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How to define the Glion Spirit? It’s difficult to pin down exactly – even students have many different perspectives on it – but like the air we breathe, it’s all around us.

In few places is the Glion Spirit more alive than at Utopian Hotel Collection, a disruptive luxury hotel collection that has accumulated Glion graduates almost as quickly as it has accumulated properties.

Utopian was co-founded by Ronald Homsy and Paul Cordier, class of 1997 graduates in International Hospitality and Tourism, together with Enrique Ibanez, a fellow 1997 graduate.

That’s nowhere near the end of the Glion connections, however. Among the investors in Utopian’s holding company is Ziad Chemaitelli, yet another graduate of the extraordinarily fertile class of 1997.

And Glion alumni can be found throughout the core team too. These include Albert Nahas, Kenzie Kashmiri and Iva Anastasova (all class of 2016, Luxury Brand Management); Lauren Hattingh (class of 2017, Business Administration) and Sam Rattue, who, according to Ronald Homsy, “is not Glionnais but has acquired the mindset!”.

A passion for entrepreneurship

Ronald and Paul are both serial entrepreneurs, responsible for creating scores of successful businesses since graduating from Glion. Their education has played a big part in their success, but this is probably eclipsed by the incredible contact book that comes with being a Glion alumni.

“At school, you gain knowledge from your courses, but the practicality of running a business is very different,” says Ronald.

“This is when it becomes so important to have the Glion alumni community to call upon. Alumni are always willing to give you help and input.”

In March 2017, Ronald was elected as a board member of the Glion Alumni Association. He notes, “When things got serious with Utopian, and we had to put a team together, I tapped into the graduates before looking anywhere else.”

How has the Glion Spirit manifested itself in Utopian Hotels? Ronald thinks back to his time at the school. “Being able to live in a community that’s multi-lingual, multi-national and possesses different mindsets is priceless,” he says. “You learn to communicate and strike a rapport with all kinds of nationalities.

“Before you enter your training, you do ‘extras’ where the school sends you to work as a waiter, or in the kitchen, for a local event. I worked at a wedding in the Chateau de Chillon near Glion itself… cleaning dishes. There I was, aged 19, thinking: My parents sent me to the most wonderful hotel school in the world. What am I doing here? But sometimes it’s the small, seemingly insignificant experiences that teach you the most.”

His views are echoed by team members Kenzie Kashmiri and Albert Nahas.

Says Kenzie, “In the first internship you have to do the basics. It’s either rooms division or food and beverage – so working as a housekeeper or a waitress. The second placement is more managerial, so you’ll go to the ‘back end’ working in areas such as marketing, finance or human resources.”

Albert adds, “The internship placements secure jobs for a lot of graduates. You perform well and they keep your CV for when you graduate. People can study peacefully without the fear of not having a job to go to. My first training came during peak season in a luxury hotel in Gstaad, where I had stayed as a guest before. I was destroyed every day. Sixteen-hour shifts, night shifts, New Year’s Eve parties till seven or eight AM, dealing with various challenging scenarios.”

With such an ambitious and well-connected team behind it, there’s little surprise that Utopian Hotels has gone from strength to strength since it was established.

Ronald concludes, “Starting a new business is the most difficult thing in the world. As an entrepreneur you work all day. Sometimes you fail. But you have to learn from these failures. You will never move forward otherwise. Surround yourself with the right people and ask questions. Make sure you have a clear idea of how you want to do things. Always keep in touch with those people and look at things from different perspectives.”

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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