From Hungary via Spain: Meet Dr Ratkai, professor of Hospitality Business at Hotelschool The Hague

Dr Melinda Ratkai is a Hungarian researcher, newly based in The Netherlands. With studies in Economics, International Relations, Cognitive Sciences, and Tourism, she is a passionate educator, researcher, manager, and thinker in the fields of business and social sciences.

1. Tell us a little bit about your educational and professional background.

I would like to define my background as multidisciplinary. I have a degree in Economics (Budapest Business School), in International Relations (King Sigismund College), a master in Tourism (University of Huelva) and a postgraduate in Cognitive Sciences (University of Malaga). I studied my PhD in Spain at the University of Huelva; it was related to social media and reporting tools and directed by Dr Enrique Bonsón Ponte, whose name is well known, and it is a privilege to work with him. Then, I started working in different roles at various universities. I was mainly teaching business and management-related subjects but also —and this is probably a unique selling point— I worked at the European International Projects Office. This means that my profile is unique as I combine academic skills with an understanding of the administrative and managerial aspects of that, including funding schemes, how policy-making works, what the philosophy behind is, when to reach out, when to jump in. And this is why I am here; I will focus on financial and economic aspects related to hospitality.

2. Since 2019 you have been working in Hospitality Education. What did originally spark your passion for the industry?

My background is in tourism. Also, my hometown Szentendre in Hungary is a small tourist town. There are a lot of shops, cafes and restaurants, and probably everyone who visits Hungary, visits my hometown and some of the surrounding cities in the Danube band. When I was 14, I started working in the tourism industry in Szentendre and met many people from different cultures. Hence, my connection with hospitality started very early as these encounters drew my attention. That is when I realised that offering a good service mattered to me - I think that is very important as it makes your and their day better!

During my academic journey, I have worked at various public and private universities. When I started working at Les Roches in Marbella, Spain, I understood how distinguished hospitality education is from any other kind of university education, and how student research and education can contribute to industry questions. All in all, teaching has always been a passion of mine, contributing to the education of the future hospitality leaders. This is exactly why I am happy to have joined Hotelschool The Hague! Here I am offered the opportunity, apart from teaching, to join the course creation process, tackle industry questions, and come up with solutions.

3. Being a professor in Hospitality Business is quite broad. What kind of research questions will you be exploring?

The research I will be conducting will be related to Economics and Finance. There will be many obligations the hospitality industry will need to face in the upcoming years, which will affect the valuation of companies. Naturally, questions such as Financial and non-financial reporting will be posed. Further, questions on the topics of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) will also be explored. In collaboration with Jeroen Oskam, Director of the Research Centre at HTH, I will work in these fields, create new strategies, and pursue the goal of turning Hotelschool The Hague into a thought leader on these topics. This can be further achieved by paying close attention to the challenges of the industry, understanding them, and then developing courses and disseminating the acquired knowledge through symposia, publications, and industry events.

4. How can Hotelschool The Hague support businesses with ESGs?

One of the unique strengths of hotel schools, including Hotelschool The Hague, it’s that we can put ideas easily into practice. For example, HTH has its own hotels in Amsterdam and The Hague, as well as different kinds of restaurant concepts such as a fine dining restaurant, a brasserie-style restaurant, a vegan restaurant, and a food truck. This facilitates us because, when we come up with new ideas to support ESGs, we can cooperate with industry partners and test them at our facilities. What makes this even better is the fact that we involve students in these projects, making them part of the experience of this ‘living’ lab. So, our strength in terms of sustainability is that we can put our solutions into practice and find even better solutions, make proposals, and introduce them to the industry.

5. Having worked in public and private universities, and being an internationally experienced researcher and educator, what’s your impression of Hotelschool The Hague?

Hotelschool The Hague is a dynamic university of applied sciences. Recently, strategic decisions have been taken to become even better in its field; HTH’s focus on robotics, digitalization, well-being in hospitality at the Research Centre, and the commitment to sustainability with the student competition called Sustainable Hospitality Challenge to name a few. It’s a university with a great international reputation that strives for innovation within our industry – and I can see that happening in the near future. I have only been part of HTH for a week, but I can already say I am inspired and excited to be here!

6. Complete the sentence: My goal is to…

My goal is to become a leader in the field of researching Finance and Economics questions in the hospitality industry, which are on the rise at the moment. I think we are at a time where important and very interesting things are taking place, such as the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) which brings Sustainability Reporting on par with financial reporting, and I would like to have the privilege of becoming an expert and leader in the field. By understanding these new challenges and the industry’s codependence on real estate and investment decisions, we could contribute meaningfully to the hospitality industry through strategic initiatives and forward-thinking approaches.