Life after Les Roches – Passion and expertise takes alumnus to the top

16 Sep 2019 | by Les Roches


Name: Álvaro Rey
Nationality: Colombian
Current position: Area General Manager London & Franchise Hotels Europe at InterContinental Hotels Group

Many of us in the hospitality business have turned a dream into reality and a passion into a career. Far from a 9-5 job, it’s a global journey where anything’s possible, if you put in the work. For Les Roches Alumnus, Álvaro Rey, he still remembers the exact moment he fell in love with the world of hospitality.

The saying goes: ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and for Álvaro his passion for hospitality began with a simple question. “I was 14 years old and we went to this hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. I told my father, could you ask the General Manager if he can show me the heart of the house and he gave us the most fantastic tour of the hotel”, he said.


The magic behind the scenes

Fast-forward over 30 years and exclusive access to leading hotels is a key part of the real-world exposure Les Roches students gain as part of their program. “For me, that was like a little city and the General Manager was the Mayor of the little city, that’s the moment that I said ‘I want to do that’”, Álvaro commented.


Meeting guest and owner expectations

As Area General Manager London & Franchise Hotels Europe at InterContinental Hotels Group, Álvaro’s current challenge is ensuring his hotels are delivering the maximized experiential offering. “The hotel business has become more and more important, because we all try to do everything”, he said.

“We try to take advantage of the trip, to work, but at the same time discovering the city and the gastronomical part. Before the last 20 years, restaurants in hotels were not very common. Right now, it’s a need, it’s part of it.”


The importance of taking a risk

Like all successful professionals, Alvaro is only to aware of the importance of stepping outside his comfort zone in order to grow. “In life, you have to take risks. And I love taking risks”, he commented.

“Initially people told me, ‘Álvaro, in One Park Lane you are going to put a Mexican restaurant?’ And I said ‘Yes’. And we started and then we created the name and then we created the story, and Ella Canta came to life.”

“We adapted ourselves to not being a normal hotel restaurant, where the waiters and the barmen could dance if they want to. And the way we wanted to position the hotel was to position ourselves in different markets; to compete with every single important hotel in the city.”

This is the hospitality business. I like people, I enjoy people.

Alvaro revels in the challenge of understanding ever-changing guest needs and meeting them as part of a team. “It’s very different and interesting to analyze and to see what people like. You have to be updated – we have to listen to people”, he said.

“We should look at the work like fun, it’s a big part of our life and if we don’t enjoy it, if we don’t have fun in our work, it’s a disaster. The hospitality business requires perhaps a little bit more commitment to time. You have to remember that a hotel never closes. But this is the hospitality business. I like people, I enjoy people.”

You can travel around the world without leaving Les Roches

The friends, the studies and the opportunity to grow – Álvaro believes his time at Les Roches prepared him well for a successful career in hospitality. “I learned a lot and actually I could apply a lot of the things that I learned from the school. We were only three Latin Americans at Les Roches and we were the first Latin Americans in the school.”

“We had all different types of classes, we had all different languages, we had math, we had architecture, we had languages, we had history. I remember we had 15 or 16 different subjects. It was a great combination of studying very hard – because we did study very hard – but at the same time we had time for ourselves.”

Les Roches gives you that chance to really grow; to really learn, to really explore.  You can travel around the world without leaving Les Roches.”

Thank you to Álvaro for taking the time to share his journey in hospitality, from a young boy through Les Roches, to a leadership career. We wish him continued success and are proud to have him as an alumnus. Want to read more alumni success stories?

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