Ready for Takeoff

More than two years since the pandemic halted travel and dining, visionary Endicott alumni are shaping the future of international hospitality and tourism.

Samarth Bahl ’07
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Leave all your cares on the mainland. You’re approaching a tropical island by speedboat, James Bond style, surrounded by the most vivid turquoise water imaginable.

It’s the trip of a lifetime to visit the Kurumba Maldives resort where General Manager Andrew Jansson ’98 will greet you with a cold beverage and a tour of the pristine white sand beach (complete with hammocks strung across palm trees) on the way to your villa with a private plunge pool.

“With our approach here at Kurumba, we are welcoming you into our home,” said Jansson. “There’s a level of engagement and conviviality here that makes this island so much fun to visit. Our role is to make memories happen and give our guests experiences that they will cherish forever.”

When COVID-19 locked down the world in 2020, Jansson saw the Maldives government and the private sector do “an amazing job to mitigate any losses—both financially and from a public health perspective.”

After just a three-month shutdown, he noted, Kurumba was soon back to its previously high occupancy, with even better numbers forecasted as restrictions are set to lift in nearby Asia.

Kurumba Maldives General Manager Andrew Jansson ’98

“Paradise awaits, Gulls,” said Andrew Jansson ’98, the General Manager of Kurumba Resort in the Maldives. “It might be a long journey, but I’ll make sure that when you have arrived the drinks are cold, and the memories made will be awesome.”

Just like Jansson, Peter Jenner, Chair of the School of Hospitality Management at Endicott’s Curtis L. Gerrish School of Business, is passionate about hospitality, events, and tourism creating unforgettable experiences for guests.

As a result of the pandemic, Jenner watched as “managers and hospitality leaders have adopted a more entrepreneurial spirit. They’ve had to become more comfortable taking and living through risks, and they want to try new things.”

Perhaps no place is more on the cusp of the new and innovative than Dubai, the capital of glitz.

Samarth Bahl ’07 grew up in nearby Kuwait and has been at the forefront of bringing established brands like Hilton to the city. Now, he’s strategically pivoted to join the leisure industry as the commercial head of MyGolf, Dubai’s first indoor golf networking club in a 14,000-square-foot facility with 14 simulators and meeting and event spaces. 

“We’re building a platform where people can socialize and business network around the game of golf,” he said from his high-rise apartment. Last December, Bahl decided it was the right time to “take a swing” at a new endeavor and capitalize on the city’s recent infusion of European millionaires eager to link up with one another over a round or two. 

Meanwhile, a short flight away in Europe, ecotourism and wellness-centered hospitality are trending and likely here to stay. Previously considered niche categories, they’re now mainstream desires according to Jenner.

Since 2016, Tanya Strahlendorf ’12 has served as General Manager of NaturFreundehaus Bodensee, a pristine hideaway on Lake Constance in Germany. It’s also where she met her husband, Felix, who works alongside her as the hotel’s head chef, and is raising their two young children.

Strahlendorf was passionate about promoting responsible ecotourism even before it became chic. The NaturFreundehaus eco-lodge is a European leader in paving the way for other properties with its bucolic views of meadows and the lake, vegan meal options, children’s nature activities, and newly installed climate-friendly heat pumps instead of gas and photovoltaic systems on the roof.

For more than 125 years, the hotel has also offered a home to the “Nature Friends,” a community of more than a half-million outdoor enthusiasts who share the goal of promoting conservation and sustainability.

Tanya Strahlendorf ’12

At Germany's NaturFreundehaus Bodensee eco-lodge, guests are encouraged to get out into nature by walking, biking, kayaking on Lake Constance, and other activities.

“I believe that ecotourism is the only way forward,” she said. “A huge change is on the horizon if you ask me. Hoteliers will have to put their staff first, implement new systems to work with nature, and help guests understand the importance of conservation—or the next few seasons will be the last.”

Back at the Nest, the next generation of students is following in these alumni’s unique footsteps thanks to unbelievable new international experiences that offer the perfect launchpad to a five-star career in the industry. Warren Jaferian, Dean of International Education, is determined to make global perspectives more accessible to every student.

