Natalie Gerhardstein: Will you personally be present in Dubai?
Michel Lanners: As director of the school I have the responsibility for the delegation the school is sending to Dubai… and I was highly implicated in the preparation planning process prior to Expo 2020. We had a Dubai task force at the school, functioning for some two years. Honestly, I cannot afford to be present there all the time, I’m the director of the school… but for sure, I will go at least once to Dubai to check if everything works… I think that in advance, together with the GIE [economic interest group], we prepared everything so precisely in advance that there will not be so many problems to be resolved afterwards. But one never knows. Being far away from Luxembourg in a different culture always brings new questions and new challenges.
Why Dubai--and what are you most looking forward to about being there?
I think the question could be not why Dubai, but why a universal exhibition. My answer is because Luxembourg has the opportunity to present its strengths. And I think that the only hotel school in Luxembourg could be considered as adding value when presenting Luxembourg from a nice, attractive, interesting side.
But Dubai is not just any kind of a city. It is one of the most extraordinary cities in the world. It has been constructed and developed in a very short time. I know that there are a lot of people who criticise different aspects of Dubai or how they run the country. On the other hand, I think discovering new cultures belongs to an open-minded spirit that we--in a globalised world--need to transmit to our pupils. And that’s also why, for example, we offer our [students] cultural courses in discovering Arabian culture.
How many students are going to Dubai, and was the size of the team affected by covid?
Over 30 students will travel to Dubai. We have three groups of between 10 and 12 students who will be permanently there for between 10 and 12 weeks, taking into account the Luxembourg holidays. We also have a detachment under one of our chefs, Kim Kevin de Dood. The general commissioner of the Luxembourg pavilion, Maggie Nagel, wanted to give visibility to young professional chefs from Luxembourg--not necessarily Luxembourgish--to propose a menu which our chef will prepare with the help of the students who are out there. When visitors enter the Luxembourg pavilion they will also be able, via a QR code, to download a cookbook.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the school in terms of its international presence?
First of all, hotels schools have an international dimension by nature. Our business is providing service to clients in the gastronomy sector, so you have cooks, pastry chefs, waiters, and for hotels we have everything from the front office, to back office to management. And this is, per se, international.
The Luxembourg hotel school has strong partnerships with for example, universities in Paris, Montreal, the Netherlands.
We have cooperation agreements with, for example with Ducasse education. We host the headquarters of the European Association of Hotel and Tourism Schools, AEHT, of which I’m currently the vice-president. Nobody knows that in Luxembourg, but that’s quite normal because no one is a prophet in their own country. It’s always difficult on the national level to promote the international dimension. For example, you know that Luxembourg has one of the biggest gastronomy fairs in the world [Expogast, which takes place every four years].
So, the international dimension is part of the DNA of the school. And that’s also why we changed the name four years ago. It was called the Alexis Heck hotel school, after a former hotelier in Diekirch. But internationally, nobody knows who Alexis Heck was. We are now the École d'Hôtellerie et de Tourisme du Luxembourg, because we are promoting Luxembourg.