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There’s nothing like European hospitality

Want to join the booming hotel industry? Then get some international experience, says Russ Thorne

Thursday 26 May 2011 09:56 BST

Hospitality will be the world’s largest industry by 2020, according to the World Travel Organisation – already some schools (such as the Swiss institution Les Roches) are claiming an average of three job offers per student on graduation. Students looking to gain the right skills and qualifications have the option of studying throughout Europe, with courses available at a number of locations in countries including Switzerland, Austria and Sweden.

Perhaps the highest concentration of schools dedicated to the hospitality industry are found in Switzerland: the country hosts the Laureate group’s Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches International School of Hotel Management, as well as the Swiss Education Group’s IHTTI Neuchatel School of Hotel Management, SHMS Swiss Hotel Management School and Hotel Institute Montreux (HIM). “Some of our students come from Switzerland, but the majority are from all over the world,” says Daniela Cassini, regional manager of the Swiss Education Group (SEG). “The ‘Swiss hospitality touch’ is known throughout the industry for its immaculate precision, dependable quality and practical innovation, all combined with professional leadership.”

The SEG group’s programmes include BA degrees in hospitality management and culinary arts, events management and tourism management, as well as BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) degrees in hospitality management and business management or hotel, restaurant and resort management; postgraduate programmes are also available.

In Austria, Vienna’s MODUL University has courses including a BBA in tourism and hospitality management, an MSc in international tourism and an MBA in tourism management. “We offer a very international and culturally diverse study environment,” says Prof Dr Karl Wöber, president of MODUL, explaining that 60 per cent of the university’s cohort is made up of international students from more than 50 different countries. According to Wöber the hospitality world’s links with the Austrian capital go beyond the purely academic: the International Congress and Convention Association has Vienna as the number one destination in the meetings industry.

There are other options for UK students – a relatively low cost of living and possible exemption from tuition fees might make Sweden an attractive prospect for some. Dalarna University has a variety of hospitality and tourism courses including a BSc in international tourism management, which runs for three years and includes a semester spent overseas. Other options include Umeå University and Lund University, which offer Masters programmes.

Despite their geographical spread, there are similarities between all the institutions. UK students may be relieved to know that all courses are taught in English, for example – although a language barrier can sometimes be positive according to Thomas Yucebiyik, currently studying at Les Roches. “Working on group projects with students whose English is not at a high standard allows you to learn more by conquering those problems together,” he explains.

Teaching typically includes lectures, seminars and project work, along with internships and often the chance to study abroad for a semester, all designed to combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills and experience.

“We want to produce critical thinkers and problem solvers, but also graduates who demonstrate respect by valuing people’s diversity, ideas and creativity,” says Wöber. Relatively small class sizes promote academic discourse, he says, and create a “familiar atmosphere” in which students and staff can interact.

Interaction with the wider industry is also a vital part of the university experience, says Cassini. “It’s one of the most important components for us because each year well-known companies from all over the world come to our International Recruitment Forum to interview our students directly for internships and future employment.” According to both Cassini and Wöber most courses will feature teaching or mentoring from industry professionals, and Yucebiyik says internships are a student highlight: he spent his in Thailand, Ireland and Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at the Ritz Carlton.

Exposure to celebrity chefs aside, there are many personal and professional benefits to studying a hospitality course abroad. “Employers notice international study experience,” says Wöber, explaining that graduates might find management positions in (among others) tourist boards, tour operators and accommodation providers, as well as consultancy posts in research institutes and even government.

An international education will prepare students for life in an international industry, adds Cassini. “The hospitality and tourism industry revolves around the international component, whether it concerns guests, travellers, staff or business partners,” she explains.

“From boutique hotels in the Emirates, Italian restaurants in Rome or large sporting events all around the world, individuals need to learn to manage an international team.”

Wherever students choose to study, an international qualification in hospitality can open the door to a career that’s both “demanding and stimulating,” as Wöber puts it. “It’s all about people, and it’s both a local and global phenomenon.”

Plus, it’s an age-old business with a secure future because, as Yucebiyik says in conclusion, “people are always going to need somewhere to stay!”

'The Swiss approach to learning is definitely different to the UK'

Chris Astill-Smith took A-levels in business studies, travel and tourism, and IT, plus an AS level in economics. He’s currently studying at Les Roches School of Hotel Management in Switzerland.

“I decided to study in Switzerland as it has a reputation for having the best hospitality schools in the world. I also wanted a change and to study somewhere different from all my friends back in the UK.

The Swiss approach to learning is definitely different to the UK. I chose Les Roches because it includes a lot of practical aspects as well as theoretical ones and, for me, that’s the best way to learn; I also think it’s very important in the hotel industry. We have lectures and practical lessons from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and sometimes even Saturday! It’s hard work, but this is what it will be like in the real world, so I feel ready to step into the industry knowing what’s ahead.

Moving to Switzerland wasn’t that difficult. I basically sorted everything out within a couple of days of getting my acceptance letter, and the school sorts out other things – such as permits – once you arrive.

I really would recommend studying in Europe. You meet so many different people, and it’s so beneficial to have loads of new friends from all over the world teaching me new things.”

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