EHL Group aims at strategic consulting in luxury and sustainability
By Cristina D’Agostino20 avril 2023
EHL recently confirmed its position as best education institution worldwide in terms of hospitality management (QS Top Universities). Markus Venzin, head of the EHL Group for a year now, wants to accelerate the development of academic and business consulting activities, specifically focusing on the luxury and sustainability sectors.
CHF 152 Mio
Revenues in 2022
CHF 200 Mio
Targeted revenues in 2030
Estimated revenue from the Graduate School in 2030
Nicknamed “Terminal One”, the gigantic glass structure which defines the new reception, class, and leisure areas of the EHL Hospitality Business School of Lausanne (founded in 1893 as École Hôtelière de Lausanne) showcases the length of the group’s new ambitions: attract a very significant number of students who wish to train in hospitality management, while foreseeing a future beyond pure academia. After tremendous construction works worth over 250 million francs that have significantly transformed the Lausanne campus in Switzerland, the institution must accelerate its international growth today. Overseen by the EHL's non-lucrative foundation, its ambition is to pursue investment and growth (72 million were invested in 2021).
Accelerating growth opportunities through academic and business consulting
Markus Venzin, CEO of the EHL Group since September 2022, and his executive team have already completely reimagined the organizational structure of the institution, which now totals three campuses in Lausanne, Passugg and Singapore and several offices abroad. While hospitality, services and experience are at the heart of every industry today, EHL’s know-how is strategic, and the growth opportunities are vast. The school even communicated a few weeks back about having been elected the best institution in the world in terms of hospitality management education and the fifth-best business school in Switzerland. Markus Venzin knows it, his mission to bring international recognition as well as profitability by 2030 must go through developing academic and business consulting for companies, as well as schools or governments.
The international ambition is also the challenge of any rival academic infrastructure related to the worlds of hospitality and hotel management anchored in Switzerland and which also stands out globally. Switzerland has had this know-how for decades. Its interest is clearly to see institutions specialized in educating these sectors grow and shine. EHL Hospitality Business School, founded in 1893, is today well positioned. Over ten years, the number of students registered at the EHL Group has doubled, from about 2000 to 4000 students. The institution counts three campuses in Lausanne, Passugg and Singapore, the number of programs and courses proposed by the EHL Group has gone from 3 to 7 and 46 professional and amateurs’ classes. The latest one was announced by EHL on April 6, a Summer Program dedicated to luxury hospitality management, headed by Florent Girardin, PhD and assistant professor at EHL for Luxury Management, in close collaboration with the prestigious HEC Paris school.
Luxury brands obsessed with quality experiences
Another growth opportunity for the group is increasing its ties with the luxury industry. Recently EHL welcomed on its Lausanne campus the CEO of the Saint Laurent brand Francesca Bellettini for an exclusive conference. Markus Venzin explains: “EHL Hospitality Business School already has many projects alongside luxury houses, and this has been ongoing for years. EHL Alliance counts many brands as partners, such as Cartier, Chopard, Laurent Perrier, Four Seasons or even Swiss. These companies are looking for advice and skills in terms of hospitality, and we are well-placed to provide them. One thing is clear and never varies: 30% of client satisfaction comes from the product and 70% from experience tied to it. Increasing satisfaction through the value of the experience is part of hospitality. The luxury brand is, so to speak, obsessed with product quality. On our side, we are here to show them how to create the same quality in hospitality. While service is a perfect execution of a protocol, hospitality is a surprise; it is authenticity and emotion. You can feel like you’ve had good service but not feel welcome. Hospitality is knowing how to share this feeling through each employee of a company. It is a difficult task. Therefore, I firmly believe in education: investing in education at each step of the life of a colleague means increasing the company’s profitability. It is the challenge today in a constantly evolving world.”
Sustainability at the heart of EHL’s development
This challenge is encompassed in what Markus Venzin calls “Hospitality DNA”, which helps implement hospitality concepts. It is related to the R&D department of EHL and its faculty via research institutions. He goes on: “You wish to implement a five-star hotel in Sardinia? We will help you lead the project. Your energy costs related to your business are exploding? We can help you implement a system that analyses your business's energy consumption. This tool gives you the basic consumption via an app on your smartphone, and then a few elements are related to the consumption increase over a given period. We are currently testing this expertise on our own EHL campus with our bakery. Thanks to A.I., we analyze comparable data with other bakeries. This allows us to analyze potential reduction of energy consumption. Our expertise will even help us observe the organizational process to evaluate potential changes that need to be implemented. We can estimate, for example, when to start the oven, where to place it, when to open or close the door to be more efficient, and even what type of bread requires less energy. We are currently implementing this system in 20 pilot bakeries in the canton of Vaud. Then we will launch consulting.”
For Markus Venzin, the reasoning regarding sustainability is the same as for luxury: “Companies must invest in sustainability to develop their business and their profitability. We need to show that investing in sustainability allows for reducing costs. At our level, we eventually want to be B Corp certified, which would testify to our societal and environmental standards. We are also working with Nativa, with whom we wish to develop sustainability best practices, which we can then convey in hospitality everywhere worldwide.”
Opening new campuses is an option
The Graduate School, a segment which gathers Master and MBA training as well as company consulting, is today valued at 7% of the EHL Group’s turnover. But the Group director has much broader ambitions since he aims to reach 30% by 2030, just as other revenue sources already reach these levels, such as the Preparatory Year of the bachelor’s program. On this point Markus Venzin details: “We are part of a non-lucrative foundation, but we need to have sufficient profit to be able to reinvest. Today, we have a 152-million-franc turnover, and in the future, by 2030, we are aiming at 200 million. We must stay niche in terms of hospitality skills. And for that we are ready to consider other campuses worldwide within the right conditions.”
Already present in Singapore with one campus, a joint venture in Japan, and offices in Shanghai, Beijing and New Delhi, the EHL Group is considering opening another office in Latin America. Markus Venzin adds: “In order to be very competitive strategically, the bachelor’s degree must be able to offer international exchange programs, such as many business schools do. If we open new campuses, that will mean we will have answered to local demand in terms of skills and hospitality education. Another potential hub could be the Middle East. But these are long-term plans, nothing is set in stone.”
Regarding the more delicate question of the potential end of employability golden years for EHL graduates, which some companies consider they lack specialization, Markus Venzin contests: “We monitor the careers of our students and six months after they graduate, 96% of them have a job. It is true that about 50% remain in hospitality, and the other half turn to adjacent industries, such as luxury, private banking, and consulting. Our Bachelor students are also immediately operational thanks to their field experiences during the preparatory year and two mandatory internships. It is an essential point.”
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