We interviewed Carlos Sabaté, regional director for southern Europe at Kuoni Destination Management, alumnus and member of the Advisory Board of the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi (URL). This is one in a series of interviews featuring the members of the Advisory Board that we started with Xavi Martín, co-founder and general director of Turijobs.
What added value does the Advisory Board provide to the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management Sant Ignasi?
Our added value is our many years of experience working in the tourism sector in different positions and from different points of view. In addition, it’s our ability to transmit the current needs of the labour market in our sector and our point of view after years working on management positions at companies with plenty of prestige.
You have plenty of experience in events management and the MICE sector in general. Why do you think university training is important in events management, with programs like HTSI’s Events Management and Protocol specialization for the Bachelor’s Degree or the Master’s Degree in Events Management?
Our professional careers are marathons that last for years. Our time at university is our “training”; it allows us to take on this challenge with a good chance at success. The more training and we get and the more values we’re transmitted, the better prepared we are for this long marathon, which includes highs as well as lows.
In what areas do you think university training in business tourism and events management still needs to grow?
University programs need to be extremely practical, very much in line with what leading companies are looking for when hiring new talent. In other words, they need to be adapted to the needs and the current reality of the sector. Today’s world of events is very different from 25 years ago, when I studied tourism at HTSI. Today there are some very basic concepts that didn’t even exist in my day, such as creativity, message or ROI.
What specific skills do you think an organizer of events needs?
Events professionals need to be able to work under pressure, they need to be organized, to know how to sell the services they offer, and always prepared for the unexpected. In the events industry, the unexpected becomes routine.
Much of your professional career has been focused on “Sales and Marketing”. What advice would you give students that want to focus on this area?
They should do like I did: working in sales helped me get to know customers’ needs and to learn from them. I also think that being a salesperson is something really vocational; it’s not as glamorous as some people think. Travelling to fairs and to other countries to see customers has something attractive about it, but you also have to be prepared for most people not wanting to work with your company, or preferring the competition. In that sense, it can be tough.
Another piece of advice would be for students to really immerse themselves in whatever they’re selling. If you work at a hotel, go to see the banquets, the kitchens, and all the departments and staff that come into contact with the groups and events at that hotel. Immerse yourself in the other teams, ask questions, learn, help others— that way, you’ll learn about what you have to sell. Selling isn’t about talking; it’s about knowing how to listen to customers’ needs.
What potential does Barcelona have as a destination for events?
A few years ago, I would’ve said it was unlimited, but that’s not true anymore. We need to take care of our city’s image, which has really been damaged lately. Barcelona’s brand is really strong, but it can only take so much; customers want security and certain amenities. We have the infrastructure, the communications, the hotels, the venues and so on, but we need to better manage our city’s general image.
Can you tell us about an event/meeting/incentive trip/etc. that you find innovative and creative, organized by Kuoni Destination Management?
Not long ago, we organized the launch of a new car with a ship that stopped at ports in three different countries. Each night, a celebration was organized onboard with hundreds of individuals, artists and guests, all involving a great deal of preparation. I don’t know how innovative it was, but it was a big challenge.
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