Magnus Thorsson


JWU Faculty Since 2011

Professor Magnus Thorsson

Contact Info


In the spring of 1983, while participating in a work training program offered to high school students, Magnus Thorsson worked alongside a graduate of the FIU Hospitality program whose aptitude and level of knowledge fascinated him.

At age 15, Thorsson was determined to follow in the graduate's footsteps and began that journey by signing on a four-year apprenticeship in culinary arts. Upon completion of his studies at the Hotel & Catering School of Iceland, Thorsson moved to the U.S. from his native Iceland and completed a bachelor’s degree at Johnson & Wales University.

While doing his undergraduate studies, Thorsson became enthralled by academia, where his understanding of the field of hospitality grew through his own work and through assisting his peers as a tutor. After holding various management positions in hospitality and retail, Thorsson decided to try his hand at the owner/operator side of hospitality.

In 2000, he purchased a 26-room ski lodge in Vermont with his wife, which they have successfully run since. In addition to skiers, the ski lodge operation caters to leisure travelers in the summer and fall. These travelers often arrive in pre-formed groups on motor coaches.

During the process of writing a business plan for the purchase of the ski lodge, Thorsson questioned the strength and the continuance of the motor coach segment and found no evidence of it waning. In 2004, signs of softening demand for pre-formed group travel started appearing in southern Vermont with a virtual collapse of the segment in 2005.

This loss of income led Thorsson to examine the travel behavior of the corresponding demographic group and to research how and where they were spending their leisure time. It was through this research that he found that the people who were slowly disappearing from the throngs of bus riders were increasingly getting into motorcycle travel, along with other modes of active tourism.

Within three years after purchasing a motorcycle and mapping the best riding in and around southern Vermont, Thorsson had replaced the vanishing bus business with the consistent business of motorcycle groups. This was done with active research of the preferences of the motorcycle riders and through direct marketing, including speaking engagements at motorcycle club meetings. According to the NE regional director from the Harley Davidson Corporation, they monitored the programs that Thorsson had developed for his lodge and used them as a model for their corporate program in cooperation with Best Western Hotels nationwide.

With the business back on track, Thorsson was able to return his focus toward his studies and entered the graduate program at Bennington College.

For his master’s thesis, Thorsson focused on quantifying what had happened with the leisure travel segment at the ski lodge and identifying the underlying reason for the shift in leisure travel preference of the demographic segment. The work he did when researching the subject of changing consumer behavior for his thesis, coupled with his general comfort with academia, is what compels him to further his work.

Thorsson's vast and varied experiences with the hospitality industry provide him with an accumulated understanding of the segment in which he is keen to delve deeper through empirical research. He is particularly interested in behavioral economics as they relate to the impending “silver tsunami,” the retiring of the Baby Boomers and how their numbers and choices will likely change the landscape of leisure travel in years to come.

A study of the effect of choice architecture on purchasing decisions in regard to hospitality products is also of interest to Thorsson. How might choices structure vary between generations? How do general early childhood experiences affect purchasing behavior of generations and demographic segments? What are the more effective ways to communicate to a changing consumer preference?

Thorsson's personal interests lie primarily in the field of sciences, including geopolitics, economics, evolutionary biology, sociology and the anthropological study of food. He is particularly fond of the works of E.O. Wilson, Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins, as well the columns of Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria and Paul Krugman. The hospitality industry, as it relates to the U.S. economy and the world of academia, is at an important point in history. Hospitality will continue to be resistant to outsourcing, unlike manufacturing and professional services which the US has seen migrate to Asia.

In contrast, a growing number of foreign students from Asia are seeking the high quality hospitality education the U.S. has to offer. It is Thorsson's hope that he may be an active participant and contributor to the continued growth of the prestige and development of the field of hospitality.


  • Ph.D., Iowa State University
  • M.A., Bennington College
  • B.S., Johnson & Wales University
  • A.S., Hotel & Catering School of Iceland

Education is our best tool to achieve social justice in a sustainable world.


  • HOSP 3065: Hospitality Security and Risk Mgmt
  • HOSP 4012: Small Hospitality Lodging Property
  • HOSP 4060: Hospitality Strategy Design

Professional Affiliations

Green Hotel Association, 2017–present
Professional Association of Innkeepers International, 2017–present

American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA)
Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE)