EHL Professor Explains Luxury Management Education
Singapore/ The Lux/ Brands

Redefining Luxury: An Interview With EHL Professor Dr. Achim Schmitt

Exclusive Dr Achim Schmitt 1

When we talk about luxury, the first things that come to mind are diamond-encrusted watches, multi-million-dollar couture gowns, ritzy island beaches, and more. Although the essence of luxury remains unchanged, its definition has evolved to sync with shifts in cultural values, technological advancements, and economic landscapes.

Despite its modest size, Singapore is undeniably amongst the top shopping destinations for luxury shoppers to access high-end merch and world-class brands, from ION Orchard to the Marina Bay Sands and Paragon to Changi Airport.

The Beat Asia had the chance to talk with Dr. Achim Schmitt, Dean of EHL Hospitality Business School, to discuss the growing relevance of luxury experience management education. For the uninitiated, EHL has three campuses: two in Switzerland (Lausanne main campus and Passugg) and one in Singapore.

Bankruptcy consultant turned strategic professor, Dr. Schmitt has been in the academic field for more than 20 years. He views his career transition as an opportunity to help others grow and succeed in their education. Even though he was initially unfamiliar with the hospitality industry, Dr. Schmitt found himself fascinated by its multifaceted and multicultural world.

Dr. Achim Schmitt, Dean of EHL Hospitality Business School
Dr. Achim Schmitt, Dean of EHL Hospitality Business School

As the Dean of EHL Hospitality Business School and a member of the EHL group's executive leadership team, Dr. Schmitt oversees the academic programmes across all three EHL campuses. These programmes support students’ higher education and lifelong learning paths, from professional courses to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as executive education and business consulting.

“The diversity of the hospitality industry has been a key factor in keeping me engaged with hospitality education. It provides the chance to interact with people from various backgrounds which is exactly what we are aiming to replicate for our students. With around 125 nationalities represented on campus, we consistently prioritise diversity and inclusivity across all our initiatives, creating a sense of belonging for our students.”

The Master’s in Hospitality Management at EHL offers a Luxury Experience Management specialization for students who want to pursue a career in the luxury sector. While this particular track is currently only available at EHL’s Lausanne campus, EHL’s Singapore campus offers a lifelong learning education portfolio that features a course on Luxury Brand Management– a three-day short course designed to teach students to develop and implement innovative solutions, design marketing, and communication strategies, and apply luxury brand management concepts to the luxury hospitality business.

EHL Singapore Campus
EHL Singapore Campus

Luxury Experience Management Education

According to Dr. Schmitt, discovering luxury experience management is more than learning about the product. Instead, what future managers or luxury professionals learn is how to deliver a personalised experience that exceeds expectations and fosters long-term customer loyalty.

"The essence of hospitality is about making someone feel at home and welcome. By manifesting hospitality within a luxury mindset, we focus on crafting an experience that encompasses the luxury product. This approach transforms the product into an experience that is felt before, during, and after the interaction with the product or service."

Generally, the luxury industry has transformed beyond simply offering luxury commodities and now encompasses the whole experience that a brand delivers to its customers. According to Dr. Schmitt, the customer journey and experience will become a critical success factor for future luxury brands.

Individuals or prospective students interested in pursuing a luxury management education can explore a wealth of opportunities beyond the traditional fashion and luxury industries. While these sectors certainly offer prominent avenues for applying luxury management skills, the core principles of luxury—human-centricity and service excellence—extend across all sectors.

“Your job is not linked to glamour, your job is to make somebody else experience glamour. This tiny shift in mindset is very important for our students. They learn to understand what makes something a ‘luxury’ product, and they develop a greater appreciation of the product or service linked to it.”

EHL’s recent collaboration with Cartier, one of the most esteemed luxury brands in the world, represents a significant enrichment of EHL’s educational offerings, providing students with unparalleled access to the luxury sector.

The Paris-based brand will join EHL to offer a specialization in Luxury Experience Management as part of the Master’s in Hospitality Management. Starting in September 2024, students will have the opportunity to experience firsthand what it’s like to work with the renowned French luxury watch manufacturer and gain valuable work experience.

EHL Cartier Master
EHL Master’s in Hospitality Management - Luxury Experience Management track with Cartier

“Our partnership didn’t come out of the blue. We have established long-term collaborations with Cartier and other luxury brands under the EHL Alliance. Our programs with Cartier include campus recruitment, involvement in student business projects, ‘A Day with Cartier,’ roundtable discussions, and other activities. This partnership in Luxury Experience Management Education is grounded in our enduring relationship and shared values of human-centricity.”

Through field and industry visits, immersive experiences, and expert lectures provided by Cartier, EHL’s students are uniquely positioned to conceptualise and create cutting-edge luxury experiences.

Training at EHL

Sustainability in Luxury, Fifth Industrial Revolution

The rise of sustainable luxury, often referred to as “green glamour,” is a turning point where a clear shift is seen towards eco-friendly designs and business practices. Thus, a new era of high-end apparel has emerged.

Although not a sustainability expert, Dr. Schmitt, as an educator, underscored the importance of raising awareness by providing a platform for best practices and benchmarks in sustainability within the luxury industry.

"As educators, our role is to stimulate thoughts and provide a platform to demonstrate sustainable practices, with the hope to impact the industry over the long term. While it is always difficult to generalize certain sustainability strategies, I do highlight our educational objectives—presenting various approaches and perspectives on this subject. Providing a range of possibilities is more effective than dictating a singular approach. To truly advance sustainability, we should promote a multifaceted approach and educate different industries on diverse strategies for sustainability.”

The luxury industry is not exempt from digital transformation and innovation. Most luxury brands are now embracing the Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR), where companies adapt to evolving consumer expectations with the goal of thriving in an era of unprecedented technological advancement and consumer empowerment.

"I believe that the essence of the Fifth Revolution lies not only in the advancements of AI and digitalisation but also equally in the seamless integration of the human interface, illuminating a future where technological advancement harmonises with human ingenuity."

The hospitality industry has a long-standing tradition when it comes to industry service standards but with the redefinition of luxury management, a three-star hotel, for instance, can also serve a whole new and integrated luxury experience, thanks to its cosy lobby, diverse dining options, and thoughtfully optimised room spaces.

"I believe the future trend across industries, including luxury, involves a greater focus on individualising and aligning with human needs and desires. This redefinition of luxury extends beyond the tangible value of a product to emphasize the human service connected to it. This approach reflects a broader shift towards prioritising personalised experiences in every industry."

For those who aspire to embark on a career in the luxury management industry, Dr. Schmitt’s two cents are to maintain humility and an open-minded perspective.

“To succeed in this industry, you need to be the creator of luxurious experiences, which requires having a mindset of humility, personalisation, and a commitment to creating an exclusive atmosphere.”

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