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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 training courses at the  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 more about it:


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

Excelia Group (formerly Sup de Co La Rochelle) offers training courses with a triple requirement based on academic teaching, experimentation in the field in France and internationally, and personal development (general knowledge, self-knowledge and projection towards the future).

Our pedagogical project is based on the triptych: creativity / management / technology. Our goal is to train future managers, capable of bringing innovation and being the pioneers of business transformation. Since the creation of Excelia Group, international network has always been a major focus. The Group has around ten offices abroad. Their missions are: the promotion of our Schools and training programs, the recruitment of international students and the coordination of French and foreign business networks.

With 15 years of existence, La Rochelle Tourism and Hospitality School, the Excelia Group’s tourism and hospitality school, has become a reference in France in terms of training. This School of Management offers programmes in tourism, leisure, hospitality, event management and destination management. It now trains more than 600 students, able to understand all the facets and challenges of this fast-changing sector. As an internationally oriented school, it deploys an ambitious strategy designed to define tomorrow’s industry by training creative managers with a strong customer culture.

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

La Rochelle Tourism and Hospitality is a school close to its students and to companies. It strives not only to meet the current needs of the professional world, but also to understand future needs and develop new skills among young graduates, particularly soft skills. The tourism industry is undergoing profound changes linked to digital technology and our programs have adapted to these expectations by training new generations in e-tourism. Moreover, the tourism of tomorrow must be sustainable, responsible and accessible. Our courses and experiences allow young people to be highly aware of these needs. Since 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. In addition, all our 2nd year students take part in a Humacité@ mission; a human, solidarity, civic mission in France or abroad in an association or NGO. We believe that certain values should be shared by our students throughout their school years.

Innovation is not only technological, it must also meet the expectations of this new generation and their consumer habits. For example, they are more sensitive to sustainable development and they tend to have a strong collaborative spirit. Innovation also requires a return to fundamentals such as a strong sensitivity to the customers’ reception and to their stay experience.

During their Bachelor’s degree, students will spend up to eleven months in a company and will thus acquire field experience in France or abroad.

-Where do your students come from?

We have 36 nationalities this year at La Rochelle Tourism and Hospitality. We welcome students from all over the world looking for the “French Touch” and the tourism expertise of the world’s leading tourist country. We also offer courses up to Bac + 5, 100% in English, which makes our training accessible to the greatest number of people. 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 be confronted with other teaching formats while discovering a new culture and improving their foreign language skills.

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

Since 2013, the Excelia Group has been accredited for its La Rochelle Business School by AACSB, an international label of excellence that only 5% of business schools in the world possess.
AACSB accreditation assures students and parents that the School provides a high quality education and companies that its graduates are performing well. It also benefits all stakeholders (graduates, local authorities, partners, etc.) by affirming our stability and promoting the region’s influence.

La Rochelle Tourism & Hospitality School is the first French school of tourism to have obtained the UNWTO.TedQual certification for all of its courses since 2009, which allows it to be recognized in the international tourism sector. The accreditation was renewed in 2018 for a maximum period of 4 years.
The UNWTO.TedQual Certification System was created in 1999 by the World Tourism Organization, under the aegis of the United Nations. It is a quality assurance system for high-level education and training in tourism, hospitality and restaurant industry. It is based on the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and sets international standards of quality and excellence in education, learning, savoir-faire and social skills. Its criteria also include research and teaching in tourism and hotel management.

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

– Your Group was the first in France to integrate creative tourism management into its programmes. Why this choice?

It is important to stay constantly on the lookout in such a fast-moving sector. Travel trends are changing and customers are now looking for new alternatives. In addition, over tourism requires us to rethink destinations and their visits from a new angle.

The creative tourism largely meets these new needs by fostering the co-creation of memorable experiences, a return to human values of sharing and exchange,  a better understanding and an enhancement of the (local) cultures, etc.  

In this context, it seemed to us essential to train our students to these new practices by giving them the keys to understand and ways of thinking in order to act and become tomorrow’s actors in 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 Quebec in Montreal). After a first part of her career in an incoming agency in Montreal, she became Assistant Director, then Director, of Tourist Offices in France. There she discovered 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 in 2005, she became in charge of the Bachelor’s studies and developed the programs. Since March 2019, she manages 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.