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Visit a new Switzerland: Hotels Operated by Robots need no Roads & Cars, but Lamas, Goats, and Breathtaking Sceneries

photo credit: Elisabeth Lang

It was curiosity, networking opportunities, trade talks that brought hoteliers and over 100 exhibition partners, that cater to the Hotel industry together after nearly 600 days of a quiet absence due to never-ending Corona restrictions.

Halle 550 is away from the usual glitzy and glamorous 5-star Hotels Venues in Zurich, where this kind of summit is normally held.

  • Switzerland’s first Hotellerie Suisse Hospitality Summit organized by Hotelrevue, a local trade publication, attracted over 1152 participants this week.
  • The event underlined the importance of personal dialogue in our new world of digitalization and home offices.
  • Halle 550 is a venue in Zurich Oerlikon.

The Hospitality Summit was the first of its kind in Switzerland since COVID-19 became a pandemic in March of 2010

To keep visitors safe, everyone had to show a vaccination certificate (green Pass). For those not vaccinated, a negative COVID-19 test was required.

Surprisingly there was no mask policy, after passing through the checkpoint into Halle 550. This left doctors a little skeptical but participants were very happy.

Maskless instead of breathless – in tune with the motions.

“Better Together” was the credo of Hotellerie President  Andreas Züllig in his opening speech.

“We need to develop new Post Pandemic strategies, just as we have taken the crisis management into the hand with creative ideas. As hoteliers and entrepreneurs, we are not only leaders but also those who recognize trends and feelings of the possibilities and act with foresight.

How will Swiss Tourism look like after the pandemic?

But what the hospitality industry, airlines, and the tourism Industry really need is a phrase of optimism.

There was a lot of talk about innovations and digitalization, but what did participants really want? 

A robot for check-in? 

This is already past and has been discussed years ago. What do we really need in our Post Pandemic World?  

All we need after many lockdowns staying home is a hug.

Give visitors a hug!

Travelers more than ever need a big smile and a warm welcome at the reception it is as simple as it is.

However, a real novelty was the robotic minibar (by Robotise, Germany)  bringing the desired drink straight to the guest room.

My question how much would this robot cost?

The simple answer was a robot cost the same as a waiter.

But this might vary from places of high wages that are paid in Switzerland to wages paid in low-cost countries, like in Asia.

But is it good to have unmasked robots coming and serving your drinks during the pandemic, leaving silently again as long the batteries last?         

Panel discussions with 84 speakers that took the microphones were key elements of the Hospitality  Summit 2021

Tourism has been hit hardest, comments Urs Kessler, CEO Jungfrauen Bahnen, in a discussion on when will international markets return.

There is no prognosis.

The Swiss domestic market from last year (2020) has plummeted.

The Swiss are going abroad again. However Swiss tourism is getting excellent numbers from Germany, Belgium, and UAE.

Before the pandemic, Switzerland had more than 70%  of guests rooms occupied by visitors from Asia.

The return of Chinese visitors after the Olympic Games will be decisive. Switzerland has two promising projects in Asia for next year. Swiss tourism has promotional staff based in China, India, Southwest, and Southeast Asia. According to insiders, there is a huge tourism demand from that region.

Markets like India, South East Asia, and Brazil will come back. For sure India would be a game-changer for Switzerland. But vaccination is the key issue combined with sophisticated and easy visa processing.

Halle 550 in Zurich: Venue of the Hospitality Summit

We are living in a dictatorship by non-vaccination says Dieter Vranck  CEO of Swiss International Airlines: 90 % of our Cabin Crew is vaccinated but we have to cater to those that are unvaccinated.

Constantly changing conditions when traveling is a huge problem. Vaccination is the key ticket to gain a solid position. Many flights are empty, but as soon as quarantine is lifted –  bookings are skyrocketing in no time.

Luckily we are getting more and more groups coming from the United States. The volume of guests from America is as high as before the pandemic.

But we still cannot travel to America yet, and we can’t go on without traveling to the USA for the long term. Without Cargo flights, we would have empty flights on half of our US routes.  

Business flights will slowly recover but we expect a minus of 30 % until 2023. We had a record year in 2019 making 53 million profit.

The year 2022 won’t be back to normal either- but Europe is developing;   2nd place in the USA and 3rd place Asia explains Vranckx. We are in a situation where we can’t put much into innovation.

Airfares will remain constant, says Vranckx, CEO of Swiss.

Hospitality Summit 2021

While Martin Nydegger, Director of Switzerland Tourism,  is pleading to all in saying: “Get vaccinated, it’s not cool but important.”  We don’t have the time to wait in our sector. Over Tourism is over.

Nydegger is confident that international markets will return by 2023. Switzerland is a premium country for visitors. It has quality, it is not a question of marketing.

For the MICE  business, the 2019 season ended colossally.

Nothing like that is left and we talking of a volume of a meager 5 % in 2021.

It also takes fewer employees now.  

But can the Mice business survive?

The MICE hotel industry in Switzerland will be forced to book through the platforms like, hrs, while young people may go to Google to book conference hotels.

48% of bookings are done mobile using platforms as mobile conform. Conference hotels can also be booked via Amazon, or Meetings Select, which leaves a huge impact on meetings planners.

The  Award  Hotel of Year was presented for the first time to Nadja and Patric Vogel of  Fairytale Hotel Braunwald (4 Stars).

There was a lot of talk about innovation and digitization, but this hotel does not even have a road to get there.

Braunwald is car-free.

The Braunwaldbahn takes you up to every half hour from the valley station. You are greeted by Lamas,  Goats when passing the “Golden Goats bridge”.

Happy cows, busy hens hoppling rabbits, and breathtaking scenery await you.

Why  Fairytale Hotel?

A long time ago a little girl was crying loudly in the restaurant and only stopped when owner Fridolin Vogel promised to tell her fairy tale. 

Until today this tradition is living on and celebrated every day by Nadja an Patric Vogel. Well deserved! CONGRATS!

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About the author

Elisabeth Lang - special to eTN

Elisabeth has been working in the international travel business and hospitality industry for decades and contributing to eTN for nearly 20 years. She has a worldwide network and is an international travel journalist.

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