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INTERVIEW - VÉRONIQUE BARIBAUD, PRESIDENT OF AICR FRANCE: "BY PROMOTING OUR MEMBERS, WE PROMOTE THE PROFESSION"

“There are plenty of other things to do in this profession, such as guest relations, the desire to increase revenue, sales, and the desire to please” says the new French AICR president

INTERVIEW - VÉRONIQUE BARIBAUD, PRESIDENT OF AICR FRANCE: "BY PROMOTING OUR MEMBERS, WE PROMOTE THE PROFESSION"

“There are plenty of other things to do in this profession, such as guest relations, the desire to increase revenue, sales, and the desire to please” says the new French AICR president

Category: Europe - France - Industry economy - Careers - Recruitment / Job / Training Associations and Unions - Interviews
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-06-14


The merger of the two French historic sections of the Amicale Internationale des sous-directeurs et Chefs de Réception des grands hôtels attracted the attention of the profession last May. The aim of creating a French section is to open the association to deputy managers and front desk managers from other regions of France. An association based on mutual support and the promotion of the profession.

When it came to choosing a new president for the brand-new AICR France, the vice-president for the French Riviera and the members in Paris unanimously wanted to honour the work of Véronique Baribaud, hotel manager at the Château de la Bégude in Opio. Already president of the AICR Côte d'Azur since 2015, she has attended all the international congresses since then and is so committed to the association that this new mission fell to her.

The Journal des Palaces went to meet the woman who now represents the AICR France.

Journal des Palaces: The AICR Paris and Côte d'Azur have just merged. Could you please tell us more about this merger?

Véronique Baribaud: The AICR was created in 1964 on the French Riviera, before the Paris section. We were the only country to have two regional chapters, as the 16 other AICR member countries have only one national section.

Over the last four or five years, we've forged closer links with our Parisian presidents, first Maud Pfluger, then Arnaud Vermerie. In 2020, we met again at the AICR international congress in Poland, and the international chapters encouraged us to create a new French chapter. The idea matured, and we realised that hoteliers who weren't in Paris or on the French Riviera were probably keen to join this association. Especially as our partner associations, the Clefs d'Or, the AGGH and the CDRE, are national.

During the congress in Baden-Baden in 2022, then in Qatar in February 2023, the treasurer, the general secretary of Paris and I, decided to merge the Paris and French Riviera sections and create this AICR France chapter.

We aim to open subsections in other regions of France.

I'm surrounded by David Echelard, vice-president, Bruno Lanvin, national general secretary and Delphine Descamps, national treasurer, whom I've known for over 20 years, who will also be deputy treasurer for the International Congress in 2024.

As President, what goals have you set yourself?

It's a great responsibility. There's the international congress in 2024, the competition for the best receptionist in November, international reports to submit, meetings, the organisation of evening events and meetings with partners.

I'm leaving for a two-year term, during which I'll be training, informing and inspiring someone else to take over, in the knowledge that I'll always be there to help the members.

My big wish would be to organise a huge party with all the members, from Nice to Lille.

And the other objective that we share, with the other association presidents – CDRE, AGGH, Clefs d'Or and AICR – is to organise an exceptional gala evening. The aim is to show all these young people that this is a very fine profession.

I'm lucky enough to work in a hotel where the manager (Roger Godin, editor's note) supports the AICR and allows me to devote some time to it. This commitment allows me to set an example.

How many members do you have, and what are your ambitions for growth?

We currently have 85 members, but requests from other regions are coming in. Ideally, we'd like to attract around twenty members in Toulouse, fifteen in Bordeaux, etc., to reach 150 members by next year.

What does the AICR offer its members in practical terms?

The AICR is aptly named because I've made many friends there. Beyond the human adventure, the AICR is a useful network for its members.

When we're looking for staff, we can help each other. When we're looking for specific products, we ask each other for help to save time. I send a message to our group and, within half an hour, I get answers.

We all have our problems, but with the AICR, we have the chance to share. A colleague who wants to change PMS (property management system) will call me to make sure that the options we propose are the right ones. When a member intends to switch to a digital room directory, we talk to each other to find out what each other's uses are.

