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Interview with Marie-Virginie CONNAC, Director of Bachelor in Tourism and Hospitality (La Rochelle)

Converting tourism paradigm shifts into innovation? This is the goal of  the Excelia Group (La Rochelle, France) through their Tourism and Hospitality School. 

The Creative Tourism Network®, which runs a workshop within the Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality, felt inspired by the innovative spirit of the Group and interviewed her director, Mrs. Marie-Virginie CONNAC, to know further about it:


– How would you define the Excelia Group’s and the Tourism and Hospitality School’s DNA?

Excelia Group (formerly Sup de Co La Rochelle) offers training with a triple requirement articulated on academic teaching, experimentation and and personal development, in France and internationally.

Our pedagogical project is based on the triptych: creativity / management / technology to train future student managers, able to bring innovation and being the pioneers of the business transformation. Since the creation of Excelia Group, the international network has always been a major focus. The Group has a dozen offices abroad, whose mission is to promote our schools and training programs and to partner with French or foreign companies.

With 15 years of existence, La Rochelle Tourism and Hospitality School has become a reference in France in terms of training. This major School of Management applied to the Tourism, Hospitality, Leisure and Events sector now trains more than 600 students, able to understand all facets and challenges of this rapidly changing sector. As an internationally oriented school, it deploys an ambitious strategy designed to draw the contours of the industry of tomorrow by training creative and responsible people, with a strong customer culture.

– What are its assets in terms of innovation and professionalisation?

It connects students and businesses by meeting not only the current needs, but also the future ones and to develop this way, new skills among young graduates, including soft skills. The tourism industry is undergoing profound changes related to digital and our programs have adapted to these expectations by training new generations in e-tourism. In addition, the tourism of tomorrow must be sustainable, responsible and accessible, our courses and experiences allow young people a strong awareness of these needs. From the beginning, we have introduced courses in Sustainable Development and CSR in tourism, the Global Code of Ethics and, for the last 3 years, courses in Accessible Tourism and Sign Language. Furthermore, our 2nd year students are doing a Humacité mission, that is a human, solidarity, and citizenry mission to be held in an association or NGO, in France or internationally. We believe that certain values ​​must be shared by our students throughout their studies.

Innovation is not only technological, it must also meet the expectations of the new generations and their mode of consumption, characterized by sensitive to sustainable development, with a strong collaborative spirit and focus on the customer experience. Such approach of innovation is experienced by the students during through practical experiences,  in France or abroad.

-Where do the students come from?

We have 36 nationalities this year at La Rochelle Tourism and Hospitality. We welcome students from all over the world attracted by the “French Touch” and the tourism expertise of the world’s leading tourist country. We also offer courses to Bac + 5, 100% English, which makes our training accessible to the greatest number. In addition we have more than 60 university partnerships in the world with schools or universities in Tourism and Hospitality. Exchanges via expatriation, planned in the second year of the program, allow our students to confront other teaching formats while discovering a new culture and improving in foreign languages.

– Could you please, tell us further about the certifications of the School and the Excelia Group?

The Excelia Group (throughLa Rochelle Business School) has been accredited by AACSB for 2013. I deals with an international excellence label of  that only 5% of the world’s business schools possess. AACSB accreditation ensures students and parents alike that the School provides a high quality education and businesses that its graduates perform well. It also benefits all stakeholders by asserting our stability and promoting the influence of the territory.

La Rochelle Tourism & Hospitality School is the first French tourism school to have obtained the UNWTO.TedQual certification for all its training since 2009, which allows it to be recognized in the tourism sector. international. The accreditation was renewed in 2018 for the maximum duration of 4 years.

The UNWTO.TedQual Certification System, established in 1999 by the World Tourism Organization, under the auspices of the United Nations, is a quality assurance system for high-level education and training in tourism, hotels and restaurants. It is based on the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and establishes the standards of quality and excellence in education, learning, know-how and skills, and this internationally . Its criteria also include research and teaching in tourism and hotel management.

La Rochelle Tourism & Hospitality School also belongs to the CFET  – Conference of Training of Excellence in Tourism – which guarantees of quality training, and the demonstration of the adequacy of diplomas with the expectations of recruiters. The vocation of the CFET is also to promote the French Formations of Excellence of International Tourism. The MSc in Destination Management, the MSc International Hospitality Management and the Master of Science (MSc) International Event Management at La Rochelle Tourism & Hospitality School have been selected by the CFET.

– You are pioneers in France to incorporate the creative tourism management into your programs. Why this choice?

It is important to permantently update our contents in such a moving business sector. Travel trends are changing and the destinations need to find new alternatives.

The creative tourism largely meets these new needs by fostering the co-creation of memorable experiences, a return to human values,  a better understanding of the (local) cultures, among many other assets.  

It seemed thus essential to train our students to these new practices and management, to give them the keys to analyze the sector and to become a tomorrow actor in turn of a creative tourism.

Logo la Rochelle Excelia


Marie-Virginie CONNAC, Director of Bachelor in Tourism and Hospitality, holds a Master’s degree in Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure from the University of Perpignan and a Master’s degree in Tourism Management and Planning from UQAM (University of Paris). Quebec to Montreal). After a first part of career in the travel industry at a receptive in Montreal, she took in France the deputy director, then the direction, of ‘Offices of Tourism where she was able to discover the institutional sector and the promotion of a destination. In 2004, she joined the business school to develop training in Tourism (60 students in 2004) and became in 2005, the head of studies Bachelor and develops programs. Since March 2019, she directs the Bachelor in Tourism and Hospitality of the school of tourism which has been structured from Bac to Bac + 5, and which today represents 600 students.