From hotels to watches: the surprising versatility of a hospitality degree

From hotels to watches: the surprising versatility of a hospitality degree
Copyright  euronews
By Claudio Rosmino

How are quality personnel trained for the hospitality sector and future managers taught to lead in other industries? We take a look at the world’s oldest hotel school adapting to today's job market needs.

After 128 years, EHL (Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne), the oldest and most prestigious hospitality school in the world, is redefining its educational model. The first symbolic step on this new path is the change of its name to EHL Hospitality Business School.

New skills for new areas

Students at this world-renowned school learn skills through innovative approaches, like simulation games and they practice management techniques as extracurricular activities. The institute's expertise in the hospitality sector is also a source of inspiration for its students to become leaders in different business environments.

Michel Rochat, the CEO of the EHL Group explained that the school is now exporting "the Swiss hotel industry values to other areas, like the luxury sector, the banking sector and the insurance sector, areas where there's contact with clients."

Michel Rochat, CEO of the EHL Groupeuronews

Human values

The private Swiss university has a person-centred approach. According to Rochat, allowing students to develop their own creativity and teaching them to become caring leaders is a virtue. He feels that in the field of education today, we're too attached to quantitative results. "But human values are absolutely essential, if you have values, the results are automatic", he adds.

Currently, almost 50% of the students who graduate from this institute do not work within the hotel industry. This shows that international recruiters appreciate the skills acquired at the school. To Inès Blal, the executive dean of EHL Hospitality Business School, this is explained by their philosophy. "You have to do things to become someone, to become a leader, to become a manager, so our students also become lifelong learning professionals", she explains. The alumni's education doesn't just stop with their bachelor's degree, they continue to develop their skills throughout the course of their life.

Inès Blal, executive dean of EHL Hospitality Business Schooleuronews

With over 3000 students from 120 nationalities, the classes are very international. Ioana is a student at the school. She is from Romania. She is very interested in the world of hospitality and appreciates the extra management skills they're learning. To her, good managerial skills are all about communication. "Hospitality actually teaches us how to interact, how to be humans, how to not lose that touch”.

Student success

Nathalie Seiler, a former EHL student, is now the director of the BeauRivage Palace in Lausanne. For her, it was important to get first-hand experience and to learn specific fields like finance, management and marketing. She explains that EHL taught her to be ready for the job market, to have the knowledge you require to understand how a company works.

Not all students go down the hospitality sector line. In Lausanne, Nicolas Freudiger has a watch showroom. He was inspired by the circular economy and decided to launch his own start-up that specialises in the production and sale of luxury watches that are made from recycled materials. He tells us that when he finished school, he had several employment opportunities within the hospitality sector and outside of it. He feels that the notion of service goes beyond that hospitality sector and he thinks learning that quality has held him in good stead for the watchmaking industry. 

The EHL group has three campuses. There are two in Switzerland, one in Lausanne and another in Chur-Passugg. A major expansion of the Lausanne campus is currently underway. A third institute was also opened in Singapore to meet the high demand for skilled hotel workers in Asia.

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