NewsEast & Horn AfricaHospitality: A Swiss hotel school in Nairobi, Kenya


Posted on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 16:35

Hospitality: A Swiss hotel school in Nairobi, Kenya

By Prince Ofori-Atta in Geneva

Thomas Seghezzi, managing partner of Rainbow UnlimitedKenya is set to become home to a Swiss hotel school next month. Thomas Seghezzi, managing partner of Rainbow Unlimited, one of the co-founders of the project, spoke to The Africa Report about the project.

At a cursory glance, the service in sub-Saharan Africa is generally of sub-standard and too often at quite astronomical prices, making the price/quality ratio in the hospitality sector unappealing.

This, Seghezzi says, is not necessarily bad for business. With demand for better services soaring amid a boom in Africa's tourism, transport and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Events) sectors, Africa's hospitality industry is tickling international fancy.

The partnership is effectively a partnership synergy

That skills leave much to be desired -- with the exception of a few already well developed hotel and tourism markets like South Africa and Kenya -- can only point to one thing: "Huge opportunities".

Is this the beginning of a school franchise where the local partner provides the hard infrastructure and you the soft infrastructure?

That's exactly the concept. As investors in soft infrastructure, we don't set up big structures that cost millions. For this project, we did not only have to find a Swiss partner [Alpine Center - a Swiss hospitality business school] but a Kenyan partner as well.

In Kenya we partnered with BOMA Hotels, a small local hotel group owned by the Kenyan Red Cross. The plan was to establish hospitality training schools to address the deficit in the quality of service in the industry across Africa.

Some years ago, the Kenyan Red Cross decided to diversify their revenues. And so, instead of depending entirely on charity and donations from outside they invested in the creation of the BOMA Hotel Group to create their own revenue.

The partnership is effectively a partnership synergy. We try to find local partners, public or private, with the hardware and we bring in the know-how. It is a totally win-win relationship.

What levels of hospitality workforce will the school's curricular be targeting?

From what we understand, with respect to the feedback we are getting from the hotel and tourism industry, there are needs at all levels. At the first phase we are going to concentrate on the crafts level: receptionists, waiters, front office, housekeeping.

This is because there is a big need for people who are trained to properly, and in a practical way, handle these essential tasks.

Although there are programmes that target the management level -- and young people like that because they aim for management positions -- you can't be a manager if you have never been involved in practical operations in all, or at lease some, levels.

That is what management in the hospitality industry is about. Practical knowledge above all else. It must be understood that the philosophy of the excellent Swiss model of hospitality education has always been that management or middle management should be conversant with, and have knowledge of, all the levels of practical work in a hotel.

So in the beginning, we concentrate on the basic certificate level before moving on to the other levels.

The school's curricula offers several qualification levels...

The full-fledged programme is four to five years. The first year is the certificate level, which is the lowest chart. Sixty percent of the first year is made up of practical training, that is you are in the hotel and learning at the same time. Students spend the first half year in training and the second half year in internship.

Those who want to aspire for more can continue with the two year diploma in hotel management or hotel operations. And those who want to go even farther can aim for the higher Swiss diploma and then the bachelor, or even master's, degree.

Each level has a lot of practical training. Our intention is to offer the same level of quality training as students would have in Switzerland at lower costs, back in their own countries.

What about other areas of the hospitality industry?

Alpine has a whole range of training courses namely event and conference management, Spa management, culinary arts, cruise management, health tourism, among others.

But we intend to start with hotel programmes and grow, adding the other courses and curricula as time goes on. We are especially interested in conference and event management. There are lots of conference facilities popping up everywhere, which explains the growing demand for expertise.

How accessible will the school be for Kenyans and students from other countries?

This school is all about accessibility, thus our partnership with the BOMA Hotel Group. We are situated in the middle of the benchmark in terms of current tuition fees. It is very affordable. If a young Kenyan wants a quality education in hospitality they are affordable. Annual tuition fees are between $3000 and $5000.

For East Africans or those from other parts of the continent, tuition fees would be the same, but obviously they'll have to bear the cost of their transport and accommodation. We are also looking more closely at the region which is experiencing a boom in the tourism industry.

What type of students are you looking at? Entry requirements?

First, there is no age limit, but students should have at least a minimum of secondary level of education. There are also those who want to start a career, change their career or go further in their careers.

One more important criterion, which is often underestimated is that, especially in the hospitality industry, we need to find the right profile of people in terms of passion. You want to have a passion for this métier to be able to excel. So we will not ignore the expression of passion in our recruitment process.

Are there any financial aid programmes?

We are at the very beginning of operations; we will open with a small group of students on 25 May, 2015. But we are also establishing financial aid programmes including scholarships, sponsorships, or even subsidies from government or private companies.

Other hotel groups have expressed interest in sending staff for training. There are also other sources of financial support to explore.

After Kenya?

We have been looking at several countries for different reasons. We had a request from Ethiopia, and Ghana as well, but nothing has materialised yet.

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