Interview: Alois Zwinggi and Reto Branschi
The Hotel InterContinental in Davos is eyecatching and everyone is talking about it. First impressions.
Each year, global business and political leaders meet in Davos as guests at the World Economic Forum. It would appear that this convention and winter sports mecca appeals to the WEF organizers?
Alois Zwinggi: Yes. Davos is an ideal location. It is remote, has the necessary infrastructure, and of course has the bonus of its natural beauty.
The guests of the WEF expect high quality accommodations. Has the offering in Davos reached its limit in recent years?
Yes, Davos has reached its limit. But this has greatly improved with the construction of the Hilton and the InterContinental.
A new hotel with 216 rooms and numerous conference facilities was made available in 2014: the InterContinental. And it was immediately booked solid. How important are such buildings in the top segment for the WEF?
Extremely important. As you point out, the InterContinental was immediately booked solid. We need at least 2,500 rooms in four- and five-star hotels to accommodate our participants.
For WEF guests, what is crucial in selecting a hotel? Security? The quality of the suites? Gastronomy? A spacious spa area? Location and view? Or simply discretion?
The participants have different criteria. For some, the security and quality of the rooms is crucial; for others, it's the proximity to the conference center.
What are your impressions of the new building?
The InterContinental is a very beautiful and well furnished hotel. Our participants were satisfied and everything ran smoothly at our events.
The WEF has committed to holding its annual meetings in Davos until 2018. Does Davos have a good chance of being selected again after 2018 thanks to its considerable efforts in modernizing and expanding its hotel sector and conference spaces?
Davos has made significant progress, and as long as our participants are comfortable, we see no reason to organize our annual meeting elsewhere.
Mr. Branschi, Davos has had a new building in the top segment since late 2013: the Hotel InterContinental. What effect does this have?
Reto Branschi: In the top segment, it is important to have a suitable high-end offering, and that is precisely what the InterContinental has provided. This building serves as a new flagship for Davos, providing more flair to the city. We are pleased with it and it offers opportunities that we did not have before now.
You have already seen the InterContinental up close. What impressed you most?
Everything. The architecture, the interior decor, and the size of the building all have the potential to become Davos's landmark. Despite its size, the hotel perfectly complements the forest clearing. It's fantastic!
As head of tourism at Destination Davos Klosters, which of the InterContinental's offerings are you most excited about?
The hotel facilities, the gastronomy, and most especially the spa services – there has been nothing like this in Davos up until now. The opportunities for conferences are very important for the InterContinental itself. Due to our expansive and world-renowned conference center, this is less important for Davos as a destination.
In terms of architecture, the InterContinental is remarkably different from traditional Swiss buildings in shape and color. So it should come as no surprise that the public has given the building some creative names. Which one is your favorite and why?
So far, it has been called Golden Eye and luxury cruise liner. The latter is because of the chimney on its roof and the lights that stand out particularly at night. Both names are somehow fitting. But my favorite is Golden Eye because it arouses curiosity and is known around the world thanks to James Bond.
How is Davos Klosters currently doing in terms of tourism? Can you share a few key figures with us?
With approximately 40,000 guest beds, our destination has about 2.5 million overnight stays per year. By way of comparison, Zurich has 2.8 million and Geneva has 2 million.
What are the greatest challenges that Davos Klosters must face as a destination in the medium term?
For me, there are three important challenges. Firstly, to constantly make further progress, both in infrastructure and in our offerings, products, and marketing. Secondly, it is widely known that the number of guests who practice snow sports is in decline across Europe. So how do we manage to offer a unique experience so that guests choose Davos Klosters and so that we can maintain our numbers? Third of all, we have to carefully observe the rapid development of technology and the corresponding behavior of our guests. For bookings via online travel agencies, annual growth rates of ten percent or more have become commonplace in the tourism industry. Initially, this was by computer and now it is through mobile applications. Also, reviews and referrals are crucial nowadays. How do we manage to keep pace at our destination?
Managing Board Member, World Economic Forum
Director, Destination Davos Klosters