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Importance of experiential learning in hospitality and luxury education

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In hospitality education, experiential learning enables students to be face-to-face with an infinite range of guest personalities, needs and feelings.

By Barbara Czyzewska

In hospitality education, experiential learning enables students to be face-to-face with an infinite range of guest personalities, needs and feelings. 

At the highest level, experiential learning is a 360 degree educational experience

Hospitality is art. And an art must be practiced if an individual is to express themself at the highest level. This is especially true in luxury. Solid classroom theory must be practiced and proven in the real world to both hone abilities, and crucially in today’s luxury sector, to enable graduates to build relationships.

In hospitality education, experiential learning enables students to be face-to-face with an infinite range of guest personalities, needs and feelings. It allows them to evolve their ability to be on the same level as the guest, and have the confidence to judge what that looks like with each individual. From hotel and restaurant, to automotive, banking and real estate, this attribute is key in a luxury professional.

“…this ability can only be developed through a combination of rigorous theory applied and proven through real-world experience.”

Luxury clients can range from very relaxed and easy-going, to very strict. They might want to speak to everybody because they need interaction, or they might prefer a more private experience. This information is nowhere to be found, which is why it is a skill to be able to read a luxury guest, and this ability can only be developed through a combination of rigorous theory applied and proven through real-world experience.

Luxury hospitality is moving away from the scripted service, it is much more about building a rapport and bringing a powerful authenticity to every moment. This is why experiential learning, and the way in which it develops both hard and soft skills, is paramount to work-readiness in hospitality and luxury education. 

Preparing future leaders

As well as helping students to be authentic in every professional moment, experiential learning also prepares future professionals for the business-side of luxury hospitality. It’s no secret that Glion students have ambitions to go high in their careers, with expectations to be managers, CEOs and very often entrepreneurs. In order for graduates of any hospitality school to begin on a leadership path immediately after their program, potential employers, investors and co-founders must trust that the individual can deliver. That they have walked in the shoes of the people they’ll manage. That they possess business acumen. And that they can lead a team, and vision, towards success.

“By the time they return for semester three, they are more confident versions of themselves, transformed and more professional.”

This level of competence is only possible if an educational institution prioritizes student-exposure to the real working world. At Glion, all undergraduate and postgraduate programs have an internship element. On the Bachelor’s, students begin with a full semester of Practical Arts, before heading straight into an international internship for their second semester. By the time they return to campus for semester three, we see they are more confident versions of themselves, transformed and more professional.

On the Glion BBA, this first internship, of two in total, is all about working. Whether a student finds themself in the kitchen, front office, operations or rooms, they have to learn the discipline of work. To experience the day-to-day in a dynamic and challenging hospitality environment. And to learn that you have to step outside your comfort zone if you are to grow and achieve your leadership ambitions. These are invaluable lessons that the classroom alone cannot deliver.

A transformative experience

It is this ‘real view of the world’ that underpins everything powerful about experiential learning. It not only gives students a true understanding of the industry they are about to enter, but also allows them to understand which direction they want to take within that industry.

At the highest level, experiential learning is a 360 degree educational experience, rich in depth and transformative in its impact on individuals. For those that aspire to lead in luxury, it is the best journey an individual can go on to unleash their authenticity, and the finest preparation a professional can have for a highly successful future.

At Glion, this is the learning model, and it’s how we prepare our students to be leaders in modern luxury. That preparation results in 98% of students seeking a job having received one or more offers on graduation day. And for the school, it sees Glion ranked among the world’s top five higher education institutions for hospitality and leisure management, and in the top three for employer reputation since our entry in the rankings in 2018 (World University Rankings by Subject, 2022).

The author is academic dean at Glion Institute of Higher Education.

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