SHARE
COPY LINK
PRESENTED BY ESSEC BUSINESS SCHOOL

‘It really feels like a dream come true’: working in a Paris palace hotel

"It's a huge source of pride for me to work at a Parisian palace hotel," says Amel Ziani-Orus. The Director of Talent and Culture at the 5-star Le Meurice has hotels in her blood. “I moved with my family from Algeria to France when I was 18. My parents owned a boutique hotel.”

'It really feels like a dream come true': working in a Paris palace hotel
Photo: Amel Ziani-Orus at Le Meurice, Paris
Amel says she did not always plan to go into hotel work herself and first worked in project management. But eventually she changed course to study for an MSc in Hospitality Management at ESSEC Business SchoolNow, she is the head of HR at one of France’s most luxurious and prestigious hotels – and one with an integral place in Parisian society and culture. 
 
“Thinking of my ambitions during the time I spent at ESSEC, it really feels like a dream come true to be working here now,” she says. “I’m very happy.”
 
Here, The Local kicks off a series of articles on the theme of #MyParisianLife by speaking to her about the joy of working in such a place and how she got there.
 
Luxury and a rare artistic history
 
“Le Meurice is one of the first ‘palace hotels’,” she says. “This is a unique designation to France. It means beyond five stars, and describes a hotel with the highest standards of service.“
 
Opening its current location in 1835, Le Meurice is the oldest Paris hotel awarded the palace distinction and has hosted many luminaries. “It was the hotel used by European royalty, but perhaps our most famous guest was Salvador Dalí.”
 
The surrealist painter was a frequent guest, staying at the hotel for one month every Spring for 30 years. Pablo Picasso also hosted his wedding lunch at the hotel in 1918, and to this day the hotel has a close association with art. 
 
 
Amel Ziani-Orus at Le Meurice, the hotel bar, and a glimpse of its luxury interiors. Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.
 

Masked employees at Le Meurice during the pandemic and the hotel’s lobby (bottom left). Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.
 
“For the last 20 years, the hotel has had a prize for contemporary artists,” Amel tells us. The winning artist receives a grant of €10,000, with another €10,000 for the gallery involved in the project. The luxurious interiors of the hotel are filled with previous prize winners, making it a highly desirable location for magazine photography shoots. 
 
It’s not just art that Le Meurice is famous for, however. Amel is also very proud of the hospitality offered – in particular the gourmet cuisine. “Cédric Grolet, one of the greatest pastry chefs in the world, has a patisserie at the hotel – La Pâtisserie du Meurice par Cédric Grolet”.
 
The award-winning pastries and cakes on offer are a major drawcard for the hotel. Indeed, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the patisserie remains open, with Parisians flocking for their daily fix of Grolet’s amazing creations. Despite the pandemic, hotels and luxury establishments continue to survive. “There are of course challenges, but we’re able to overcome them,” says Amel. 
 
The value of problem-solving networks
 
So how did she find herself in such an esteemed role? “I did my MSc in Hotel Management at ESSEC!” One of the ‘trois Parisiennes’ of management schools, the École Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales has been producing some of the world’s most celebrated hoteliers since 1907. 
 

Ornate interiors, high ceilings, and works of art at Paris’s original palace hotel Le Meurice. Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.
 
The hotel offers modern design and comforts, as well as tradition. Photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.
 
The school’s vintage – in operation for over a century – doesn’t stop it from offering a top-class education for the digital age. “One of the greatest things the school gave me was the ability to use modern software tools to help operate the hotel,” says Amel. “Many hoteliers underestimate its importance, but it makes a huge difference.”
 
It’s not just the application of modern technology that distinguishes ESSEC from other management schools. Amel credits ESSEC’s alumni networks and expert teachers as being hugely useful even today.
 
“I can still ask questions of the networks that I made while at ESSEC if I have a problem that needs solving. I can also contact my teachers for their point of view. ESSEC also organises student visits, so students can see how a luxury hotel works from the inside”. 
 
From her beginnings working in her parents’ boutique hotel, Amel now finds herself at the top of her profession – and able to enjoy some of the most enviable views in the world. “One of my favourite places is the Belle Etoile Suite terrace of the hotel, with amazing views across the iconic Paris cityscape, towards the Eiffel Tower,” she says. 
 
Studying hotel management has taken Amel from a family business to the penthouse suite of one of the world’s premiere luxury hotels. As she tells us: “ESSEC was a huge step for me in order to get where I am today.”
 
Want to pursue your own Parisian dream? Find out more about ESSEC’s MSc in Hospitality Management and get in touch with a current student of the programme.
 
Click through the slideshow below to see the full range of photos we captured at Le Meurice #MyParisianLife.

All photos by Jesse Wallace for The Local.

READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

SHOW COMMENTS