We also help each other out with our guests. If a guest wants to go to Paris, I call and vice versa.

Organising the international conference is a major challenge. How is this project progressing?

It's important for us to be able to expand internationally, and China will soon be joining us, bringing the number of international sections to 17.

The congress is a huge project. We've practically completed the programme. All that remains is to find the partners who will accompany us on this great adventure. Hosting 16 to 17 countries in Nice is a huge challenge. We've come back from all these international conferences with our minds blown.

We've chosen a hotel in Nice, accessible by tram from Nice airport, with a great location and large conference rooms. The gala evening will be held at another prestigious hotel in Nice.

As with every international congress, there will also be an international competition for the best receptionist. The national winners will go head-to-head in a one-day competition. I was a member of the jury in Doha, and it was intense for the 17 candidates.

We will also be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the AICR with a “60s” evening, complete with period costumes.

What is your vision of the receptionist profession today?

I always associate my job with “pleasing people”. In the hotel business, it's essential to give pleasure and help the hotels where you work to evolve.

Perhaps what has changed for today's receptionists is that these jobs are becoming more and more versatile. For me, a receptionist can't just check in and out. There are plenty of other things to do in this job, such as guest relations, the desire to increase revenue, sales, and the desire to please.

What are the possible routes to becoming a receptionist, then front desk manager and deputy manager?

Hotel schools are an important first step. Technique is essential when starting out in this profession. Practical experience rounds off the course, which is why internships are so critical.

New generations want to progress quickly, without always knowing the basic job. I started out as a trainee, sweeping up and ordering pens and paper. I started in this profession without studying hotel management, but with a degree in literary foreign languages. Not only that, but I evolved, I stayed, I listened to learn.

You have to learn by doing because if you want to progress, you have to know all the ins and outs of the business. How can you be a real manager if you don't know what your team is doing? You don't learn to be a manager at school. It's a job you learn over time. It requires empathy, listening skills, patience, and a desire to help people develop.

Is the AICR involved with schools? And how does it do this?

I am personally in contact with many schools, such as the hotel school in Monaco, the Jeanne and Paul Augier hotel school in Nice, and the Ferrières school.

More and more hotel schools are calling on former professionals to teach the profession, which is very positive for the profession and for learning the trade.

In addition, we are going to get the schools involved so that we can get some young people involved in hosting the international conference.

Finally, some of our members act as examiners in schools for BTS and other courses.

What do you think could be done to promote the profession of receptionist? How are you working within the AICR to make the profession more attractive?

The competition is an important initiative. In November, we are repeating the competition for professionals and the competition for schools within the hotel and catering colleges. Future receptionists and front desk managers take part in the same competition as the professionals. Our candidates are aged between 22 and 35.

We first organise the national competition, then we prepare our national candidate to take the international competition. We bring in schools, teachers, and partners to provide training, coaching and public speaking. Candidates will probably have to speak in front of 150 people in English.

Alongside all this organisation, we are active on social networks. We are currently distributing portraits of our members, illustrating what they do and why they do it. By promoting our members, we are promoting the profession. Seeing some professionals who have been with the same company for 15 years, others who have just started out, or who come from other sectors, and who have succeeded, seeing that former candidates in the competition are now front desk managers.

Is shift management the main challenge when it comes to recruiting and retaining receptionists? What solutions are there to change this?

I think we need to stop using weekly schedules for teams. We need to move towards monthly schedules, and be able to adopt fixed rest days, with flexibility as and when required.

We have to strike a balance between work and private life, and not knowing our working hours for the following week can be tricky.

What advice would you give to a young person who wants to work in the luxury hotel industry?

Don't give up. There will be obstacles, you might fall down, but you'll get

More about...
AICR France
Château de la Bégude, Route de Roquefort les Pins
06650 Opio
France

Website
https://www.youtube.com/@AICRFrance  https://www.linkedin.com/company/aicrfrance/  

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About the author

As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.

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