Ever wonder why there are so many hotel schools in Switzerland or why they are considered the best places to study hotel management? Here’s a brief history of Swiss hotel schools, including Glion Hotel School, and an explanation of why they are so highly reputed.

Why is Switzerland a top location for hotel schools?

According to a hotel schools ranking survey in 2013, Switzerland is the worldwide leader in international hospitality management education and the top three hotel schools in the world are located in Switzerland (TNS Global Survey, 2013). Indeed, Switzerland is the birthplace of hotel management schools and hotel schools are plentiful in Switzerland, there are at least 25 schools offering hotel management programs in the country.

Additionally, Switzerland is said to be “the home of hospitality” because it began seriously catering to tourists when tourism was just getting started. In the 18th century, Switzerland was featured as a must-see destination for the new breed of European travellers who trekked across Europe to experience nature and amazing landscapes. Switzerland even featured in the first package holidays across Europe, created by Thomas Cook in 1858. Over the years, the quality of the roads improved and trains began to bring more tourists into the country, which generated the growth of hotels in Switzerland made it a major European tourism destination by the end of the 1800s.

The first hotel schools in Switzerland

Switzerland is also the home of the first hotel school that was created in 1893 by a Swiss society of “hoteliers” (hotel managers) on the shores of Lake Geneva. At that time, the hotel school program focused on operations management teaching students to manage the restaurant, reception, accommodation, and guest services, with some “book-keeping”.

The development of motorways and commercial flights in the 1960s triggered fast growth in hotel chains and tourism. Consequently, Glion Hotel School was founded in 1962. The school’s founders, Walter Hunziker and Frederic Tissot, saw that the growth of tourism was creating a need for better training and professional managers in hotels and hotel-related businesses. Hunziker was a pioneer in academic research and tourism, while Tissot was an experienced hotelier and entrepreneur. Together, they shared a common vision: to create the finest hospitality management school in the world. They opened their hotel school in the fall of 1962 in the grandiose old Hotel Bellevue on the mountainside above Montreux. Named the “Institut International de Glion”, it had a first class composed of 15 students from five countries.

What makes Swiss hotel schools so successful?

The origins of hotel schools in Switzerland, and the number of hotel schools that still exist in the country, are not enough to explain why Switzerland has become so widely known for hotel management education. To answer that question, one must look deeper into the teaching methods and traditions of Swiss hotel management schools.

Swiss hotel schools use time-tested Swiss methods for training good managers. These methods include a balanced combination of practical courses mixed with management theory and applied business exercises. The Swiss tradition of teaching managers requires that students learn to run a business from the bottom-up, learning the details of every department and every role, so that they know exactly what every one of their employees is supposed to do. This comprehensive method of teaching is what has earned Swiss hotel management schools their reputation in the world of international business education.

Hotel schools in the past often had a limited curriculum of hotel management courses for operations (food & beverage service, reception, rooms division, etc.), but this structure is no longer the norm. The modern hospitality management schools in Switzerland are now much closer to Switzerland’s university model of building competencies step-by-step and applying theory to working situations.

The modern hotel school curriculum

Nowadays, the majority of hotel schools offer programs that develop a broader range of business skills which can be applied in the hospitality and service industries. That is why most hotel schools have opted to call themselves hospitality management schools as they offer a wider scope of instruction which includes hotel operations and hospitality management courses, as well as general business administration. The modern hotel management degree program generally includes three types of courses:

Hotel management courses

These courses are the foundation of any hospitality degree. They focus on hotel and restaurant operations using hands-on learning experiences paired with management courses. Students learn the industry standards for hotel operations and professional behavior. They learn how to manage the different operational departments such as the rooms division, food & beverage, or guest services through hands-on hotel management courses. At the same time, students develop a useful set of hard skills (knowledge of industry practices, cost-controlling, revenue management, marketing, etc.) and an indispensable array of soft skills (team-work, communication, organization and prioritization, decision-making and professionalism).


Internships are another corner-stone of the hotel school curriculum. Students are generally required to complete one or two, full-time internships for a bachelor degree in hospitality. Internships are usually done in a hospitality business, which could be a hotel or resort, cruise ship, restaurant, tourism office, or event management company. Internships give students a chance to test the skills they learned in class, to gain experience in an international working environment (sometimes far away from their home and school), and to further develop their skills. Most importantly, internships serve as a career launch-pad where students begin their professional networking and build a portfolio of professional competencies. Visit our Real World of Internship Tumblr to see where our students are completing their internships.
(photo: Glion student Claudia Dalla Torre Di Sanguinetto, currently on her internship at Hotel Plaza Athénée NYC)

Hospitality Business Courses

It’s easy to see how students learn to manage a hotel or restaurant, but how does that knowledge transfer into other businesses? The answer is simple; hotels are like a microcosm of larger, international businesses and a hospitality business is just like any other type of business that provides goods or services. Learning to manage a hotel means learning to manage everything from operations and logistics, staffing and performance, finance and revenue, to marketing and PR. The business courses offered in hotel management schools take the examples of hospitality and tourism and teach students to apply business theory in a variety of business models.

Most hospitality schools these days offer a variety of business courses and some even offer specializations. Glion Institute of Higher Education (GIHE), which started out as Glion hotel school, has evolved to offer accredited bachelor degrees in hospitality management with specializations in:

Still following the traditional Swiss methods of hotel management education, with the hands-on learning, internships and hospitality management courses, GIHE has added these specialization courses to allow students to develop deeper business expertise in their areas of interest for even greater versatility in their careers.

Learn more about the Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management today.

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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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