“Ninety percent of new students arrive on campus without a passport,” he said but noted that by the time students graduate more than 40% of them have studied internationally on course trips, internships, or more traditional semester-long experiences.

In part, this impressive number is due to a new program that levels the financial playing field and offers aid packages to deserving participants. Jaferian sees these mind-opening experiences acting as a pipeline to encourage students to pursue global careers following graduation, including in the hospitality and tourism sectors.

Jenner has realized that those entering into the industry are more aware of work/life balance and the need for managers to prioritize wellbeing and health for employees. “They want the option of a hybrid work week to match their lifestyle,” he said.

As the Vice President of Marketing Services at World Travel Holdings, Sarah Lipinski ’06 had portside tickets to the “unfathomable” impact the pandemic hammered on the hospitality and tourism sectors. For 15 months there were zero vessel departures. But now, Lipinski is seeing the industry turn a corner after surviving an absolute catastrophe—with the long airport lines to prove it.

Despite the global economic uncertainty, according to Lipinski, 2023 and 2024 will be record years as people who’ve been locked in their homes without the ability to mark milestone events will want to “get back out there” and prioritize splashing out on travel.

And wherever travelers venture—including intrepid Gulls—these alums will be ready and waiting.

From La Chanterelle to Concours d'Elegance

Andrew Jansson

The son of a car dealer and teacher, Patrick Cornelissen ’04, M’06 grew up in Oud-Turnhout, a small town in northern Belgium.

Early on, his parents instilled in him the importance of entrepreneurship and financial independence, which led him to teenage jobs in restaurants, where his passion for hospitality originated.

In 1999, he moved to Spain and enrolled in the Swiss hotel management school Les Roches in Marbella—a fortuitous decision, as it would eventually lead him to Endicott, and to transforming the College forever.

“While working at the Four Seasons Hotel Canary Wharf, I received a call from Brendan Cronin [former Operations Manager and Associate Professor at Endicott], asking if I wanted to move to the U.S. to teach at La Chanterelle,” recalled Cornelissen, who is now the General Manager for the Grand Commandery Alden Biesen Belgium.

Together with Cronin, the duo taught European fine dining techniques and prepared students with practical knowledge for a career in hospitality.

“Working at Misselwood, I knew the estate was the ideal backdrop, and with my knowledge of events I was convinced the Misselwood Concours d’Elegance would be a success.”

But it was Cornelissen’s familial history in cars that truly transformed Endicott. After attending the final edition of the Newport Concours in Rhode Island, Cornelissen saw an opportunity to bring a concours-like show to Endicott.

“Working at Misselwood, I knew the estate was the ideal backdrop, and with my knowledge of events I was convinced it would be a success,” he said. “I just needed to convince the College and find classic car owners.”

That was more than a decade ago, and in July 2022, Endicott hosted the 12th annual Misselwood Concours d’Elegance, all thanks to Cornelissen.

Now, as the GM for the Grand Commandery Alden Biesen, Cornelissen said it combines his previous experiences in food and beverage, events, hotel, government, and beyond.

“As for my car passion, my daily 55-mile commute partially takes care of that,” he said, “but I have also been able to host a few car events at the castle.”

Learn more:

Fasten Your Seatbelts For a Career in Hospitality & Travel

Hugo Desanzani and Sarah Lipinski ’06

Hugo Desenzani ’03
CEO, Urbanova Immobiliaria, Peru

“It’s more than a career, it’s a way of life and an adventure. The most amazing places in the world become your office. The hospitality and tourism industries are also wonderful ways to help others. Tourism empowers marginalized communities and creates sustainable wealth in poor countries. Traveling brings the world together, raising awareness for environmental or geopolitical issues.”

Sarah Lipinski ’06
Vice President, Marketing Services World Travel Holdings, USA

“I cannot stress enough how important internships are. They give you a real glimpse of what life is like after you graduate and give you an edge in the job market. At Endicott they help you get that experience, and as someone now in the hiring chair, I can tell you that it’s what a candidate has done that matters the most to me.”