General Manager, Novotel den Haag City Centre (The Netherlands)

Vanessa van der Vaart

Vanessa van der Vaart's Story

Since I was 12 years old, I wanted to work in a hotel. I always loved the atmosphere in hotels as a child, very dynamic, kind, international, lively and inspiring.  When I became 18, I studied Hotel Management and did exactly that.

I started as a trainee in the hotel where I am now General Manager more than 20 years ago, then I became a Front Office Manager. I also worked at head office in sales but only for 18 months because I really missed the vibe of a hotel. For me as former hotel employee, it was very strange in a head office environment to switch on the lights when you were first to come in and turn them off when you leave, we are not used to that in a hotel. So I moved back into a hotel as a Rooms Division Manager and after that had my first job as a General Manager in an ibis hotel. Now I am GM of the beautiful Novotel Den Haag city Centre, located in the heart of the city of The Hague.

I get the most out of this job because it is so special to return after more than 15 years to the property where you started as an intern; there are still some people there from all those years ago and I am working with them again. It is funny and really nice that I am now working in this position with the people who did onboarding for me. It is a special location – we are in the middle of the city centre, opposite parliament, in a beautiful old building, and it’s the city where I live, I can bike to work.

I have left Accor 2 times in these 20 years but have always come back – I think I went for the wrong reasons, I never left because I didn’t like the work or the job anymore. The first time was because I was young and curious for what else the world had to offer, however I returned within five months because I missed it so much.

The other time, I just became a mom of my youngest and I was doubting myself: can I become a good General Manager, work five days a week and also be a good mother to my children? I thought I could not and decided to do something else. Again, after three or four months, I missed my job tremendously. I was only working three days a week and I earned more money but that wasn’t important, because it didn’t have the same energy.

I contacted one of my former colleagues who also had children and had been a general manager. We had lunch together and had a very nice conversation about how you can combine the two and it didn’t mean you were a bad mother. I contacted Accor and asked if there were opportunities to come back. And they said yes, we’ll take you back but now you have to promise you’ll stay!

After my return I became a General Manager within a year and soon found out that I was a better and nicer person, also as mother, doing what I love. I also think it says something about a company that they are willing to take you back a second time and I’m grateful for that. This was almost 10 years ago and now, I have two wonderful, happy children of 11 and 13, who are very proud of me.

It is about the energy you have in a hotel and the fun you have with colleagues, also in times of stress – the last couple of years have been difficult, we had to close the hotel twice, which I would never have thought was possible, but it makes you stronger as a team. Every day is different, which is nice, and you work with people for people.

To someone who is new to the industry, try as many things as possible. We have numerous openings in the hotel industry, in back office, front office, or if you like working with numbers, you are technical or a chef, all personalities can work in hospitality because it is so diverse. You can go upwards and you can go sideways,- it is full of opportunities. Look around, have fun and see what suits you best – you can take all kinds of steps within the industry and your career, without having to leave to discover new things. And if you like all of them, become a General Manager.

And to someone who is looking for work, there is a variety of roles and if you would like to see something of the world, hospitality is everywhere. We are very flexible, you may have to work sometimes in the evening or in the weekend but you can also be off on a Monday or Tuesday, when other people have to take a day’s holiday; it works both ways. There is flexibility and a lot of opportunities, and you work with people who love people – what better environment is there to work in?

  • Vanessa van der Vaart
  • General Manager
  • Novotel den Haag City Centre (The Netherlands)