The most astounding part of the €3,850-a-night suite we are standing in at The Peninsula Paris isn’t its private rooftop garden overlooking the Eiffel Tower, or that all the rooms—and there are many—are so utterly luxurious that the French Ministry of Tourism has granted the hotel its highest “Palace” ranking. It’s that visible through a bedroom window is a full-size replica of L’Oiseau Blanc, the French plane that famously disappeared during the first attempted non-stop transatlantic flight.
The 12 of us from the HEC Paris MBA spend a few minutes discovering the one-of-a-kind features of this suite, then move to the next treat: a private audience with Sophie Gachet, the hotel’s director of marketing. After explaining her background, which includes 15 years at LVMH, Sophie opens the floor to questions. The MBA students ask her everything from how the sales team define their KPIs to whether it’s best to start in the hospitality industry through an internship or by applying directly to a full-time job. It’s an in-depth learning experience, designed specifically for our MBA students.
The student organizer of The Peninsula Paris visit, Guillaume Bo-Kim, MBA ’19, explains.“Luxury is so much more than fashion and cosmetics,” he says. “I wanted to expand into other realms, to really understand what the business dynamics are in hospitality, and the opportunities that are out there for my fellow MBAs.”
As unique as this tour is, it’s just one of many off-campus visits organized throughout the year by the HEC Paris MBA’s Luxury Club. Since September, members have toured the eyewear manufacturer Luxottica (in conjunction with the MBA PE/VC Club), gone behind-the-scenes at Christie’s Auction House and trekked to Milan for the MBA Retail and Luxury Fair.
Based on Sophie’s answers, there are plenty of opportunities for MBAs seeking to move into the hospitality sector, even ones who have never before worked in the field. “My background in retail isn’t at all typical,” she says. “Most people enter hospitality and stay forever. There’s a big sense of community between teams, from the person who paints the rooms to the managing directors. We’re all here for the same reason: our guests.”
As our tour continues, we gain a firsthand understanding of what creates The Peninsula’s serene, refined feel. Now guided by the assistant director of human resources, we visit the hotel’s most impressive rooms. The trip winds through the rooftop dining area—again with an unforgettable view of the Eiffel Tower—and spa, and finally ends in the lobby, where an 800-piece Lasvit crystal installation, called “dancing leaves,” beckons us back to the streets near the Champs–Élysées.