From learning the hospitality ropes in Monaco to launching her own business, Lara Fossat, sales consultant, can tick off a range of roles, all in luxury hotels. Lisa Jenkins meets her.
Did you study a hospitality course at school or college?
No, I studied foreign languages – English, Spanish and Italian – in Nice and then I moved to the UK to do an Erasmus exchange programme. I achieved a degree in business and languages from the University of Wolverhampton.
Did you do an apprenticeship in hospitality?
Yes, this is how I got into hotels. When I was in Nice, I had to find an internship where I could practice languages, and I got a three-month internship in the sales and marketing department of Le Méridien Beach Plaza in Monaco. I also worked during the summer as a restaurant hostess and then as a part-time PA to the director of sales during my studies.
Did you do any work experience in the industry?
My first summer job at 18 was as a cook in a summer camp. I had to prepare breakfast and lunch for 80 children, which was very stressful but great to build my confidence.
What was your first hospitality job?
It was in London after finishing my studies as reservations supervisor at the Holiday Inn (now Hilton) in Victoria, London.
What initially attracted you to working in hospitality?
I really enjoyed the fast-paced environment, the fact that you can work with different departments and no day is ever the same.
Who was your first mentor or role model in hospitality?
Chantal Schmidt and Raymond Viano at Le Méridien Beach Plaza, with whom I am still close friends. They were the director of events and head concierge respectively and they really took me under their wings and showed me the ropes of the industry.
What were the next stages of your career?
After my role as reservations supervisor at Holiday Inn, I then moved into sales and became a sales co-ordinator for Como Hotels & Resorts. There I was introduced to luxury hotels and met Anna Hayward, who took me with her when she moved to Malmaison & Hotel du Vin, where I spent two years as sales co-ordinator before being promoted to sales manager for three hotels.
I then decided to move back to France and spent three years as director of sales for Tiara Hotels near Cannes, where I helped to open a new hotel. I moved back to London in 2012 and worked as regional sales manager for Morgans Hotel Group, and I managed the travel show LE Miami for three years before opening Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch as director of sales and marketing.
My last role in hotels was as director of global sales for Rocco Forte Hotels. I have now launched my own company as a sales consultant for luxury and lifestyle hotels.
What are the biggest challenges you've faced working in hospitality?
The industry can be quite male-dominated, and I have felt on several occasions that women were not valued as well as men. It is also an industry you work in for the love, but not for the money.
Do you have any regrets or things you wish you'd done differently?
No, I feel extremely happy with what I have learned and where I am today.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Always be professional wherever you work and whatever happens, as it is a very small industry where people move around a lot, and you will cross paths with the same colleagues in different companies over and over again.
What are your career goals?
My business has had a very positive start, even though it was launched in the middle of a pandemic. The goal for the next five years is to build a strong brand for my name and be seen as one of the best hospitality sales consultants in Europe.
Would you recommend a career in hospitality to your friends and family?
Definitely, it is a wonderful industry where you get to meet people from different backgrounds and cultures and you also get to travel the world.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Women general managers really inspire me, as most senior positions in our industry are held by men.
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