SHL Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern is one of only two original hotel management schools in Switzerland. Founded in 1909, we have over one hundred years' of experience teaching students the fine art of Swiss hospitality and management. Immensely proud of our heritage, expertise and worldwide reputation, we continue to educate, accompany and form the hoteliers and managers of tomorrow.
Join us on an exciting journey through a century of SHL – from its humble beginnings to its rise to the top of a fast-paced and constantly changing industry.
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 Helvetica - the organisation that would establish SHL Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern - was born.
Union Helvetica 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.
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.'
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. They came from a wide 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 registered.
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 strength of our hotel course, the school marched on – and came out stronger on the other side.
Over the next ten years – a decade marked by huge social and political change – SHL continued to grow. In 1934, there was a very good reason to celebrate: 25 years as a successful hotel school.
Eugen Scheech, President of 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.'
1944 was a memorable year for SHL. The school moved from its original location to a new home – 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 still housed in the same beautiful location today.
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 the aim was not to grow to the point where we became a student 'factory'. Instead, we chose to maintain the school’s exclusive yet personal ethos, which remains with us to this day.
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 was 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.
We didn't consider the 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 the course. To do this, we constantly reviewed study subjects. We sent lecturers on further educations courses, so that they could refresh their own expertise. We carryied on implementing 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 goal in common: to ensure our students received the best possible education in hospitality and hotel management.
Together with its involvement in educational projects around the world and the decision to offer the prestigious education course in English, SHL made its mark as a truly international school.
7 international young talents finally started their studies in «Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Hospitality Management» in September 2019. The English degree programme is one of two academic hotel management degrees in Switzerland, which is both recognised by the Swiss Confederation and complies with the Bologna guidelines. The programme is offered in an exclusive cooperation between SHL Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern and the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU).
SHL Schweizerische Hotelfachschule Luzern proudly accepted two awards in 2019:
With the outbreak of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, SHL had to practically reinvent itself in many areas in order to master the balancing act between practical teaching and compliance with safety measures. From one day to the next, the lessons had to be completely digitalised - in addition, the students needed to get acquainted with several new tools and quickly set up the digital learning infrastructure. But it was not only technical and didactic challenges that SHL had to overcome. Since face-to-face teaching was not permitted at first - and later only in exceptional cases - SHL was forced to break away from its usual hybrid teaching and to teach theory separately from practice. You can see how the coronavirus changed SHL - and Switzerland - in this detailed overview.
As of January 2022, the new framework curriculum for the training courses of the Colleges of Higher Education for the Hotel and Catering Industry came into force. The revised competences were not about defining what graduates will know in the future, but what they must be able to do effectively. The new framework curriculum also defined the new protected title «Dipl. Hotelier(e)-Gastronom(in) HF».
In October 2022, SHL acquired the brand rights of the World Tourism Forum Lucerne (WTFL) with the aim of using the brand and its existing values and visions to further expand its international business. Specifically, SHL wants to become more involved in setting up hospitality schools abroad, strengthen consulting in service marketing and management, and at the same time organise more international events at home and abroad.
We cannot say what the future holds for SHL. But one thing is certain: SHL will do its best to keep the positive, lively and professional spirit alive to train many more enthusiastic hoteliers and managers.