Our visit to Les Roches completed the trifecta of extraordinary hospitality universities in Switzerland, all NECHE accredited (Les Roches since 2006) and all three among the top five-rated hospitality universities in the world. Yep, the world. It’s clearly no coincidence that this trio calls Switzerland home. Given the hospitality we encountered every moment of our trip, we can attest that superior service is embedded in the Swiss DNA.
Les Roches, first founded in 1954 as an international boarding school, is now comprised of three campuses for both undergraduate and graduate programs: in Switzerland; Shanghai, China; and Marbella, Spain. Its home in Switzerland is in the charming and pristine town of Crans-Montana, famous in alpine ski racing for hosting the 1987 World Championships and often on the World Cup schedule, usually in women’s speed events.
At the university, 900 students live in eleven chalets cheerfully dotted across the mountainside.
The students come from over 100 countries, and the administrative team (which also is extraordinarily global) works to ensure that those living in doubles hail from different parts of the world, to ensure the living experience is also a learning experience. Les Roches’s Swiss campus and its campus in Spain enroll close to equal numbers of undergraduate students– pre-pandemic that was near 1,200 each. The China campus is significantly smaller, at around 300. In 2020, Les Roches’ Switzerland enrollment contracted by 15%, mainly due to the impact of COVID. Lower new student enrollment and deferrals were partially offset by special progression students (PGD to Masters) and students that accelerated their academic semester by postponing an internship. As a result, 2020 total students numbers were almost comparable to 2019, and 2021’s enrollment has bounced back to about 90% of previous years.
In 2020, Las Roches underwent a significant repositioning–or rebranding, if you will. Based on surveys of alumni, current students, and market analysis, new themes became more prominent, particularly in the areas of sustainability, entrepreneurship, and digitization. There was also a recognition that this repositioning was necessary in order to differentiate Les Roches from its sister school, Glion, which had begun to focus more on luxury brands and branding.
This new focus has been expressed across campus in dynamic expressions of posters, community-wide events, virtual reality spaces, and green rooms to encourage creative student expression, and from the very first semester, students are encouraged to bring innovative and technologically advanced problem-solving to their projects.
Over the course of a year, 300 companies (95% of which are shared with Glion) visit Les Roches to recruit students, which accounts for the extraordinarily high employment rate upon graduation. You’ll recognize the brands: Ritz-Carlton, Tesla, Apple, OHG, and Bloomberg, to name just a few. It’s not surprising that folks all over the world want to come to this campus to recruit.
But I can assure you that students interviewing for internships or jobs with these companies are prepped and ready for work, as formal business attire is required on campus from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Our favorite stop on the tour was a small chalet impersonating a Holiday Inn lobby, bedroom, and bathroom that has been used for years, maybe even decades, by the students of Les Roches.
It’s the site where every student learns to greet guests, make a bed, fold towels, clean the bathroom, polish the floor, and more. Ambitious youth who will go on to manage some of the fanciest hotels in the world begin their hospitality education by doing the most basic of physical tasks– scrubbing a pot or making 200 croissants — as well as reimagining the future of hospitality through technology.
I can’t say how refreshing an idea this is — and perhaps why Swiss hospitality is so authentic and progressive.