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Live from Switzerland: the future of luxury hospitality

Where lies the future of the Swiss luxury hotel industry and how must the employees of the future be trained for this?

Within the next decade, tourism will be growing faster than the rest of the economy.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, 23 percent of new jobs will be created in the hospitality industry. On a recent media trip organized by the Ecole hotelière de Lausanne (EHL), I learned about the skill set that future leaders in hospitality require - and where they acquire those skills.

But before looking into the future of luxury hospitality, it makes sense to study the past. Why has Switzerland become synonymous with excellence in hospitality? And why is it that Switzerland is home to several world-leading hospitality universities?

About the history of luxury hotels in Switzerland

Grand hotels are a 19th century invention by the upper classes. Constructed in scenic settings during the Belle Époque, these opulent buildings tried to imitate Greek temples, French castles and medieval cathedrals. Picture high ceilings with panoramic windows, winding staircases, glittering chandeliers and velour furniture.

These new luxury palaces relied heavily on railroads who would bring wealthy guests from all over Europe. In their natural settings, these palaces offered an escape from the polluted cities of the continent.

Grand hotels not only welcomed old money, however. Instead, the doors were opened to artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals from all walks of life. As long as they could foot the bill and behave in a mannered fashion, they were welcomed to mingle among nobility.

In Switzerland, values such as attention to detail and precision (watch-making), timeliness (transport) and discretion (banking) are historically rooted.

By applying those same values to their service allowed hoteliers to deliver excellence to the new breed of wealthy clients. Hospitality management was born in Switzerland both due to this trend and the boom in new hotels.

The world's first hospitality management school was opened in Switzerland in 1893: EHL. In the 1960’s with the advent of passenger air travel, additional schools opened up to cater to the growing tourism sector.

In Switzerland, grand hotels are prominent along Lake Geneva, as well as in alpine settings such as Gstaad, Interlaken or St. Moritz. Some examples of grand hotels in Switzerland are the Grand Hotel Quellenhof Bad Ragaz, the Baur au Lac in Zürich, the Victoria-Jungfrau in Interlaken, the Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz or the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. They are part of the cultural heritage of Switzerland.

EHL is a world-renowned hospitality management school

EHL Lausanne is not only the oldest hospitality management school in the world, it is also rated top in the world according to the QS World University Rankings. EHL has now teamed up with another top school located in Passugg near Chur. Thanks to the new campus, EHL students now have the option of doing exchange semesters within Switzerland.

I am curious: what is the secret sauce of EHL? What sets them apart from other hospitality schools?

The educational style is very Swiss in that it is based on the apprenticeship model. The curriculum places just as much importance on theory as on practice. By allowing students time to apply what they have learned in the classroom, they are able to process and master it.

During the three year program, students are introduced to every aspect of running a hospitality business, be it a hotel or a restaurant. The goal is to turn them into veritable “stage directors” with all the skills and enablement to create experiences for their future guests.

From the kitchen to housekeeping and from accounting to HR, they are taught the ropes of what it takes to manage a hotel. During their last semester, students will have the chance to dive into either culinary arts or spa management.

In addition, there is a strong focus on communication - be it digital marketing or nonverbal. Depending on their ambitions or backgrounds, students can choose a degree in German or English.

In the words of Michael Hartmann, Managing Director at the EHL Passugg, it is the goal of the school to produce “hands-on hotel managers” with an understanding for the challenges their staff might be facing. A degree in hospitality opens doors outside of tourism, too. According to EHL, recruiters from luxury brands, finance or consulting regularly have their eyes on the new graduates.

Find out more about the study opportunities at EHL Group!

About

As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.