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In an interview with the Journal des Palaces, Frédéric Picard looks back on his career as a hotelier, and the strengths of his new home, the Glion Institute of Higher Education


In an interview with the Journal des Palaces, Frédéric Picard looks back on his career as a hotelier, and the strengths of his new home, the Glion Institute of Higher Education

Category: Europe - Switzerland - Careers - Interviews and portraits - Career - Interviews
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2023-11-22

After a successful career in the luxury hotel industry, Frédéric Picard embarked on a new mission, taking over the management of GIHE (Glion Institute of Higher Education) last March. Speaking to the Journal des Palaces, Frédéric Picard talks about his ambitions for this prestigious school and takes a sharp look at the current needs of the luxury hotel industry.

The Frenchman's career has taken him all over the world, working for major brands and hotel groups, with an unwavering commitment to excellence. Russia, then Texas within the Accor group, before returning to Paris to quickly take up the position of Deputy General Manager of the Brasserie de la Coupole. He then joined Le Méridien Étoile before moving on to Le Méridien Bangkok, and taking on new positions of responsibility, from the InterContinental Paris to the Jumeirah in Dubai. He moved on to open new hotels, such as the Kerzner group's Mazagan Beach Resort in Morocco.

His choice of luxury hotels was clear, and he went on to work for the Oetker group. He opened the Palais Namaskar in Morocco, before taking on the role of General Manager in France of the Château Saint-Martin in Vence and L’Apogée in Courchevel. His expertise then came to the Michel Reybier Group, where he managed the opening of La Réserve Paris, for which he was awarded the Palace distinction in just 18 months. After these experiences, he co-founded the Maisons Pariente group and devoted himself to consulting activities. In March 2023, he turned a corner by assuming the reins of a school of excellence, Glion Institute of Higher Education.

Glion, an outstanding institution

We meet Frédéric Picard in the intimate setting of La Réserve Paris, the palace he opened himself. When asked if he hesitated before accepting this new challenge, he replies without batting an eyelid, “It took me three seconds”. Three seconds to say yes to this school, with its 16,000 alumni and 60-year history, and ranks among the top 5 hotel schools in the world, a school with an international reputation. An institute that also relies on “three pillars in my career decisions”, adds Frédéric Picard: projects, development and an environment of excellence.

“Glion is an institution, which is more difficult to duplicate,” he points out. This is why the only Glion campuses are those in Switzerland and London. It is the virtues of Swiss education and security that attract students and their parents, and expanding the number of international campuses is not on the agenda.

The other side of the mirror

The man who has always paid particular attention to trainees and students, whom he already saw as “the hoteliers of tomorrow”, is now turning to the other side of the mirror, to train and support these students. From now on, his “mission is to ensure that the institution's legacy lives on”, by looking at new programmes and providing support for the industry.

“My role is also to create new links with the world of hospitality managers. It's easier for me to call leading figures directly (editor's note: from the luxury hospitality industry) to invite them to take part in a panel discussion,” he continues. Field trips are already becoming more fruitful, as shown by the latest trip to Paris by a group of students, who were able to visit businesses and hotels that had never before opened their doors. This is an illustration of Frédéric Picard's positive influence on the school, less than a year after his arrival.

Exceptional employability

“A student graduating from Glion has between five and six job offers, with a salary delta of over 15% of the market”, explains Frédéric Picard. This employability is not limited to the hotel industry, since young people are coveted by the luxury industry as a whole. “After four or five years, young hoteliers are approached by the world of luxury: retail, private aviation, yachting, etc.

There is an appetite for hoteliers because they are flexible, agile, know the codes and know how to engage easily with customers in the world of luxury,” he points out. With this in mind, this year the school launched a Bachelor's degree in luxury business, aimed exclusively at students wishing to enter the world of luxury.

Agile programmes

Bachelor luxury business and Bachelor hospitality business are now the two entry points for the first semester at Glion. “This enables us to meet the demands of the industry, which is constantly on the lookout for talent,” he says. The range of courses on offer is evolving, but remains rooted in the core business of the Glion Institute of Higher Education: hospitality.

While the Bachelor's and Master's courses in international hospitality management are still offered, the school has opened up its programmes to finance, event management and luxury management. The master's in entrepreneurship is also proving highly successful, driven by students' growing entrepreneurial ambitions.

A management culture

Frédéric Picard stresses the importance of the practical arts taught in the first semester of the Bachelor's programme, a way of instilling humility and respect in young people for their “most precious asset, their employees of tomorrow”. The director gives his students practical advice: “To be a good manager, take the time to learn, to be curious and to understand”. Multiculturalism, with 98 nationalities represented on Glion campuses, contributes to this openness and understanding.

The school is also stepping up its focus on training for leaders. Glion has formed a partnership with ESSEC Business School to offer a flexible one-year programme for managers, the Global Executive Master in Hospitality Leadership. The first intake is taking place this month, with 15 students enrolled, for whom the course will be a “career boost”, says the director.

Professionals who adapt to attract students

“When students join Glion, they already have an idea of the world they want to work in, why they want to work in it and what their objectives are,” explains Frédéric Picard. “To attract students, hoteliers need to offer career plans and a real vision of the company. For him, this is a way of making employees want to stay and develop. “Today, our hotel partners are aware that good recruitment will have a positive impact”. Hotels therefore need to adapt and adopt “a certain flexibility in the workplace”.

Flexibility is possible in the back office, sales departments, human resources, etc., notably through remote working. Flexibility that is trickier to apply in the field. This challenge was confirmed by Jérôme Blanctel, head of restaurants at La Réserve Paris, who came to greet Frédéric Picard during our interview. Closing the two-star Le Gabriel restaurant at weekends, putting an end to shift hours, reducing the number of covers per service and cutting staff numbers are all concessions. These concessions are made to build team loyalty and, ultimately, enhance the quality of the experience.

A solid network of alumni

Glion has 16,000 alumni around the world. This network plays a crucial role in the careers of Glion students. “We encourage them to activate the alumni network as soon as they arrive in a new country. A student arriving in a new country can contact the president of the local alumni, and within 15 days, he or she will know 15 to 20 people, providing a network of contacts all over the world.

These contacts include prestigious figures from the business world. Among them, “Anthony Torkington, who runs Relais & Châteaux, Alexis de La Palme, Chairman of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage, and Christopher Jones, Chairman of Sushi Shop, are all alumni of Glion, references in the hospitality world who have had an incredible career”.

The vision of an experienced hotelier

If Frédéric Picard's mission seems to be all mapped out, he will now be keen to represent the school and to share his experience with young people, as he did recently at a round table dedicated to the best failures, where he was able to share some of his own mistakes, such as “the mistake of believing that you can do it on your own” or “not taking part with your team”.

These tips will help Glion's students, led by a new, seasoned captain, to succeed. Success that he believes is possible by following a few basic rules, such as “having a clear objective, being resilient and being very humble in your approach”, he concludes.

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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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