The hotel industry has traditionally valued practical experience over any sort of academic qualification.
There have been numerous hotel GM (general managers) and CEOs who started out at the lowest rungs on the ladder of the hotel business, for example, in a kitchen peeling potatoes, and subsequently rose through the ranks.
A typical case is that of Eric Danziger, the current CEO of Trump Hotels, who started out as a bellman at the Fairmont San Francisco at the age of 17 over 45 years ago, and later served as the head of several of the industry’s leading hotel companies, including: the former Starwood Hotels (now merged with Marriott); Carlson Hotels Worldwide (now Radisson Hotels); and Wyndham Hotel Group, the world's largest hotel franchisor.
An evolving hotel industry demands new talents
However, the industry has evolved and what was true a few decades ago is no longer valid today. For instance, it used to be that the main path to becoming a GM was through food and beverage management. But this is no longer the case. Nowadays, it is more likely that a GM will have worked in marketing or revenue management, which requires a fairly well-developed knowledge of statistical methods - something that can only be acquired in an academic environment.
The structure of the industry has changed fundamentally and has become increasingly 'financialised', as the growing, dynamic segment of the industry is being led by entities which are quoted in the stock market and subject to the expectations of shareholders, such as Marriott International, the world's largest hotel group, Hilton Hotels and IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group).
Also, private equity funds like Blackstone, which acquired, restructured and sold Hilton Hotels through the use of extensive financial engineering, have become important players in the hotel sector. Indeed, the major international hotel chains continue to expand worldwide at the expense of smaller regional chains and independent 'mom and pop' establishments which find it difficult to compete in the current environment.
Increasingly, hotel management and ownership functions are being separated and an extensive cottage industry has developed serving the hotel sector as suppliers and consultants.
This paradigm shift has created the demand for a workforce with more specialised skills. Some examples include: bankers specialised in lending to the hotel sector; asset managers, who represent the interests of hotel owners, (e.g. REITs (real estate investment trusts), investment funds or pension funds) vis - à -vis the hotel management companies; hotel development consultants; food & beverage consultants; architectural and design consultants; branding consultants, etc.
In order to be prepared for the current and future environment, young people entering the hotel sector have an interest in acquiring an academic qualification which will allow them to assume industry roles with career development potential.
SSTH offers both theory and practice
While it is important to acquire an academic qualification in today's hotel industry environment, practical training should not be neglected, as this is what differentiates a hotel school BS (Bachelor of Science) from a generic business school degree.
The fact is that many of the traditional hospitality skills, especially those involving notions of customer service, are directly transferable to other sectors of the service sector economy. For instance, hotel school graduates are widely sought after by banks.
A bachelor program offers students an ideal combination of theory and practice. Students who earn a Bachelor of Science at SSTH first complete the Swiss Professional Degree, which includes a thorough grounding in the practical side of hotel management, including rooms division, kitchen and service, and is enhanced by two internships, that allow students to put into practice what they have learned in their courses.
Once they have earned their Swiss Professional Degree, students are eligible to continue in the Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality programme, which is offered by the prestigious Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL).
The programme, that can be completed in three additional semesters, is designed and delivered by EHL, which is part of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Western Switzerland (HES-SO), an integral part of the Swiss university system.
Thus, EHL's Bachelor degree in Hospitality Management is the only one recognised by the Swiss federal government. Students continue to study at the Passugg campus for the first two semesters, but the third semester takes place at the Lausanne campus.
Students enjoy small classes and gain a complete portfolio of skills in the fields of sales & marketing, human resources management, accounting, finance and general management.
Once armed with this Bachelor qualification, students become part of the school's 25,000-strong alumni organisation, which has chapters worldwide and offers fantastic professional networking possibilities.