An Interview with Sybil Hoffmann from Alpine Center (the Swiss Business School for Hotel & Tourism Management, Switzerland) on their Spa Management Program online
While living and working in Tanzania, where we did not even have a proper bookshop or library at the time, studying was not that easy. This is why I registered with the University of Liverpool for a fully online MBA program. My first online program, what an experience! Very good, but also hard work. This 3 year investment has definitely paid off!
For my MBA dissertation I choose the topic “A study of educational programs at spa academies and their effectiveness in producing qualified managers in the field”.
During various projects in pre-opening of Spas on 3 different continents, I realised the global lack of qualified Spa staff, particularly in spa management.
My findings suggested that additional programs in the industry where needed and I approached Sybil Hofmann from Alpine College in Athens/Greece, who was thrilled about the idea of offering Spa Management Online programs with Alpine.
Following excerpts of an interview with Sybil about online programs:
Sybil, how has the field of education changed over the last decade?
The field of education has changed dramatically in the last decade! When I compare how I was educated with how the new generations are being educated, I can’t but admire how technology has fundamentally changed higher education in many ways: the use of electronic devices by students and instructors has given a new approach to education. Technologies have not just become tools of learning but networking and knowledge sharing.
Education today has changed our definitions of the ‘classroom’, ‘curriculum’, ‘teacher’ and ‘student’.
Students and instructors do not have to meet in classrooms within 4 walls. They can meet virtually, online, and globally at the same time, using a variety of technological tools, including interactive whiteboards, cameras and camcorders, student response systems, digital content, and social media. These environments transform the entire teaching and learning experience, facilitating more visual and interactive presentations of content. They allow students to discuss ideas, problem solving techniques, research, and share their own experiences, and at the same time allow teachers to incorporate the very latest thinking on all kinds of subjects through their own research.
Curriculum design itself has undergone a new approach: it has become interdisciplinary, project-based, and research-driven. It is connected to the present demands of the workplace, the community and the world at large. Students are now able to collaborate with other students around the world in various projects. Assessments have moved from repeating memorized facts to demonstration of understanding through application and research.
Today’s students are increasingly taking responsibility for their own learning, defining their own education path through alternative sources and feeling a responsibility for creating personalised learning experiences. Students today are self-directed, and work both independently and interdependently.
Today’s teachers are no longer dispensers of information, rather conductors who orchestrate the learning and help students turn information into knowledge and application. Teachers have to create a “culture of inquiry” and encourage students to be more inquisitive, critical thinkers, researchers and be more creative.
Above all, education today is limitless. If you ‘google’ the number of online courses that are available worldwide, be it for individuals interested in earning a degree via distance learning, a diploma, or a certificate that will assist them in their career advancement or career change, or merely in their quest for professional development, the sky is the limit!
Why Spa Management Program Online at Alpine, is that not a niche program?
Since its inception in 1987, Alpine Center has been a pioneer in designing programmes of study to meet the imminent demands for professionals in the different segments of our hospitality and tourism industry.
We started by offering a Swiss Diploma in Hotel Management, then an HND (Higher National Diploma) in Travel & Tourism Management and then a Swiss Diploma in Culinary Arts.
In 2004 we identified the need to introduce an Events & Conventions Management programme and topped all the programmes with a Bachelor’s degree in collaboration with a British University.
In 2009 the spa industry was booming and looking for professionals to manage spa and wellness centers around the world. This is when we had the great fortune to meet you, Anja, and to ask for your assistance in designing one of the first courses in Spa Management. With your expertise and international experience, we were able to upload a unique Spa Management Online Course that has been attracting students from all over the world.
More recently we designed a new course in Hospitality& Cruise Ship Management to meet the growing demand for professionals in the fastest growing segment of the cruise line industry.
You are celebrating your 5-year anniversary with the spa management online program this year, what a great success?
Indeed, we are! You have been instrumental in the launch of this programme and in teaching on it non-stop for the last 5 years, together with other highly qualified instructors. On this celebratory occasion we are contacting all the graduates on the program to find out where they are now.
Students who have completed the Spa Management Online course have come from many countries all over the world, as far away as USA, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Korea and Russia, Greece, Romania, Spain, Switzerland France, Portugal, Montenegro Moldova, Iceland, Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Qatar. I think you agree that the interaction between students from all over the world contributes a wealth of experience in sharing knowledge and learning from each other.
Sybil, what is your vision for the future?
We are all aware about the exponential growth of the international hospitality and tourism industry. According to the WTO—World Tourism Organization, the travel and tourism industry is expected to add more than 70 million jobs over the next decade, with two thirds of those jobs to be created in Asia.
We see growth in many new regions of the world. Take for example the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China! Or new destinations, such as Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. There is a huge demand for talent, or well trained and educated passionate hospitality employees in all these countries. This prompted us to start offering our hospitality management programs in India and Russia with prospects of starting to operate in China as well. We already feel the shortage of highly qualified professionals by the requests we receive from all over the world for graduates who could assume managerial positions in leading establishments.
Now-a-days, international travelers are very sophisticated, discerning and demanding. We need to educate our hospitality students to understand how to cater to customers of different cultures and how to operate in different countries.
At the same time, we need to prepare them for all the very exciting changes our industry is experiencing in view of digital innovations and social media. Building customer loyalty, keeping up with trends including in sales and marketing, design, e-tourism, software programmes, revenue management, culinary arts, you name it, requires that educators keep up with those innovations and ensure that their students are prepared for leadership positions in the industry.
We also need to take into consideration the new generations and how to meet this constantly evolving marketplace.
Finally, Anja, we are in the very rewarding position of being involved in hospitality and tourism education and shaping the future of the world’s biggest industry. My vision is to keep abreast with all those exciting changes and to continue to prepare the future leaders of our evolving hospitality and tourism industry!
Sybil, thank you so much for this valuable insight knowledge. It has been a great pleasure working with you and all members of staff at Alpine on a very high and professional level, and I am much looking forward to the next 5 years!