Interview with Jolijn Zeeuwen, General Manager Hilton Schiphol

15 February, 2016
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The new Hilton Schiphol officially opened last week, on Tuesday 9 February. The new building replaces the previous Hilton Schiphol Hotel, which was opened in 1972. Attending the opening were around 800 guests, tours were given around the building, and speeches were given by Maarten de Groof (Schiphol’s COO), Simon Vincent (President EMEA for Hilton Worldwide), and our Alumna, Hilton Schiphol’s General Manager: Jolijn Zeeuwen. To celebrate the opening of Hilton Schiphol, we would like to share the following interview with Jolijn Zeeuwen, which was taken from the last HTH Alumni Magazine, leading up to the official opening of last week.

`My Hilton career started in 2000 when I joined the Hilton Amsterdam HR department as a management trainee. During this traineeship I learned so much, and really enjoyed being part of the Hilton team. After the 5 months internship, I graduated and was offered the job of HR Agent at Hilton Amsterdam.

1.5 years later, I was given the opportunity to transfer to Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to become HR Manager, a role which I worked in for 2 years with great pleasure. In HR you have a supporting and advisory role, so in order to develop my commercial and operational knowledge, I moved to the FD department. In the following 5 years, I fulfilled several positions and in 2010 I was promoted to Hotel Manager. As Hotel Manager I worked at Hilton Schiphol and The Hague, back and forth, because of a pregnancy leave and in the end I went to The Hague and worked there for 4 years. Then they asked me to relocate to Schiphol for the opening of the new Hilton Schiphol.

It’s great to be back! It’s fun to see that many staff are still part of the team; we have such a strong and experienced team. Together we bring a total of almost 1,500 service years with us to the new hotel, which is quite unique for an opening of a hotel. We are not a typical airport hotel; we are a hotel located at an airport. We give our guests a complete experience, instead of guests only visiting us for a functional reason. And, we are going to focus more on the meeting segment, we are going to be a MICE hotel (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions). We want to become the leading MICE hotel in Europe: that is our aim for the near future.

When I studied at Hotelschool The Hague a new curriculum had just been introduced, so what I learned at Hotelschool The Hague was to adjust to new situations and to change constantly, to explore new ways of learning. I learned how to communicate, how to present myself and how to interact with people.

What makes a great manager? It’s important to work together with your team, after all, everyone is replaceable, including me. Therefore I think it is important to train, coach and guide the team the best way possible, to get the most out of each individual so each department can deliver the highest service and quality to the guests. I particularly learned this when at the HR department. Getting the most and best out of the team positively influences the results of the hotel and creates a great team spirit.

Of course I am very proud that I am able to work in this position, opening the new Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Hotel as General Manager, but I had the same feeling when I moved to The Hague, or when I became Director of Operations, or when I started in HR. I just feel very privileged that I could always take the next step at the right time in my career with Hilton. I would never say, “look at what I have achieved”, because that would be ridiculous, you always do it together with your team. Winning is a team effort, you never win on your own. 

The funny thing is, that I constantly change my career plans along the way. I planned to continue to study after graduating, but then I realised I enjoyed putting the theory into practice. I thought that I would build my career in HR, but then I wanted to further develop my competencies, so I moved in another direction - changing my plans yet again. That’s why I don’t have a calculated plan of where I want to be in 10 years. So far I have been lucky that I was in the right place at the right time, ready for the next great step in my career. I adapt very quickly, I don’t see obstacles, just challenges.´

About the author

Hotelschool The Hague

Hotelschool The Hague was founded and funded in 1929 by the hospitality industry to create a central place where industry partners could gain and share new insight, skills and knowledge. Since its foundation, the Hotelschool has become an international school specialised in hospitality management offering a 4-year Bachelor's degree in Hotel and Hospitality Management. This degree course is also available as the accelerated International Fast Track programme. Our 13 month Master Hospitality Management programme is designed to deliver the next generation of hospitality innovators.

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