Hospitality management education has generally been provided by university departments and hotel management schools. Changes over time have seen these educational departments and schools being absorbed by larger units, such as business schools. The new School of Tourism and Hospitality in Geilo, Norway now offers a two-year program at a level above upper secondary education, ensures that the students gain a balanced approach to the hospitality business encompassing operational as well as academic issues.
The new School of Tourism and Hospitality in Geilo, Norway will at the same time ensure that Norwegian hotels and hospitality businesses can welcome long-awaited skilled employees.
Knut Arne Gurigard has been owner of the school throughout the development phase. “There have been many alpha males to deal with and demanding to keep the progress engaged and positive,” he says. “But the business community has been positive and supportive all the way and the county council has been willing to use resources.” He emphasizes that there has been an exceptionally good collaboration between the County Municipality, Tinius Olsen Vocational School in Kongsberg, Region Hallingdal and the tourism industry.
New Norwegian School of Tourism and Hospitality with 40 students
Jonny Pettersen from the Tinius Olsen Vocational School in Kongsberg was appointed project manager and was given the task of developing the school and its content. The owner, Viken County Municipality, has according to the project manager been very solution-oriented and contributed to the Norwegian School of Tourism being able to welcome 40 students in August.
“Hospitality management schools have always trained students to pay attention to detail, to care for customers and provide impeccable service, and our school’s hospitality business programs also meet the industry needs for business specialists,” says campus leader Ole Fredrik Stevning.
Perceptions about Geilo
Why has Geilo become the go-to destination to obtain a reliable hospitality education? And what makes the Geilo model of hospitality teaching so effective?
Perceptions about Geilo are shaped by many operators, and show how both the tourism industry itself, external seasonal workers and the local young people are involved in shaping the images of the destination. The magnificent nature is an important ingredient in this image. A number of hotels and restaurants help to emphasize that “something is happening here!” and the young people agree that this is a party place.
Divided course program
The two-year course includes two months of practical placement in the school’s member organizations. The school itself applies the term “higher vocational education” and the course program consists of “Tourism and Destination Development”, “Communication and Language” and “Marketing and Finance”.
The subjects in the new School of Tourism and Hospitality in Geilo, Norway go a bit into each other and the students are a complex group, “says Jan-Anders Dam-Nielsen who is a teacher in communication. “The connection to Bardøla hotel, where the teaching takes place, is worth its weight in gold,” he says and adds, “Geilo is regarded as «a destination of hospitality» because it began seriously to catering to tourism at an early stage in Norwegian tourism.
Preparing students for the future
At the moment, the school has 40 students. The students come from all over Norway. Some have worked in hotels as receptionists, some in administrative positions, while others have been working as cooks or have agricultural background. The requirement for admission is 5 years of relevant practice.
More than a traditional university environment, Norwegian School of Tourism in Geilo is preparing students for the future by integrating technology, customer experience and research into the academic programs. The education provides study competence.
We spoke with three students, Katrine Bergan (26), Espen Korsveen (40) and Christian Eide-Fredriksen (25). All three have had practical work in the tourism industry and had an earnest wish to build on their experience with theoretical subjects. “Our experience from practical business has proven to be very useful,” they say. “We are now being challenged with real issues that we have to deal with.”
The students emphasize that visits from the business community are important. “Real issues are something we want to deal with and the challenges will come when we are being deployed, 7 weeks in springtime and 7 weeks next autumn,” they say.
A quickly changing hospitality industry
“The challenges include the implementation and quality assurance of various subject areas in a pedagogical way so that the students get a valuable academic supplement,” says campus leader Ole Fredrik Stevning, who is in charge of 6 qualified lecturers with cutting-edge expertise.
“The hospitality industry is changing quickly led by new technology and evolving consumer behaviors. Hospitality schools, however, are often seen as remaining very much the same as they were 30 years ago, an outdated perception that needs to change,” he adds.
The Norwegian School of Tourism and Hospitality is a modern, thorough and up-to-date vocational school for the entire tourism industry. In Hallingdal, tourism has been a natural part of the people and culture since 1849. Now, the combined knowledge and experiences will be shared with the students. “The business of hospitality is in our blood,” says Stevning.
One of the lecturers, Kyrre Romuld, has been a part of strategic planning in the education and has extensive experience from education and the hospitality business. He has co-written several books and specialized in digitalized teaching aids.
In his opinion, technology is the most disruptive change to which industries have to adapt. Winners are the companies who succeed in freeing up time and resources and helping customers connect with others using technology.
Geir Høistad is lecturer in marketing and has a broad background as self-employed for 20 years. He comes from a family of lecturers, has an MSc in Economics and has taught in upper secondary school since 2009. When he read about the new school which was to be established in Geilo, he became interested and applied for a position.
“We have motivated students with varied backgrounds,” he says. “Some have digital competence while others have major shortcomings. But everyone must be involved, and in group work it’s all about mastery in practice. The students’ involvement is touching for a lecturer,” he adds.
Kyrre Ronald has been involved in the planning of the school and is a specialist in digital teaching aids. He has a Master of Arts and educated in sustainable tourism. “It is exciting to work closely with local businesses,” he says, adding: “It is important to facilitate practical subjects. The key word is cooperation.”
Visit Geilo vs. local travel industry
Visit Geilo is a development and marketing organization for tourism in Geilo. Visit Geilo consists of 150 members (owners), and has been an important partner in the development of the Norwegian Travel Industry Academy. In connection with the start-up of the Norwegian School of Tourism, Visit Geilo has contributed with relevant projects, as well as student guidance on these projects.
Bardøla High Mountain Hotel
Terje Simonsen is General Manager of Bardøla Høyfjellshotell. He started as a cook apprentice at the hotel in 1991 and advanced to head chef, operations manager and sommelier. The Norwegian School of Tourism is currently located in the hotel’s conference department. He says that the journey from apprentice to management has been exceptionally rewarding and he appreciates being a part of other people’s training and motivation.
Geilogruppen (The Geilo Group) AS
The company owns three large hotels in Geilo; Vestlia Resort, Highland Lodge and Bardøla Høyfjellshotell (Bardola Mountain Hotel) and some other properties. The CEO, Roger Espeli, has played an important role in building the company to what it is today, and he is also chairman of the board at Visit Geilo. The Geilogroup has been a very important partner in the development, and contributed with marketing and participation in various forums that have worked with the development of the Norwegian School of Tourism. From 1 August 2020, the Norwegian School of Tourism and Hospitality will be located at Bardøla Høyfjellshotell (Bardola Mountain Hotel).
Final words from the Mayor of Hol Municipality
Mayor of Hol municipality, Petter Rukke, says that a hospitality school in Geilo has been crucial for regional cooperation. “There was never a debate about school placement,” he says. “It’s completely unique that no other regions in the county demanded that the school be located in their municipality. Everyone wanted such a school, and it was urgent.”
Roger Espelid is the leader of Visit Geilo. Geilo is described as the Nordic region’s best tourist destination, and Geilo was the most natural location. “The launching ceremony is the greatest inaugural I’ve ever attended,” says Rukke. “All mayors from the region with a chain were present, and also tourist representatives from all over Norway. 6 municipalities and the entire region have been involved. It was touching. But now the opening party is over. Now it is important to maintain the level of ambition and drive,” he concludes.
New School of Tourism and Hospitality in Geilo, Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg
All photos by Tor Kjolberg, except Geilo Ski Lift – Photo © Visit Geilo AS – Paul Arthur Lockhart – Mustasch Media