SHL Schweizerische Hotelfachschule is one of only two original Hotel Management Schools in Switzerland. Founded in 1909, we have over one hundred years’ experience teaching students the fine art of Swiss hospitality and management. Immensely proud of our heritage, expertise and worldwide reputation, we continue to nurture, develop and educate the hoteliers and managers of tomorrow.
Read on for our story – from its humble beginnings, to its stellar rise to the top of a fast-paced and ever-changing industry.
1886: The founding organisation - Union Helvetia
It all started in 1886. This was a time of growth for the Swiss tourism industry, when a rise in the number of holidaymakers and visitors to the country meant a sudden demand for talented and qualified hotel employees. The idea for a special hotel school in Switzerland came about and Union Helvetia – the organisation that would establish SHL Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern – was born.
Union Helvetia was created not just to teach promising individuals how to deliver impeccable service to hotel guests. It would also equip these employees with the skills and tools they needed for a rewarding, lifelong career.
1909: The magic number – 164
In 1909, 164 enthusiastic and ambitious students enrolled in the first ever class of hoteliers at SHL.
Amongst them were Erika from Switzerland, Ulrich from Germany, and Sven from Norway. Imagine how they felt as they walked through the doors and sat down as Hermann Bieder, SHL’s first ever director, said: “Our school will become a haven of intelligence, and its power will shine out into the world of the hoteliers.”
1910 – 1923: Through highs and lows
SHL grew rapidly over these first few years as a hotel school. It was an exciting time – attracting students from Switzerland, Europe and the wider world. And they came from a huge range of backgrounds – from experienced hoteliers, restaurant managers and head waiters, to secretaries and budding chefs. Even the daughters of private families who wanted to train in fine dining signed up.
With the onset of the First World War, SHL faced testing times. Thanks to the impressive stamina of our staff and students, as well as the robustness of our hotel course, the school marched on – and came out stronger on the other side.
1924 – 1934: A decade to celebrate
Over the next ten years – a decade marked by huge social and political change – SHL continued to grow. In 1934, we had a very good reason to celebrate: 25 years as a successful hotel school.
Eugen Scheech, President of the Directorate General, announced: “Our school has evolved from simple, humble beginnings, expanded, kept pace with the modern development of the hospitality industry – and surpassed the hopes of its founders.”
1935 – 1945: Another influential decade
1944 was a memorable year for SHL. The school moved from its original location to a new home – the Hotel Montana, with its spectacular views over Lake Lucerne and the surrounding alpine scenery. To relocate the school in wartime was a risky measure, as the years preceding and during the war were rocked not just by huge uncertainty but economic crises. However, it proved to be a brave and inspired decision – our school is in the same beautiful location today.
1946 – 1973: The economic boom
The number of applications to our school grew noticeably during this period, as it was a time of economic prosperity. In 1959, 184 international students from 24 countries came to study with us in Lucerne. We could have filled our courses with even more students.
But we didn’t want to grow to the point where we became a student ‘factory.’ Instead, we chose to maintain the school’s exclusive yet personal ethos, which stays with us to this day.
1974 – 1989: Well-deserved recognition
By 1974, an SHL diploma was a well-known and highly-respected qualification throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The leading lights in the hotel industry knew that if they employed someone from SHL, they would welcome a dedicated, talented and ambitious individual to their team.
Another milestone we reached in 1989: Our school was recognised as the first hospitality and management college by the Swiss Federal Government. Every graduate of SHL could now call themselves official hotel managers – a very proud moment.
1990 – 2010: Perfecting the formula
We didn’t consider recognition by the Swiss Federal Government in 1989 as a reason to rest on our laurels. On the contrary, SHL constantly strived to improve the quality of our course. To do this, we constantly reviewed study subjects. We sent lecturers on further education courses, so that they could refresh their own expertise. We stayed connected to modern methods of teaching and continued to extend the school building to make it a pleasurable place to study. Everyone involved in SHL had one shared goal: to ensure our students received the best possible education in hospitality and hotel management.
2010 – 2018: SHL around the world
With involvement in educational projects all around the world – and with the decision to offer our renowned SHL management course in English – SHL became a truly international school.
As Christa Augsburger, Chief Executive Officer of SHL said: “We are excited and full of anticipation to give English speaking students the possibility to get to know the true promise of our proven and varied course.”
On the cusp of a new era
Even though we can’t predict the future for SHL, we know it’ll be as exciting, challenging and full of rewards as the last 110 years. Its original founders, directors, teachers and students would certainly be extremely proud of what SHL has become.
Above all, SHL will continue to do what it does best: educate generations of managers and hoteliers to the highest possible standard – and shine its light out into the world.
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