Anita’s research in luxury accommodationCurrently a full-time lecturer at BMIHMS, Torrens University Australia, Anita Manfreda brings a wealth of knowledge and industry experience to her teaching and research.
She has won several awards for academic research, had a number of academic and industry pieces, and is currently completing a PhD on luxury accommodation at BMIHMS.
“My main research areas are luxury accommodation, non-traditional accommodation, such as luxury lodges, and guest experience. I am also doing research in hospitality e-learning, and particularly on how to train for soft rather than hard skills in an online environment,” Anita explained.
The beginning of Anita’s love for hospitalityGrowing up in a rural town nestled in the mountains of the stunning north-eastern Dolomites region of Italy, Anita was born into a family where hospitality was a way of life.
“I grew up surrounded by a very big family with twenty uncles and aunties and eighteen cousins. Our house was literally like a hotel. There was always someone visiting or people staying for a meal. My family and I loved it” said Anita.
“When I was six or seven, my mum and I would spend days organising Christmas parties and family gatherings. We would cook and serve, and I was specifically in charge of setting the table up. I would hand-write and decorate menus, and fold napkins in the most extravagant ways.”
Anita credits her family for this nurturing environment where she learnt the most important lesson for her future career.
“I believe I developed a strong attention to details early on because of this. I did not realise that this early influence would make me choose a career where the care of others was essential. I now feel that hospitality was one of the most important values that my family ever passed on to me.”
“While studying I continued working in hospitality to gain experience. This, and my boyfriend at the time, brought me to spend one year in Switzerland where I worked for the Badrutt’s Palace Hotel: a beautiful, charming, historical hotel renowned as one of the leading hotels in the world,” Anita said.
“That experience marked my career forever. That is when I fell in love with luxury hotels.”
Turning a passion for hospitality into a careerAnita has come a long way in her career, life and across the globe since that fateful experience.
She moved to Australia in 2012 and completed her Master’s Degree in International Hotel Management at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) in 2015.
“During my master degree at BMIHMS, I discovered my passion for research, working on two consulting projects for industry. One of them was on how to transform a homestay into a luxury lodge in the Blue Mountains, in regional Australia. It was at that time that I started exploring non-traditional and small luxury accommodation as a topic,” she explained.
For over eleven years Anita has worked around the world, in high-end restaurants and luxury settings, in boutique and independent establishments as well as international luxury hotel brands including the Intercontinental Hotel Group and Four Seasons Hotels.
“Since early in my career I’ve been fascinated by the art behind creating luxury experiences. What attracts me to this type of accommodation is their ability to enrich the lives of people, from increasing the guests’ wellbeing, to providing an opportunity to learn and transform,” she said.
Luxury hotels haven’t just been at the heart of Anita’s career and research, they are also at the centre of her family.In a romantic turn of fate, Anita eventually married the boyfriend who invited her to join him in Switzerland. They have since moved to the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia, where they now live happily with their son.
“We moved to South Australia in 2021 from Sydney during the pandemic and we are now enjoying our life in a beautiful wine region in SA,” she said.
Aside from her PhD research over the past year, Anita has also been enjoying learning all about one of her biggest cultural traditions: making fresh pasta.
“Every Saturday night during lockdowns I would choose a traditional pasta shape and make it at home,” she explained.
“This habit got me interested in the historical and traditional stories behind these pasta shapes, and helped to keep me connected to my home country in a time where distance was inevitable.”
Anita is due to finish her PhD soon; that will be quite an achievement. So, what’s next in her future after that’s complete?“I can finally see the end of my PhD on the horizon, and that is my first priority,” she said.
“Once that is finished I do hope to start working more on the broader topic of sustainable luxury, particularly, exploring how luxury accommodation can become a catalyst for regenerative tourism. I would also like to continue my research in the field of value co-creation, focusing on the creation of hotel communities, and hospitality business-to-business co-creation opportunities, partnering with industry operators and firms in participative research.”
The hospitality industry is rapidly changing. Academics who also work with industry, such as Anita play an important role in interpreting those changes and offering a blueprint for industry to navigate them, while passing on their knowledge to students and to the world.