Some of the participants at the ‘SUISSEedu Hospitality Fair and Hotel Tour’ at Shangri-La Hotel, Jalan Sultan Ismail. pic by Nik HARIFF HASSAN
Swiss Education regional manager, Richard Fareez (right) briefing participants on hotel management.
Attiwatt Pearce
Sonia Mueller
Adam Salleh

Does an international working experience appeal to you? Are you a people person? Fancy trying out a broad spectrum of specialisations — from luxury brand management to entrepreneurship to culinary arts and also design? If your answer is yes to all three questions, then you might want to seriously consider taking up hospitality as a career option.

For Grace Yong, 16 from the International School of Kuala Lumpur, the prospect of an international working experience holds a whole lot of appeal. That and the thought of trying her hand at something other than the ‘usual’ professional careers like accountancy.

“Accounting feels like a shackled desk job where I’ll be doing work that’s fixed in a certain area, whereas, hospitality will give me a lot of different opportunities and there’s a lot of different stuff that you can do. It just seems more interesting,” she said.

Being surrounded by students from various backgrounds and nationalities is also a plus point for Yong as due to the nature of her father’s work, she has had to study in international schools in Argentina, China and Singapore before coming back to Malaysia.

Yong and her mother were with more than 60 other students, parents and school counsellors from international schools in and around the Klang Valley who attended a Hospitality Fair and Hotel Tour organised by SUISSEedu at the Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur recently.

SUISSEedu, helmed by Pauline Ngui and Sonia Mueller, is an education consultant organisation experienced in coaching, developing and counselling students from Malaysia for their further studies internationally. For the past 14 years, SUISSEedu has represented top hospitality schools such as the CesarRitz College in Switzerland, Glion in the United Kingdom, and the Blue Mountains in Australia.

It has been said that hospitality is synonymous with Switzerland. Known as the birthplace of hospitality, Switzerland boasts more than 30 hospitality schools, some in picturesque and quaint locations dotting the Alpine mountains. Swiss hospitality schools are renowned for producing many professionals, who go on to become leaders, and owners of their own world-class establishments.

Mueller, a product of a Swiss hospitality education, said that the goal of the education fair was to make students aware of the various areas in hospitality that can be a career option for them — from the entertainment industry; tourism; events management; luxury brand management; finance and real estate; sales and marketing; culinary arts management; entrepreneurship; spa and health management; and strategic human resources management.

With her first-hand experience in the industry, Mueller who is of Malaysian-Swiss parentage, is certainly well-positioned to provide guidance to students who wish to embark on a career in hospitality.

“Pauline and I are dedicated to helping grow the awareness of hospitality as a career choice by sharing our information, experiences and most of all our passion with the students and parents. We want to break the stereotype that a career in hospitality is only about hotels and restaurants,” said Mueller.

“The new generation of hospitality is more than just working in hotels, its scope is so wide and varied.”

An alumnus of a hospitality school in Switzerland, Attiwatt Pearce began his career in the airlines industry before switching to hotels. He now owns a five-star spa in Bangkok with plans to open up an academy to train his staff.

Pearce said that the hospitality industry is essentially in the business of making people happy. And contrary to popular belief, he said that studying hospitality does not make one a waiter or a housekeeper.

He added that at a hospitality school, one learns “proper bedside manners” a skill that is needed to become a great leader.

“You can still become a lawyer, accountant, etc. by attending any hospitality school. Better yet, you can become managing director of a resort or a spa,” he said.

Pearce said that to be a boss, students would need knowledge and experience. And that’s where a Swiss hospitality education is an advantage — over there, students get to learn and experience everything even while they are studying.

“At a Swiss school, a hospitality student would be required to study for one and a half years, work for one a half years and then enter the industry at managerial level. It is a fast track to realising your dreams because you can reach the top even before you hit 30,” explained Pearce.

For Adam Salleh, 16 from Tenby International & Private School, Shah Alam, taking up hospitality management at a top school in Switzerland has been his dream. Adam, who will be sitting for his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations next year simply cannot wait for the time to come.

Adam seems to have a clear picture of what he intends to do in the future, saying: “I plan to enroll in a summer programme at a hospitality school in Switzerland this year to personally experience a taste of what’s it’s like to further my studies in hospitality there.”

His calm confidence and deep understanding of what a career in hospitality entails belies his age. He said that what appeals to him most about having a career in hospitality is how closely the industry relates to people, such as customer service and communications.

“I consider myself a people-person. I like to engage with people and hear what their problems are and help them to solve it,” he added.

“I don’t consider myself a leader yet, but that’s something I hope to learn by studying hospitality.”

The students were also brought on a hotel tour to experience first-hand the day-to-day operations of a luxurious hotel. With 662 rooms, 17 function rooms and five international restaurants, the Shangri-La Hotel is the largest in Kuala Lumpur. To be able to lead the management team at a hotel like Shangri-La would surely be a dream come true for any aspiring hotelier but certainly one in which an education in hospitality could prepare them for.

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