HSD alumni of the month: Lukas Vallée Valletta, ITHQ
Lukas Vallée Valletta: a brilliant career that’s just getting started
At 29 years of age, Lukas Vallée Valletta already has an impressive resume. After graduating from the ITHQ’s Advanced Studies in International Hotel Management program in 2014, he became the first North American to place at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards in the Best Professional Success category. On top of that, he got to work at a G7 summit and is now Director of Lodging and Guest Experience for the booming Le Massif resort in Charlevoix. No wonder he made it onto Kostuch Media Ltd.’s 2020 Top 30 Under 30, a list that celebrates the leadership of young Canadians in the hospitality industry. Despite his extensive experience, Lukas still has a thirst for learning and a keen passion for his job, which he shared with us when we reached him by phone just before the start of ski season at Le Massif.
You’ve only been at Le Massif for a short time. Can you tell us a bit about what’s happening there and about your work?
I’ve been here since October . It’s really exciting because we’re in the middle of getting everything off the ground. There’s a Club Med coming, and our real estate project is taking shape. Right now we have 94 units that come in 4 completely different types of accommodation: hotel condos, cabins, luxury chalets, and semi-detached units. In just a few weeks, we’ll have 40 more units, and in 5 years, there will be 836 units on the mountain!
My job as Director of Lodging and Guest Experience is to supervise the entire operation, from housekeeping and technical maintenance to reception. Le Massif is a bit different from what you see in the traditional hotel business; I have a hand in every department, such as accounting, marketing, etc.
The project is so big: it’s not just a hotel, it’s an entire mountain! Although my speciality is in the hotel side of things, I’m learning a lot about real estate. A ski resort is also a completely different work environment. At a hotel, you work in a jacket and tie; on a ski hill, everyone wears toques and fleece and takes a run down the slopes at lunchtime!
Can you tell us how your studies at the ITHQ influenced your impressive career path?
The ITHQ program opened doors to the world for me thanks to international internships as well as the expertise of our instructors, who are passionate people with an incredible background in the hospitality industry. Once you graduate, you stay part of the ITHQ family. I’m always proud to say that I went to the ITHQ, a renowned Quebec institution.
It’s been over a year since you were named a finalist at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards in the Best Professional Success category. What did you get out of this experience?
I was invited to attend the gala in Paris. I was one of 20 finalists in my category out of 3500 applicants. The top three award winners were then called to the stage. It was the first time a North American had ever placed in this category.
On top of getting to experience the competition, I also became more well known in my industry. There’s not a lot of recognition in this business. You have to take it when it comes your way! The competition also gave me a lot of contacts and opened doors in the hotel industry. It also led me to give university talks and even to teach!
You’re already teaching at 29? Wow!
Yes, I just finished my first semester giving an accommodation course to third-year students in Hotel Management Techniques at Collège Mérici [in Quebec City]. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but I never thought it would happen so soon. At a time when the Quebec hospitality industry is experiencing a labour shortage, I want to share my passion for my profession and encourage young people to work in this field.
What has fuelled your passion for the hotel business?
My family has always worked in the service sector. At first, I didn’t know what to do with my life. After dropping out of school at 15, I started working as a dishwasher at the Château Vaudreuil. I had the opportunity to grow in the company and became a concierge. I then went to work in Montreal. I met my mentor, Tomas Mendonca, who comes from Brazil and attended the very famous Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. He really ignited my passion, which has kept burning. What’s fun about the hotel business is that it’s not “the sky is the limit” but rather “the space is the limit.”
We can’t let you go without hearing about your experience at the G7 in 2018 when you were director of reception at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu! It was truly the experience of a lifetime! I actually had a big comedown after the event. Because what bigger experience can you have than organizing a G7 summit? Even though I worked 242 days in a row, I would do it again tomorrow, no question! It was so impressive to rub shoulders with the great leaders of this world and see different cultures close up. I could talk about this for hours!
You haven’t thought of writing a book about it?
Yes, in fact, I’ve already started it! Every night I wrote down the things that struck me during the day, like seeing a man with a cooler running in the lobby to bring a can of Coke to Donald Trump, who wouldn’t drink the cans at the hotel. I’ll definitely finish it someday—when I have more time!