Nordic Choice Hotels: The future of hospitality

Nordic Choice Hotels connects the academic and the practical
for students at The Norwegian School of Hotel Management

Nordic Choice Hotels

Photo: Mona Anita Olsen
Ulrika Rosen (on the left), Director of Passion, and Katalin Paldeak Pålsson (on the right), Chief Operating Officer from Nordic Choice Hotels, engage students starting at The Norwegian School of Hotel Management as part of a semester kick-off event at the Quality Hotel in Sandnes, Norway. The translation of the Swedish on the screen is “With Energy, Courage and Passion we create a better world.”

Mona Anita K. Olsen, Ph.D.
University of Stavanger

Students starting their bachelor’s degree for hotel management at The Norwegian School of Hotel Management (NHS) at the University of Stavanger started this semester with an exciting opportunity on their first day of school. Students listened to their first lecture of the semester and engaged with the industry by brainstorming solutions to industry opportunities at a local hotel property with leaders from Nordic Choice Hotels. Truly a statement of commitment for thinking outside the classroom, the kick-off event was held at Quality Hotel Residence in Sandnes. Graciously hosted by Quality Hotel Regional Director Lars Roaldkvam, the day set a high bar for engagement and business perspective for the incoming students at NHS.

Started in 1912, NHS is the second oldest hotel school in the world. NHS is a member of the Hotel Schools of Distinction and offers a bachelor’s degree for hospitality management and a bachelor’s degree for tourism management, among other offerings to its nearly 550 students. This kick-off event, developed by Professor Håvard Hansen, included not only administration and faculty presentations from NHS but presentations by leaders from Nordic Choice Hotels and engagement from NHS alumni working at Nordic Choice Hotels. 

“The idea developed over time, and when we got an invitation from Nordic Choice Hotels to do something together with them and our students, the idea matured during our conversations,” said Hansen. “We then explored the possibility to have a similar event for our first-year students in both our bachelor programs, and from there it just took off.”

Nordic Choice Hotels is one of the largest hotel companies in Scandinavia and owned by Strawberry Group, founded by Petter Stordalen. Nordic Choice Hotels is comprised of 194 properties in six countries. Nordic Choice Hotels consists of three hotel chains including Quality Hotel, Clarion Hotel, Comfort Hotel, and 24 independent hotels.

During the event, students got to engage in community by meeting other students and discussing questions provided during presentations. Students learned about the triple bottom line that Nordic Choice Hotels measures, including people, planet, and profit. Students also learned about the distinctive Nordic Choice Hotels culture. As was said in the presentation, “culture is king.” As was felt in the audience, passion matters. The importance of human capital was stressed across all presentations, regardless of the viewpoint from the university and the hospitality industry. 

Most impressively, however, students were assigned into groups for a case competition in direct response to a prompt provided by Ulrika Rosen, Director of Passion for Nordic Choice Hotels and Katalin Paldeak Pålsson, Chief Operating Officer for Nordic Choice Hotels. After an energizing presentation where they demonstrated synergy on many levels from a content and presentation standpoint, students were asked to work together in teams and create a response to questions on the discussion board at Nordic Choice Hotels. 

Students sat together over a hosted lunch and then used creative space around the Quality Hotel Residence to come up with no more than two pages of work that responded to two major themes over the course of almost 90 minutes. First, how can Nordic Choice Hotels be more attractive to the next generation of hospitality leaders? Second, what are the best methods/approaches to reach the next generation of hospitality leaders to share information, inspire, and motivate?

Each student team submitted their work electronically and a judging panel selected a winning team. The winning idea was provided an opportunity (at a later date) to meet with hospitality leaders to discuss their idea and their careers. 

“During my time at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, we had a case competition like the one we included in these events, every year the first week after students arrived in August,” said Hansen. “To connect this to the kick-off seminar grew out of our talks with the industry partners involved.”

From an educator standpoint, it was fantastic to see the academic linking to the practical. As the professor teaching the Introduction to Hotel Management Course at UiS this fall, it set a fantastic foundation to get students to actively learn together with engagement (developing their submitted ideas further), reflective on their performance and lessons learned from the kick-off event. Additionally, they built community by further networking with others who were not able to attend and discussing opportunities on appropriate business tools to engage with the team that made the kick-off event possible. Further, being able to see a variety of stakeholders in one room relating to the hospitality industry made a lasting impression. 

“I think we gave our students a semester opening that is somewhat unique, as I have not heard of any other university or school in Norway that does anything like this,” said Hansen. “The feedback from both students and industry partners was very positive.  We will also draw on this experience when we now plan similar activities for our second and third year students.”

There is tremendous gratitude to all those who set up the event and for the commitment from Nordic Choice Hotels and The Norwegian School of Hotel Management to bridge this gap and plant a seed from Day One of the program for the students. The only thing missing from the day, a pineapple sighting (the international symbol for hospitality).

For more information about The Norwegian School of Hotel Management, visit: www.uis.no/faculties-departments-and-centres/faculty-of-social-sciences/the-norwegian-school-of-hotel-management.

For more information about Nordic Choice Hotels, visit www.nordicchoicehotels.no. 

Mona Anita K. Olsen is an associate professor at the Norwegian Hotel School at the University of Stavanger in Norway. She is also the founder of Innovation Barn AS, leading the efforts to launch Yogibana in Norway. Yogibana is an artistic wellness concept fueled by the weaving of yoga and ikebana (Japanese style floral design) together in 12 steps.

This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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