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”I am energised by students and their fresh outlook on life. Students are the future” says Jelly Monique Heijkens, People & Culture Officer of Holland Norway Lines. Last September, the company provided an interesting design challenge for our students to improve the Passenger Journey in the departure hall of Eemshaven in Groningen, The Netherlands. In a recent interview, we had the opportunity to speak with Jelly- Monique and delved into her experience regarding the collaboration with our students and academy.

Source: Dagblad van het Noorden

About Holland Norway Lines
Holland Norway Lines (HNL) is a cruise ferry operating between Eemshaven and Kristiansand in Norway since April 2022. Since 20 April 2023, HNL moved their port from Eemshaven to Cuxhaven and from 01 June 2023 they moved to Emden, both in Germany. With their 200-metre-long MS Romantika, 700 cabins accommodating 2,500 passengers, they are Holland’s largest hotel on the water. They have everything on board, from buffet restaurant to theatre, and after an entertaining 18-hour trip, one sets foot on Norwegian soil. Last year, around 190.000 tourists made this crossing to the other side of the North Sea.

Collaboration with Hotel Management School Leeuwarden
Jelly-Monique, who herself studied Leisure Management, got in touch with Hotel Management School Leeuwarden after a good experience with interns from NHL Stenden. A group of talented students who could work for Holland Norway Lines on a project for which she herself did not have the time, that seemed wonderful!

Furthermore, Jelly- Monique believes that students have the future and thinks it is important that hospitality students get to know companies that do not fit the standard hotel/restaurant picture. Hospitality occurs in just about all sectors which makes Hotello’s widely employable.

”I know quite a few Hotellos who eventually stopped working in hotels and became account managers, for example. Holland Norway Lines is also not a typical hotel or restaurant but we fit in incredibly well. Isn’t that cool that we also participate and can show the students what is possible?”

So it was with love that she handed over one of the projects. In her opinion, the signage in the terminal at Eemshaven was not entirely satisfactory and she wanted to take a close look at the so-called passenger journey in the terminal.

Jelly- Monique explains: ”When people enter a hotel, and this is also true for us to some extent, the brain switches off. That’s just how the human brain works. So we had to look carefully at how we could facilitate people in the terminal as well as possible. At a certain point, you no longer see the problem or the solution yourself anymore.”

Three students set out to work on the assignment and they soon visited Eemshaven for a guided tour. A second visit took place, to hand out surveys to passengers. For the rest, communication took place online and the students were well aware that they were dealing with business people whom you can’t call and mail at any time. Clear agreements were therefore a must and every two to three weeks there was a half-hour update in which questions could be asked and feedback given.

According to Jelly-Monique, the communication with the teacher, also known as facilitator, was also satisfactory. Every four weeks, she had a short online meeting with the lecturer who supervised the project and there was always room for feedback.

The students came up with a plan for the signage in the terminal. Besides, they proposed a design for a kids’ corner to make the youngest passengers feel comfortable too, and an app that passengers can download in advance with information such as departure times and the location of facilities on the ship.

Jelly-Monique’s guidance of the students is high on the priority list. ”Without the right guidance, there is no point in collaborating, not for us, not for the students and not for NHL Stenden either. If I, or anyone else, hadn’t been satisfied during the process, we would have had to make adjustments at that point. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary, the students understood what we wanted.”

Jelly-Monique also says that, as a company, you have to take into account that the students are not working on it 40 hours a week and that it can therefore take several months. ”On the spot solutions are not what the students are there for. They need to invest time in their assignment.”

Recommendations and future endeavors
When we asked Jelly-Monique if she would recommend other companies to also provide a design challenge, she answered a resounding yes.

”As a business community, we need to get serious about educating the future generation. We have all been students and what better way to learn than from real-life issues! I just really like the fact that you can help students in this way and they help us too.

Some fresh minds are going to look at your project in a different way. On top of that, the current generation is also not afraid to say something and contribute ideas. I get energy from that! This project impressed us in more ways than one.”

Jelly-Monique hopes that more companies will come forward that are not purely hospitality in the sense of hotels and restaurants. It is precisely the companies that are ”outside the box” that are definitely interesting for hospitality students.

That hospitality has a high priority at Holland Norway Lines was demonstrated once again when a colleague of Jelly-Monique’s provided her with some treats during the interview. ”That’s how we do it here” she laughs.

She is in talks with account manager Gerrit Vriesema to deliver another design challenge in the near future. The possibilities of taking on hospitality interns is also being discussed. Who knows, another group of enthusiastic students might soon be on the doorstep to help them out.