The Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne was the first hotel school in the world. It was founded over a hundred years ago, in 1893, during the Belle Epoque when Switzerland was experiencing an unprecedented boom in tourism and there was an urgent need for skilled and professional personnel, at every level from management down.
The beginnings of tourism
Tourism as such had begun a few years earlier, in the middle of the 19th century. Several factors converged to influence its remarkable growth in Switzerland and the development of Swiss supremacy in the hospitality tradition:
- the "grand tour" of Europe undertaken by young English aristocrats for their coming of age
- the development of mountaineering and endurance sports
- the growing tradition of harboring writers, philosophers and scientists who found in Switzerland a haven for peace for their work or, beginning with Voltaire, a refuge from persecution
- the reputation of Switzerland as a country of pure mountain air and advanced medical knowledge that could help in the treatment of tuberculosis - and attract wealthy hypochondriacs...
- the growing attractiveness of Switzerland, with its impressive scenery, invigorating climate and tradition of discretion and neutrality, as a home for the rich and famous - a tradition that continues to this day.
Grand hotels and palaces
The rapid growth of this wealthy and highly demanding clientele resulted in a huge increase in hotels. Fifty palaces and grand hotels were built between 1834 and the opening of the School in 1893, and the number had more than doubled by the outbreak of the First World War. The demand for skilled employees and dynamic managers also grew exponentially in response to the need for high standards of individualized service.
The Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne
EHL was founded in response to this need. At the time, the idea of a hotel school was revolutionary. EHL's founder, Jacques Tschumi, an influential member of the Swiss Hotel Association, had to persuade his rather reticent fellow members that the project was a realistic and viable one. His vision was soon to be proved well-founded.
Professionalism and savoir-faire
From the start, the School realized the importance of excellence in both the technique and in practice of a hospitality culture: on the one hand, professionalism in administering the complex underlying operations and supply system, and on the other the attentiveness and savoir-faire developed in response to an exacting clientele.
This balance between the science and art of hospitality management, refined and developed over time, has remained the cornerstone of EHL's educational philosophy.