Rodolphe, there are more and more women travelling (business and tourism): how do hotels adapt with services to support women’s specific needs (safety, hotel-taxi, hairdresser, babysitting etc.)?
Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh
Secretary General at the Brussels Hotels Association (BHA)
Feeling safe in a town is a choice factor for many tourists and therefore through our association – the Brussels Hotels Association (BHA) – although we do not run gender specific services or campaigns, certainly we are concerned for the safety of female customers, especially those traveling alone.
Regarding safety and taxis, for example, our association’s requirements are very sharp and our associated hotels inform their customers about taxi tariffs, tourist rights and security precautions.
Our main effort is to continue developing the quality of all services for all types of clients visiting Brussels and to promote our values:
• Quality of service
What I have noticed based on my own experience as hotel director is that some of the requirements considered “female” have become unisex needs, for example the hairdresser service or a good hairdryer or reserved areas for meals for customers on their own.
What effort is the Brussels Hotels Association (BHA) making to promote more woman-friendly hotels?
This is a very good question. As an Employers Federation, we are not directly involved in the positioning and marketing of hotels.
Nevertheless, the subject is currently under discussion with “VISITBRUSSELS” (1), through the Brussels Quality Academy. We are working on specific approaches and training in this way.
Personally I believe that some training on how to welcome the increasing number of female customers would be very beneficial for any hotel; for example, I can recall how useful it was to receive the specific training that has been delivered for other customer segments such as the impaired/disabled people or the gay customers.
Please tell us what are the mission and the main activities of the BHA?
The Brussels Hotels Association (BHA) is the hotel industry’s professional organisation, including around 130 members, representing about 90% of the hotels in the Brussels area.
BHA brings together, informs and supports the interests of the hoteliers in different ways:
- Promotion - We contribute to create the conditions for the success of our members, share the best practices across the association, and promote the development and growth of the Hospitality and Tourism industry in the Brussels region and its periphery.
- Support - We offer to our members various seminars, trainings, workshops and activities as well as many flyers, posters and other advertising media.
- Scope - We are currently active in several domains related to hospitality: Social impact, Economics, Security, Mobility, Sales and Marketing, Charity, Communication, Environment, Hotel Jobs and we are involved in various studies and reports.
Our website provides our members with a wealth of information related to our industry, and a summary of our activities.
In the hotel industry how open is the way to the top positions and the Executive Board for women?
- Recruitment - In addition, in our website we have an online recruitment platform (BHA CAREERS) dedicated to jobs in hotels in Brussels, on which our members can freely post their job vacancies and consult an updated list of CV's of people looking for a job in the area.
- Hotelery Professions - We have also started to create awareness amongst our members about the need to make some hotel professions more gender-neutral, meaning that each job position shouldn’t be classified as a job for men or for women (ex. the maids for the rooms). Additionally we promote gender equality in recruitment.
- Social Media - Furthermore, we are active on social media and networks, including LinkedIn (group of over 1000 professionals from the hospitality industry), Facebook and Twitter.
Brussels currently counts women holding GM positions, but we have not yet achieved an equal proportion, I believe there are around 25% of women GM.
Regarding ourselves, in the Board of Directors of the BHA there are two ladies (who hold the General Manager functions in hotels) and 14 men. Our board has not yet reached gender parity, but we are working towards it...
Women also hold Heads of Department positions (including HR, Sales, Finance and Operational functions). These occupations are undoubtedly compelling and engaging functions, in which many women thrive. These functions are reconcilable with private and family life.
What are the new trends in the hotel industry? Are there different trends in different countries?
We cannot really talk about new trends in the hotel industry, but rather of a global evolution of hotel products and services according to new customer needs, mainly generations x and y.
However, customers look also for finding the culture and the uniqueness of the country in the hotel services. These factors are also taken into account in the new hotel projects.
The "green" trend, especially, has been growing these last few years through new labels (such as the international Green Key eco-label or the Brussels Waste Network initiative that the BHA supports in Brussels), and this trend corresponds to customers new consumption habits.
A specific trend I would like to mention is that Brussels has gained more and more appeal, now it is included amongst the 10 destinations to visit in the Lonely Planet Guide of 2014 (2): this represents a great incentive for the hotels of Brussels.
What would you recommend to a young woman (or young people) wanting to embrace a career in the hotel industry?
First of all it seems an excellent choice to focus on the hospitality industry as the sector is forecast continue developing, particularly in Europe and in Belgium.
As per my experience in the hotel industry I can state that being a director or the general manger is a very exciting profession, the price to pay for this is “availability” in terms of time, but it does not differ much from the availability time requested in many other companies.
Beyond the clichés there is a variety of traditional and specific occupations in a sector that has become very professional and international. It is an industry where everyone, women as well as men, can climb steps and progress potentially to a very high level. As mentioned above, see all the women that have reached the highest level in Brussels and the trend is that more women are becoming managers.
What inspired you to enter this profession?
The human aspect, the concept of service and passion for diversity undoubtedly inspired me. It is a people’s job, which is a real challenge for the profession.
Also, hotels all are microcosms, open 24/7, teeming with activity and people, which has always fascinated me.
You have been the general manager of the Metropole, a legendary hotel in town. What are your professional (or on a broader level) dreams that have not yet come true?
My current position at the BHA allows me to combine my law and hospitality studies, which I think is a great chance. There are also many challenges that still await me here and I look forward to addressing them.
As a hotelier, I perhaps would like, at a later stage of my life, to launch a specific product from A to Z, that would be on a human scale and that would allow me to take the time to know each of my guests.
Last but not least I would like one day to have my own hotel, offering very high standard services created by myself.
You have lived and worked in other countries - do you find that standards of service vary in different countries?
Service standards are quite similar across Europe. These obviously depend on the target audience and its expectations and on the culture of service in each country, but also on labour costs. The quality of service in Brussels could even be improved, in my opinion, if labour costs were lower.
Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh has been the Secretary General of the Brussels Hotels Association (BHA) since 2010.
BHA’s members represent 12,500 jobs and 15,000 hotel rooms in the Brussels-Capital Region and its economic hinterland.
Born in Brussels, Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh studied and attained his Master’s degree in Law. Carried by his passion for the hospitality industry, he then attended the very prestigious Hotel school of Lausanne, in Switzerland, where he gained a Master’s degree in hotel and business management.
In 2003 Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh began his career at the Radisson SAS Montfleury Hotel in Cannes in the post of Chief Steward, later progressing to the post of Sales Manager. After 7 months in this position, Van Weyenbergh was appointed Sales manager at the Radisson SAS at Nice where he stayed until August 2004.
In September 2004, ready for a fresh challenge, Van Weyenbergh returned to his home city to take up the post of Food and Beverage Manager at the Metropole Hotel Brussels. After 2 successful years, he was promoted to the post of Director of operations. Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh has had a natural progression within the management team of the ‘Great Lady’ of Brussels hotels; resulting in 2007 in his appointment to the top post of General Manager. The board of directors of the SA Hotel Metropole chose Van Weyenbergh for his professionalism, experience, youthful energy and dynamism. Van Weyenbergh reinforced the hotel’s policies of tradition, luxury and quality.
Rodolphe Van Weyenbergh
Secretary General at the Brussels Hotels Association (BHA)
Tel +32 (0)2 648 50 02 | | Fax +32 (0)2 640 93 28
Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of BHA, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.