When so much of mountain tourism in the Swiss Alps depends on snowfall, what happens when winters become increasingly warm? A group of creative students from César Ritz Colleges rose to the challenge in the school's very first Innovation Week.
The majestic, snow-capped Swiss Alps have long been an iconic tourist destination. For many alpine locations, winter tourism is their main source of income and boils down to one key element: snow. Also referred to as “white gold”, sufficient snowfall is a measure of how well a winter season will perform. As temperatures continue to steadily increase each year and tourists must go to higher and higher altitudes to find the conditions that support their plans, mid-mountain destinations need to start reinventing themselves and come up with alternatives to snow-based activities.
"Climate change, coupled with the perception that the mountains have been tainted by winter sports, are pushing mid-mountain resorts to reinvent themselves in two main directions: the development of summer tourism and the expansion of the range of winter activities," explains Nicolas Délétroz, director of the Observatoire Valaisan du Tourisme.
This is the challenge that was presented to final year bachelor’s students from César Ritz Colleges as part of its very first Innovation Week, organized in collaboration with the Foundation Inartis and our industry partner Flywire.
Throughout the week, four groups of students worked together to imagine innovative ways mid-mountain tourism can reinvent itself and by the end of the week, they were able to pitch an original solution to a panel of experts, which included entrepreneurs, and industry and academic representatives from Switzerland Tourism, the Inartis Foundation, and César Ritz Colleges Switzerland.
César Ritz Colleges takes a hands-on, experiential approach to education and promotes learning anchored in real-life situations. Innovation Week proved to be no exception and students dove straight in by creating business plans for their ideas, creating multiple prototypes, practicing their storytelling skills, and perfecting their pitch.
Bringing legends to life
“SwissLand" is a sustainable theme park, where visitors of all ages can have fun discovering Switzerland through its legends and folklore. Attractions include the Giant’s Village (Rollibock) and the Alp Express, an exciting roller coaster ride through the mountains.
Creating an oasis of wellness in the Alps
"Harmony" is an exclusive getaway destination where you can relax and recharge your batteries. It offers four types of rejuvenation activities which tie into all four elements, yoga (earth), meditation (air), temazcal (fire), and thermal baths (water).
An alpine adventure
Embark on a "Mountain Safari" in the Swiss National Park and discover unique alpine wildlife up close and personal on your very own electric safari jeep.
Augmented alpine reality
Jump aboard the "SWISSAR" train which will take you on a tour of the area and give you a first-class view of the mountains, as well as exclusive insights thanks to the latest augmented reality technology.
“This was an extraordinary opportunity for our students to learn how to create, innovate, and to have a first experience of pitching business ideas in the startup world”, shares Tanja Florenthal, Dean at César Ritz Colleges.
For Beatrice Lee, a student from Indonesia, the whole experience went beyond what she could have learned in the classroom. “What I found the most instructive during this week were the different workshops on how to effectively pitch business ideas, as well as the insights from Switzerland Tourism on the perspectives of the local tourism industry. I was also surprised how we were able to prepare a presentation, a video, prototypes, and calculate costs in only two days before pitching our project to the jury.”
Innovation Week is yet another way that César Ritz Colleges can help students develop the entrepreneurial mindset and skills at the heart of its curriculum.
“What impressed me the most is the enthusiasm and the passion students put in their work. The concepts were well thought-out and could all be used as starting points to be put into practice”, points out René Ziegler, a jury member from Switzerland Tourism. As student and participant Ajit Rana adds, “I learned that innovation comes from iterative failures paving the way for big outcomes, so it’s important to try often, fail faster, and learn from failures until we find the right approach to the challenge.”
Several students have already expressed the desire to further develop their projects and will be able to rely on the resources of Foundation Inartis as well as on the network of the Swiss Education Group.
For Benoît Dubuis, President of the Foundation Inartis, "This experience was a unique opportunity to nurture the first seeds of entrepreneurship in young people at an early age and to stimulate their creative spirit.”