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Life at Hotelschool Maastricht 38 years ago! | 17 oktober 2017

Student Fleur Donker interviewed alumnus Harpert van Seggelen (F-1979) also General Manager of our Teaching Hotel Château Bethlehem. Read all about his experience at Hotel Management School Maastricht 38 years ago!

Can you tell us something about yourself?

I am 64 years old, the youngest son of a family of 11 children (8 boys and 3 girls). Born in Nijmegen I was not too sure what career/study path to choose. My parents had me take a test and what turned out… I should become a dental technician! Armed with this advice I decided to go to the hotel school. First a year in the hotel school of Oostende (Belgium) were I was taught what discipline is. After one year I enrolled in the Hotel Management School Maastricht were I was taught what partying and beer drinking is. Both experiences made me (a bit more) mature.

I am in a relationship and I have two sons from a previous marriage. In my spare time I thoroughly enjoy cycling, walking, the great outdoors but also cultural experiences. Listening to classic rock music like The Who, Stones, Santana, Jethro Tull, Joe Cocker and so on makes me feel good.

Shortly after my graduation from Hotelschool Maastricht I emigrated to South(ern) Africa where I lived and worked for 23 years in the (resort)hotel industry.  First in junior F&B positions but later I went through the ranks to F&B Controller, ‘buyer’, RDM manager, assistant GM and finally GM of, altogether three different hotels. When my two sons went to university in Amsterdam in 2005 we decided to return to the Netherlands. Before joining Hotel Management School Maastricht again in 2007 I worked for a few years as manager of a Wellness hotel in Zeist. I enjoy living in Maastricht and am happy to be able to look every morning over the Maas and towards St. Pieter.

Back in the days you were also a student of the Hotel Management School Maastricht, could you describe how it was in this time?

Although the number of students were in total around 350, the atmosphere then and now are very similar. When I started it was the first year that girls were allowed to enrol. The ratio boys – girls was rather different in those days and….. girls stayed in separate quarters. So getting a girlfriend in those years was much more of an adventure I guess. The campus consisted only of the Maas, the Kanjel and the chateau.

Whether I was a member of Amphitryon? Try to get an answer on that yourself. The societeit and the bar was in those days in the chateau and I recall that as one of the better bars in town (a beer costed me 0.50 Guilder) and a draught came out of a 30 litre old style steel beer barrel. That alone is already nostalgic! Going out to town, places like the “Feestfabriek” did not exist yet. ‘Tribunal’ and the ‘the Struys’ were very popular with hotel school students then. What is very different then and now is that the students hardly ever went home in the week-ends. The atmosphere during the weekends, as a result, was generally phenomenal!


Did you already know during your time at the Hotel Management School that you would like to become a general manager?

Yes, I was rather ambitious and, initially unbeknown to me, I quite enjoyed being in charge of things.

For the students of the Hotel Management School Maastricht your are known as the big boss of the Teaching Hotel Château Bethlehem, do you have the feeling that you are easily connecting with the students or that there is some power distance?

I think the students should answer that question, but yes I really enjoy interacting with students and I believe students feel comfortable interacting with me (I sincerely hope so!). Having said that I do not always appreciate it when students get too quickly too familiar with me.

If you take a look at the past 5 years which characteristics of students have changed? And do you have a explanation why this happened?

Oops, difficult question. Students change as the surrounding changes. And that is pretty fast lately. But bottom line is that I found the ‘future’ is young eager, intelligent, creative, inquisitive and full of dreams. And there is doubt in my mind that you will be able to handle the future challenges in your own original way. People adapt easily to new things.

You are very busy with the Teaching Hotel Château Bethlehem, do you have also time to explore the international hotel world?

We try to attend hospitality related conventions sometimes (World Travel market in London for instance). When the opportunity arises we visit/stay in interesting hotel concepts. Until a few years ago I was lucky to be a trainee coach for the students who did their internship in South Africa. This way I had ample opportunity to visit all sorts of interesting hospitality concepts there.

Could you lead us through a day of a General Manager of our Teaching Hotel Château Bethlehem?

The Teaching Hotel is rather different than an normal hotel in the sense that it is linked to education. As a result quite a bit of my time is related to that. But aspects that keep me occupied are: Financial matters, Business planning and forecasting, HR issues, All sorts of meetings, Marketing issues, Appointments with a variety of (business) contacts, guest relations, e-mails, policy matters and until recent student lectures.



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