and international way,” she says. “In Italy, we don’t know how to sell or own country, so I decided to use my international experience and what I learned at Les Roches to do just that.”
“My advice for women who want to progress in the industry is to believe in yourself and always feel like you belong.”
Katrin Sigridur Thorsteinsdottir Bachmann
Now Hotel Manager at Center Hotels Arnarhvoll in Reykjavik, Iceland, Katrin joined Center Hotels shortly after leaving Les Roches and has now set her sights on making her hotel and the country’s industry more sustainable.
“I’m honored to have been promoted and am driven by client satisfaction and my team’s happiness and success,” she says. “My advice for women who want to progress in the industry is to believe in yourself and always feel like you belong. Don’t be afraid to reach out to role models either – in most cases, they’re happy to help.”
Patricía Purshotam Morais
With more than 16 years’ experience in hospitality management, a previous Master’s and the Best Young General Manager ADHP 2019 award, Patrícia Purshotam Morais was already fully immersed in the industry. But she wanted to know more, so took the opportunity to study the Executive Master’s while still working.
It was a valuable experience, not least because she was able to apply what she learned to her current role as General Manager at SANA Hotels.
“All the Les Roches faculty have experience in hospitality or a related industry and that makes a big difference,” she says. “You also learn that this is a people business in which you look after guests and your staff.”
It’s been quite the ride since graduation for Jovel Chan, who was awarded a BSc in International Hospitality Management from Les Roches Crans-Montana in 2015.
She worked in the Middle East before taking a year off to travel, during which she wrote freelance articles on food for a range of publications. Now the founder of Vietnam’s only dedicated food and beverage blog, Jovel is also planning to launch a company that broadens access to hospitality education and training.
“Les Roches played a significant role in making me who I am,” she says. “I’m now planning to share my experience and insights with the industry so they get the information they need to make more informed decisions.”
“If you work hard and get the right education, you can achieve your goals.”
Nathalie Cockayne applied to Les Roches after reading about the campus opening in Marbella.
After completing her diploma there in 1997, she worked at the Burj Al-Arab when it first opened, then for top hotel brands on five continents before taking up her current role as General Manager at the Melia Desert Palm hotel in Dubai. She’s now aiming to help pave the way for the next generation of female leaders in the hospitality industry.
“It’s important to assign equal value to the different competencies people bring based on their background, including their gender,” she says. “To succeed in this industry, I’d advise women to speak out if they think something’s unjust, pick their battles, figure out what their natural strengths are and play to those.”
A leader with a passion for hospitality, Simona Chimenti held assignments spanning four continents with Four Seasons, Starwood and IHG after graduating from Les Roches in 2002 before landing her current role as General Manager of The Pavilions Bali, a luxury boutique resort.
Simona is also the Marketing & Media Relations Director for Bali Hotels Association, promoting the country as a destination while aiming for a more sustainable form of tourism that benefits all stakeholders.
“My goal is to shift the leisure focus to experiential travel, creating unique and memorable guest experiences that reflect a destination’s culture, natural landscape and community,” she says. “I believe to succeed in this business, you need to apply equal measures of dedication, perseverance and passion.”
Having graduated in 2017 with a Postgraduate Diploma in International Hotel Management, Martina Buonomo harnessed her entrepreneurial spirit to become founder and owner of Macchiato Suites, a boutique bed and breakfast in her native Naples.
Passionate about hotels and travel, Martina has ambitions to turn Macchiato Suites into a chain and advises current students to believe in their dreams.
“Hospitality is a world full of opportunities,” she says. “If you work hard and get the right education, you can achieve your goals.
“I’ve had to be patient and it’s been a challenge. But Les Roches taught me how to deliver five-star service and, after graduating, I felt confident I was ready to manage a small hotel.”