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The annual Innovation Week student competition, held this year from 17–22 March, is always one of the highlights of the academic year at César Ritz Colleges Switzerland. Innovation Week challenges students to work closely in teams to create original ways new technologies can reinvent the tourist experience in Switzerland, then to develop a professional, actionable business plan to implement their ideas.
One of the first eye-opening activities of Innovation Week was a student visit to Idiap Research Institute, an independent, nonprofit research foundation based in the nearby Alpine city of Martigny. Idiap, which the Swiss federal government recognizes as being ‘of national significance’, conducts fundamental research, provides graduate and post-graduate technology training, and is active in artificial intelligence technology transfer, both theoretical and applied. During their Idiap visit, students saw tangible and practical applications of artificial intelligence, which inspired them to think of many possibilities for applying these principles to their future world of tourism and hospitality.
Once back to campus, 47 participating students worked on six teams to debate among themselves and decide on a project to develop and eventually present to the jury of judges.
The five judges were experienced and expert hospitality and tourism professionals, two of whom were external judges from Berlin and Zurich:
Internal judges on the panel included Tanja Florenthal, Dean of César Ritz Colleges; Tamara Maroux, Partnership and Development Manager for Swiss Education Group; and Delphine Genin, César Ritz Colleges Lecturer.
Of the six highly competitive groups, the winner of the Innovation Week competition is the Dragonfly team, which have as their mission to provide a reliable and secure global travel card or pass to travelers for easy, hassle-free worldwide travel. Winning members are Egill Axelsson, Eduardo Stock, Enrique Claasen Petersson, Cristina Dulea, Fadzai Madzingo, Lily Lindsey, Olivia Walker, and Ruyi Sun.
The judges report that all the teams developed clever, original, and useful ideas, any number of which they would love to see developed for actual application in the tourist world of tomorrow. “The coming generation is aware of the massive potential digitalization and a modern working environment means for the future and is keen to grab that opportunity and disrupt,” observes one of the judges with optimism.
“I was truly inspired by the students' innovative spirit showcased in their final week's presentation,” says judge Julius Anders. “Some business ideas clearly have the potential of finding a successful market niche, especially in combination with the pride and sparks of enthusiasm the students displayed. Personally, I can't wait to welcome those talents to the workforce in the near future. They are aware of the massive potential innovation offers and are keen to grab this opportunity.”
Dana Solodovska, César Ritz Colleges hospitality student, sums up what participating in Innovation Week means to her: “Idiap Research Institute provided us with an opportunity to see artificial intelligence and how technology moves us toward the future. It was such a great experience that I have gained. For the last week, I have met new and great people and developed my creativity and leadership skills, as well as worked in a good team.”
Only time will tell which of these good ideas will actually inspire these aspiring hospitality and tourism professionals to create innovative solutions for the future.