The history of Tourism Schools of the Ministry of Tourism is the same as the history of Greek tourism.
Tourism Schools were founded in 1937 under the auspices of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) based in Athens and were the first Schools of Tourism Education to apply the European and Swiss model of tourism studies. In 1956 the Higher Tourism School in Rhodes was founded and at the same time they spread in different areas in Greece under the name Tourism Schools, as a Legal Entity of Public Law, within state hotel facilities.
During their long course of operation, they initially provided basic education and later secondary, post-secondary and tertiary education in classic tourism professions in a standard way. The School’s curricula were the basis for the creation of similar public and private educational organizations. Their graduates have staffed the Greek and international tourism industry by hundreds of thousands.
The history of the Tourism School in Thessaloniki, currently known as Institute of Vocational Training (IEK), began on October 2nd, 1956, when in the Official Government Gazette No 219 the foundation of the Tourism School is mentioned, initially as a branch of the Tourism School in Athens already operating since 1937 (Law 567/1937 and 1429/1938). In the regulation published, it is mentioned as “School” and later it was renamed as “Professional School” under the supervision of the Ministry of the Presidency of the Government, operating in an autonomous way as a Legal Entity of Public Law.
At first, the School was housed in facilities at the centre of Thessaloniki, opposite the Red Cross building on the seaside for the academic year 1956, with only one training class. It remained in a building at the port until 1959 and then moved to “Zanna” villa on Themistokli Sofouli Street, where it operated until 1972.
The first formal admission of students to the Tourism School of Thessaloniki came after a call for admission in 1958 and graduates of elementary school and six- year secondary school were eligible to apply, after taking written exams on composition, Greek geography and mathematics.
At the beginning, there were three classes: hotel, cooking and restaurant. Most of the students were boarding school students, who woke up at 6:00 am and their day started with physical exercise. Female students were only a few at first and most of them often got married and retired from the profession during their first training session at hotels.
During the same period, a bilateral agreement between Greece and Cyprus reinforced the great admission of Cypriot students in the Tourism School, since tourism development had already begun in Cyprus, but without having any tourism education on the island.
From early 50s’, the then newly-established Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) starts the “Xenia” hotel program in order to develop tourism and create high-standard hotel facilities. They would serve as model hotels in order to form the basis for the promotion of the Greek tourist product. It was mandatory for a large number of student s from the Schools to be employed at the “Xenia” hotels during their training session. Thus, a strong connection was created between the schools, the students and the graduates of the schools with the high-standard “Xenia” hotels in order to make their qualifications more valuable.
The following years were splendid: the School was housed in contemporary facilities and the brilliant educational work gained international recognition and was considered a role model.
From 1972 to 1984, the School in Thessaloniki was housed inside the facilities of SUN BEACH hotel at Agia Triada. During that time, there were transnational partnerships between educational institutes and businesses mainly with schools in Switzerland. As a result, professor exchange programs were taking place mainly with famous Swiss schools and from 1974 onwards, students with honors could go to Switzerland for further training, at the Lyon School and as trainees in hotels.
In 1973 the State started looking for an appropriate place to cover the needs of the School. The building was found at Peraia, Thessaloniki, where the current premises are, it was given to the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) and eventually the construction of the “XENIA – ILIOS” hotel started in 1978 in order to fulfill the needs of the Tourism School in Thessaloniki, following the standards of the “XENIA” hotels. During the summer period, it operated as a 3 star hotel with a capacity of 77 rooms and the rest of the year as a school. Studies lasted for 2 years and it was initially for elementary and six-year secondary school graduates and then for high school graduates, always following the reforms of the Ministry of Education.
From 1982 onwards, cooking classes have become mixed and the first female student was admitted for the academic year 1982-1984 in the cooking class under Protocol No 2703.
Important events were taking place at the school, such as the selection of people from the school to represent Greece in international expos and promote the Greek cuisine. At that time, the school was very prestigious and its reputation was international. All these formed the basis so that skillful professionals graduate from the school who were later employed by hotels in high-level managing positions.
Our School participated into hundreds of international competitions, with many distinctions and awards, whereas many seminars, visits and important events have also been organized at its premises.
The following time periods are historically recorded, with regard to education levels:
- a) Elementary education (1959-1970)
- b) Basic education (1970-1988) under the name ΒΕΣΤΕ
- c) Technical education (1988-1996) under the name ΤΕΣΤΕ
- d) Technical vocational education (1999-2014) as a Technical Vocational Training Centre (TEE) and later as a Vocational Training School (ΕΠΑΣ)
- e) Post –secondary education (2014- today) as an Institute of Vocational Training (IEK)
For many years there have been different programs running under the supervision of the School of Thessaloniki such as: (a) the fast-paced post-graduate units, in the context of on-going training, for experienced workers or unemployed in the tourism sector; (b) the Thessaloniki Tour Guide School until 2012.
In 2003, the Organization of Tourism Education and Training (OTEK) is founded as an autonomous Organization of Tourism Education and Training, which operates until January 2013. The Schools are incorporated into the Ministry of Tourism, as Directorate of Tourism Education and Training, according to article 4 of Law 4109/2013 and operate as described in Law 3105/2013 and the Presidential Decree 127/2017 as Institutes of Vocational Training and Higher Tourism Schools.
The specialties in the Institutes of Vocational Training of the Ministry of Tourism are part of the "Vocational Tourism and Hospitality Professions" Orientation Team, of the initial vocational training (Law 4186/2013) and are equivalent to a specialty certification diploma of level 5.
The Institute of Vocational Training in Thessaloniki follows a strict educational schedule with educational activities and intends to educate professionals who will meet the needs of the tourism market.