Last year, the tourism industry generated revenue of 289.2 billion yuan, accounting for 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product. In the year, 109 million overseas tourists visited China, up 19 per cent from 2003, and the number of Chinese going abroad rose 42.7 per cent to 29 million.
The industry has grown faster than the training of those who work in it, leaving hotel managers with a serious headache of how to recruit and train qualified staff and persuade them not to join rival hotels or take their skills to another industry.
In the first year, the new joint-venture school will take 200 students who have graduated from secondary school for a four-year course, half in Shanghai and half in Switzerland, at a cost of 450,000 yuan.
All classes will be in English, with most of the teachers coming from Switzerland.
Over the four years, students will spend half of their time in the classroom and half practising on the job.
"They will work in all parts of the hotel," said Julia Zhu, director of the training centre of Jinjiang International Holdings. "They will clean the toilets, they will wash the floors, they will cook in the kitchen and serve at the front desk."
The courses at the school will cover all aspects of hotel management, including finance, sales and marketing, food and beverage and service.
"The spoken English and hearing ability of our students is not so good, so we will put a lot of emphasis on that," Ms Zhu said.
Initially, the school will recruit only mainlanders but it aims to attract overseas students also, with a maximum roster of 1,000. "We will not make money at the beginning, but will over the long term," she said.
The group, which has 180 hotels and employs 35,000 staff, will also use the school for six-month and 12-month courses for its staff.
Lawrence Lee, the senior vice-president for human resources at Jinjiang International Hotel Management (JIHM) who has worked in the industry in Singapore, Europe and the United States, said he was impressed with the attitude of the Jinjiang staff and their eagerness to learn and improve.
Mr Lee is one of several foreign executives hired by Jinjiang Group, including American Christopher Bachran, the president of JIHM.
At a recent seminar in Shanghai, Mr Bachran said that the tourism industry in China faced a shortage of qualified staff.
"There are hospitality schools in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou but I am not sure they will be able to address the needs of the industry for experienced, mid-level management, experienced housemaids, room attendants, chefs and staff all across the board," Mr Bachran said.
By not addressing compensation schemes, long working hours, staff transfers and other issues, up to 60 per cent of graduates from hospitality training schools did not stay in the industry, he said.
David Travers, general manager of the InterContinental Pudong, told the seminar that the lack of qualified, experienced people was the industry's biggest challenge.
"Many of my staff leave not for other hotels but for other industries, as the hospitality industry is no longer viewed as highly as it was a generation ago."
Ronald Chao, a partner with Deloitte, told the seminar that the industry would attract top talent only if major universities offered hospitality courses.
"Vocational training is looked down on as secondary and inferior in China and the markets all want to get people from the universities," he said.