My name is Gabriele Ihrybauer-Elder and I attended the Swiss Hotel School from 2001 to 2002.
Being bilingual and proficient in 2 additional languages, a career in hospitality was an exciting option for me, as I most definitely did not want to be stuck behind a desk for the rest of my working life.
Having made this decision, the Swiss Hotel School was an obvious choice for me – and I have never looked back since.
During my tuition, the Swiss Hotel School offered a great balance between practical and theoretical training, as well as exposure to all aspects of the hospitality industry. This included being afforded the opportunity of working in actual hotel and restaurant environments and getting to know the true ins and outs of these places. Not always a glamorous environment, but all the more rewarding!
Towards the end of my time at the Swiss Hotel School, I was one of the chosen candidates to complete my final 4-month practical in one of the top hotels in the beautiful city of Zurich. This was a huge learning curve in every sense of the word and taught me that some resilience was necessary to make it in hospitality and all the strong personalities it has attracted in its employ.
Once I had graduated from the Swiss Hotel School, I initially joined an Austrian Restaurant as a waitress, however, I felt that my heart was set on joining a hotel. A few months later, I was offered the opportunity of joining the Front Office Team at the Balalaika Hotel in Sandton. Young, naïve, and a “newbie” in the corporate hotel world, I started out as a receptionist and worked myself up to Front Office Manager over the next 6 years. These were the most formative years of my career and I found my true passion as I grew into the various roles of managing teams of various sizes. The lessons learned at the Swiss Hotel School stood me in good stead during this time, including the knowledge of hotel management and dealing with many different types of guests.
In 2009 I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of successfully applying to be part of the opening team of the prestigious Oyster Box Hotel in Durban, KwaZulu Natal as Front Office Manager. Giving myself 1 year to gain as much experience as possible in such a unique environment and build up to a well-established and well-known institution, I eventually only left the team 4 years later. Having gained invaluable experience and growth both personally and professionally, I was nevertheless excited to return home to Johannesburg and start a new chapter in my career with the Tsogo Sun group.
I took on the role of Assistant General Manager at one of their smaller properties in Sandton and was happy to be back in the corporate environment. My most recent move was to the Legacy Hotels and Resorts group after being approached by a recruitment agent and getting excited about the new possibilities after interviewing with a very dynamic General Manager. In my 2 years with Legacy, I have once again been exposed to a different side of hospitality (long-term rentals) as well as being afforded the opportunity of getting involved in the Food & Beverage department after being very much involved in Rooms only for the past 16 years.
I love what I do and am now at a point where I also appreciate seeing the potential of the next generation of hospitality students coming through to hotels for their practicals. Looking at these young, somewhat nervous adults, it is a reminder of where we all started out and I cannot help but smile – recognizing myself in many of them.
While time has moved on, the unique passion for hospitality that was first sparked at the Swiss Hotel School remains and will continue to be passed down from generation to generation.