Intelligence and heart together are the drive to success
By Alessandra Zocca
I strongly believe in tourism, because it is a real primary paramount asset beyond the holidays and travels of the single individuals.
Can you tell us how your involvement in hotels started?
President of the Rimini Hotel Association and Vice-President of Rimini Chamber of Commerce
I got involved in the hotel sector through my husband; who owned a hotel (only as an investment); before renting it out again – he had the idea to ask me whether I was interested in managing it. I was about 24 years old and had no experience in hotels but I decide to make the leap.
Then I understood I wanted to go further, beyond my hotel management competencies background to learn the leadership mechanisms and enter in the “button room (control room)”. So I gained a master in tourism management and I created a group of young hotel owners/managers in order to exchange expertise and grow together.
When I was thirty and expecting my son I understood it was time for me to enter in the official hotel network and so in 1991 I joined the Hotel Association of Rimini Coast (please see the map below for the location). I wanted to learn more and more, I was eager to explore the underneath mechanisms and to build my relationship net. I wanted to change the things. This led me to become for nine years Vice-President of the Rimini Hotel Association.
Patrizia, you have been President (and re-elected, congratulations!) of the Rimini (1) Coast Hotel Association (2) for several years. Is this a full-time role?
| Rimini (Emilia Romagna)
What is the key to your success? What are your winning qualities and strengths?
Alessandra, I guarantee this is for me a “full-time” job.
I have implemented a lot of changes and re-organisations during my presidency and I believe that the elements of my success can definitely include these main factors:
- Believing that things can get changed
- Quick response to issues
- An open minded aptitude
- Willingness to learn continuously
- Self-assurance in my capability to provide positive contribution to the Association
What type of contribution can a woman in a presidential position bring that is different or better than a man?
Actually I do not think it’s a matter of differences between men and women, nor a matter of competition. What I believe makes the difference is the intelligence of the person in the position. This is why instinctively I am not in favour of women quotas in boards, gender is not the point.
I make an example: when I was around 25 years old I attended classes for female entrepreneurs in tourism where I could clearly understand that it has no sense discoursing on female or male entrepreneurship, it is simply a matter of being an entrepreneur or not being! Yes, I kept taking the opportunity to attend the existing business classes for women, but always believing that business competencies are not related to gender. I though acknowledge that women and men have differences in the way they feel (for ex. women tend to not forget a quarrel, while men after a dispute go together for a beer …).
Now, after a long career in tourism and in the Chamber of Commerce, I look back and I realise that I have been the first woman appointed as Vice-President in a board historically composed only by men. Additionally I am the first woman appointed as President in this hotel association, one of the biggest ones in Italy. I am on my third mandate now and I intend to candidate for a fourth one …
Even though I achieved all this, I must confess that in order to break the glass ceiling I had to demonstrate to be the most competent, the most prepared and the most capable. I needed to pay attention to my appearance (how I was dressed) and to watch my behaviour. And you know what Alessandra? My greatest humiliation was that – despite my success - the President used to greet all my colleagues formally, while he used to give me a little kiss or flick …as you do to a little girl. Now I laugh at it, but at the time I felt not treated like my male colleagues and this was not helping me to strength my credibility.
Another gender discriminating factor I had to face was the habit of men to make remarks about my “character”, this happens only to women, it’s a major stereotype; for example my President used to suggest me to be “nicer, sweeter”, have you ever heard this suggestion to a man? No, there is no stereotype that a man in a board should be “nice or sweet”.
Finally, what I noticed career-wide is that women tend to renounce to their opportunities in favour of a greater good, they are too generous towards men, they renounce too much in my opinion. They should have the courage to dare. Women are sometimes their own worst enemy.
Was work-life balance an issue for you?
Work-life balance has never been an issue for me as far as it is a matter of organisation, I plan the day or days forward first thing in the morning.
What would be the three main recommendations you would give a young woman who would like to pursue a career like yours?
Sure, I am happy if I can be of help with my advices! Actually I have more than three suggestions:
- Never be afraid of taking risks
- Take charge of responsibilities
- Be courageous (courage makes people free)
- Learn to make choices and to make timely decisions
- Define clear priorities
- There are no gender limitations, only skill and quality limits due to the single individual
- Be humble and recognize your own limits, but try to overcome them
- Be conscious of your talents and of the things you like doing.
How do you envisage the future of tourism and hotels worldwide and in Europe in the next ten/twenty years? Which are the main trends and development streams? What do you wish to see?
| Rimini (Emilia Romagna)
I believe that tourism has opened the world, the barriers to the emerging countries. The world looks at Europe for tourism, I mean that the emerging countries are the great potential but Europe has the history.
Going back to you, I read that football is one of your passions, am I correct? What are your major interests?
I was the first female referee in my region, Emilia Romagna. Actually football is not one of my interests, I detest it … It was a challenge for me (18 years old), when the football school was finally opened to women. I told to myself “if men can do it, then I can also learn and become a referee”.
Unfortunately my worst enemies on the playground were the players (children)’s mothers, who used to attack me verbally and shouted to me to go away and make “tagliatelle” … they could not accept a woman in that role, maybe envy?
My true interests include reading, travelling, theatre, of course depending on my free time.
Patrizia, what are your professional or personal dreams that have not yet come true?
My dream is to get more and more involved in social roles, I would love to be engaged as a town mayor, as per the Latin proverb “it’s better to be first in Gaul than second in Rome
What legacy would you like to leave in the tourism sector and as an individual?
I dream to make all barriers collapse between associations in tourism and economics in order to focus on the economic growth and prosperity for everybody. I want to create a development framework that brings together all the economic potentials of the territory, including hotels and tourism of course.
Humanitarian mission in Cambodia
“Una goccia per il mondo”
As an individual I would like to be remembered in the future for my personal contributions in the humanitarian sector (4), for what I have done for the others, for my human inner qualities.
It’s time to give the correct weight and value to human life and to what matters in life and in the world.
(2) Associazione Albergatori di Rimini
(3) Una Goccia per il Mondo (A drop for the world)
Patrizia Rinaldis was elected as President of the Rimini Hotel Association (AIA) in 2006. Previously – since 1994 - she was a member of the same board and CEO of AIA Services.
She is also Vice-President of Rimini Chamber of Commerce, Board Member (at regional and national level) of the UERA Federalberghi (hotel federation) and guest professor at the University of Rimini.
Patrizia started her career in the hotel industry in 1987, she was then a teacher at the Hotel School of Rimini and in 1992 she founded the association of Young Hotel Owners/GM (named “Turisminsieme”).
At 18 years-old Patrizia took the challenge to become the first woman football referee in her region.
After the high-school she gained a degree in management and tourism marketing.
Born in Milan in 1961, married and mother of a son, Patrizia lives and works in Rimini.
Presidenza e Direzione Associazione Albergatori Rimini (AIA)
Via Ruggero Baldini, 14 - 47921 Rimini
Tel. 0541 58216 - Fax 0541 58229
Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of AIA, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.