Ruben Averink Taking Increasing Responsibilities in Hospitality Management
Wittenborg graduate Ruben Averink has always been passionate about travelling and being part of international environments. Born in Rijssen, a city located in the Twente region, Ruben joined the hospitality sector when he was around 16, working at restaurants and event-planning companies.
While pursuing his studies in hospitality and hotel management, Ruben had the opportunity to do internships in Berlin and on the Atlantic island of Madeira. Later, the student moved to Bali, Indonesia, where he lived and worked for two years. During this period, he was first employed by a hotel and then by a company that organised day cruises around Bali and had a resort. That is where he wrote his bachelor’s thesis in 2017.
“I did a lot of travelling back then and before moving to Bali I had also lived for a while in Cape Town, South Africa, to study English. I have good memories of my time in Indonesia and because I stayed a little longer there, I started making friends and integrating. But then I decided to go back to the Netherlands so that I could study for an MBA degree,” he says.
Having met Wittenborg representative Florian Oosterberg during an event in Jakarta, Ruben highlights that the fact the school was so international and offered English-language programmes stood out to him. “Even though I could have chosen a Dutch school, I always liked being part of an international group of students. On top of that, I realised this would be good for my career as well, because you can learn a lot from the other students about their cultures, and this is important when you work in hospitality.”
According to Ruben, his decision to study for an MBA in Hospitality Management at Wittenborg was also influenced by the school’s compact size and friendly atmosphere, and the fact that the institution was located just half an hour by train from where he lived.
Getting One’s Facts Straight
One of the most important things that Ruben learned at Wittenborg, where he studied from 2017 to 2019, is to always look at the facts and not assume things too quickly. “The teachers were really good and the master’s was a little more scientific than the bachelor’s. So, I learned to always look at the facts and do my research before starting to talk or giving my opinion about an issue. Sometimes you want to just say things quickly, but it’s always good to stick to the facts, listen to other people and then make your conclusions based on reality.”
He adds that, by learning how to conduct academic research, he was able to acquire valuable knowledge that has helped him professionally. “It was a bit deeper than the research I had done during my bachelor’s; at the master’s, you are always looking into scientific journals, and I learned a lot from that. I did my thesis research on holiday parks and sustainability, and nowadays I work for a holiday park company that focuses a lot on sustainability, so that knowledge has been very useful to me.”
However, Ruben also had to overcome some challenges he encountered during his studies. “At Wittenborg, every quarter we had different classes and I remember especially finance, which was quite hard. The course already started on a high level, and you had to study a lot to at least get on the same level as the class, and then you still had to go higher. I really had to do my best to get to the level that they expected, but I was able to learn some useful skills and new ways of thinking.
In addition to that, he had to balance his time between pursuing his full-time programme and working as a waiter for holiday park company Landal GreenParks. “I worked in the evenings and on the weekends and it was difficult, I had to set priorities. Sometimes I would have to study until midnight because I hadn’t managed to fit it into my time schedule. Managing both my studies and work was a real challenge.”
A New Direction
Shortly after graduating, Ruben was hired by holiday park company EuroParcs as a junior park manager. “I had been doing operational work for 10 years in bars, restaurants and front office, but I also wanted to learn how to manage a team. That was when I found out that EuroParcs was hiring a junior park manager, and I thought that this was a very interesting position because it was a hands-on job that would give me the opportunity to learn a lot. So, I applied and got the job,” he says.
Active in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Germany, EuroParcs works on the development of holiday parks, as well as the sale and rental of holiday homes to private individuals and businesses.
Ruben worked for one year at a park located in Otterlo, later being promoted to senior park manager. Subsequently, he was transferred to a resort named De Achterhoek, where he oversaw a whole redevelopment project that included the upgrade of many facilities and accommodations. In June 2023, four years after joining EuroParcs, Ruben was promoted to regional manager, currently being responsible for managing eight parks in the North and East Netherlands.
In this position, he helps the individual managers of each of the parks to deal with any difficulties or problems that might arise, by giving advice and also visiting every location periodically.
“The thing I like the most about this job is to make people happy on their holiday, that is my main goal. Next to that, I really enjoy working with other people; I have always been a team player and I don’t like sitting the whole day behind the desk, so I often go around and talk to my colleagues, to help make things happen. I also like the fact that EuroParcs has many sustainability-focused initiatives and innovations, we are always trying to make the company as sustainable as possible,” Ruben points out.
According to the graduate, managing holiday parks requires hard work and can be quite challenging, especially during the high season. “There are times when we have thousands of people at our holiday parks and lots of things are happening at the same time. At that moment, you have to make many important decisions and sometimes you have to push yourself through the night or on holidays; you are always busy with your park. So, it is really important to be able to work hard, and I have been doing that since I was younger. I intend to keep doing my best and growing in this position, learning new things and experiencing new challenges.”
Combining Theory & Practice
Ruben emphasises that students should dedicate themselves to their programmes and try to combine theory and practice, by applying what they learn at school to a practical internship or work experience.
“The nice thing about Wittenborg’s programmes is that they are very theoretical, so you learn a lot from your lecturers and take that with you. There are certain moments in which you think that you might not need that knowledge, but then after a couple years, when you are working, you find out that you actually need it. So, it's always good to learn as much as you can and keep it in mind.”
by Ulisses Sawczuk