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15 February 2019

a4f's founder talks about passing on a passion for hospitality as a Glion London visiting lecturer

One of the advantages of studying a Master’s degree from Glion is the sheer variety – and depth – of topics covered. The programs are also fully grounded in the ‘real world’ of hospitality business.

Nowhere is this truer than with the MSc programs offered at the London campus, where a cadre of highly experienced and knowledgeable visiting lecturers add their own specialisms to the faculty mix.

Hospitality finance and accounting expert Debra Adams, founder of arena4finance, is a member of this visiting faculty. She teaches core subjects management accounting and financial analysis, together with a separate module on corporate finance.

“My aim is to make these subjects as applicable to the hospitality sector as possible,” she says. “I want the students to come away with a range of tools and techniques in their kit-bag, so they can feel confident in areas such as hotel investment strategies and performance analysis. This will be important for their careers, because nowadays all graduates can expect to get involved in budgeting, forecasting and reviewing financial performance.”

A career driven by youthful enthusiasm

Another thing that must surely rub off on her students is Debra’s obvious enthusiasm for the hospitality industry. This goes back a long way, as she explains.

“I spent my teenage years working in hotels and restaurants in the south of England, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I met lots of interesting people and realized quickly that this was a business in which I could make a career.”

Debra aims to pass this same positive message on to her students. “The hospitality sector offers such a huge variety of opportunity in terms of the types of business and locations you could be working in,” she says.

“It’s not just the hotel and restaurant industry; there are good careers to be had in fields such as contract catering, whether in the public or private sectors. The skills are very transportable.”

Debra’s specialism in hospitality finance started when she took the role of trainee hotel accountant after studying hospitality management. After a successful career in industry she went on to become a senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, where she was based in the School of Hospitality and Tourism and was responsible for developing the curriculum in hospitality finance.

“When putting my Glion modules together my first thought has always been to ensure they connect across the Master’s curriculum. It’s important we don’t teach in silos; equally that the theory we teach is always illustrated with practical examples and real-world case studies. This shows the students how to put a particular concept into practice,” she adds.

Bringing hospitality finance to life

Of course, it’s also important to make the topic interesting – and fun. To those who believe the world of finance to be somewhat ‘dry’, this may seem like quite a challenge. But Debra disagrees.

“There are many ways to bring finance to life. One of the best is the simulation tool HOTS (Hotel Operations, Tactics and Strategy),” she says. “This allows the students to see how different decisions they make influence hotel bottom line performance. The beauty of such a tool is that it allows them to experiment with different concepts without risking the financial health of a real business.

“It is always satisfying when students tell me that they didn’t think they would like finance, but that it proved more interesting than they realized. The students here are very focused on their career choices and highly committed to the hospitality sector, so it is lovely to work with them.”

Capital appreciation

As well as its practical curriculum, the Glion London campus also has the major advantage of its geography. “Being in London makes it easier for us to organize visits to some of the leading hotel groups – as well as independent properties – that serve the city’s status as a global tourism destination,” says Debra.

“The advantages of being able to visit such properties and talk face-to-face with their senior staff – as well as the high-level guest speakers we can attract to our campus – cannot be overstated.”

With their eyes opened to the possibilities in hospitality finance, what would Debra’s advice be to young professionals considering this career path?

“My advice would be to go for it. The world of finance today is very different to what it was a generation ago – the increasing use of technology means there’s a great deal less data processing and much more focus on what the figures mean and how they impact on corporate decision-making.

“Finance is no longer confined to the back office in the business, and over the years we’ve seen how starting your career in finance can take you right to the very top of the organizational ladder.”