|Construction of The Alpina Gstaad is well under way, giving skiers something new to look forward to next winter.|
Switzerland Tourism’s list of the seven reasons to visit the country doesn’t mention skiing per se, but at this time of year, your jetsetting clients will likely be considering the Swiss Alps for some prime slope time. “Hotels & Resorts” is one of the reasons specifically cited, and it’s in this realm where news is being made—primarily of interest to skiers.
This time next year, Gstaad will get its first new five-star hotel in 100 years. Slated to open just in time for the 2012-13 winter season, The Alpina Gstaad is set on five acres in the Bernese Alps at the heart of a $337 million luxury development that also includes private apartments and two chalets. (We hear the Panorama Suite will have its own private spa, including an outdoor Jacuzzi and fireplace, as well as bulletproof windows—perfect for VIPs who want top luxury as well as top-notch security.) The main hotel will have just 57 rooms and suites (all with balconies), maintaining a boutique ambiance.
The hotel will channel traditional Alpine style in its architecture and interior design. Green touches: Old fir wood from local abandoned farmhouses has been repurposed to line the walls of the public rooms. Other authentic local materials include blocks of hand-carved Ringgenberg limestone for the entrance and a gabled roof of natural slate. Some columns will have leather detailing.
In order to keep the landscape as unspoiled as possible, the garage and main entrance will be subterranean, hidden under the natural rolling countryside. Some other perks we love: The property will have a 20,000-square-foot spa (also subterranean), two swimming pools (one in the fitness center and one outdoors in the gardens), a private theater, a wine tasting room, a cigar room and conference facilities.
Onno Poortier, former president of The Peninsula Hotels, is the owner’s representative and is supervising the construction and marketing. No dedicated agent liaison has been announced yet, but keep checking in at www.travelagentcentral.com for updates.
Before Gstaad gets its new resort, the Nira Alpina, a member of Design Hotels, is expected to open by the end of November in the ski resort of Surlej. The hotel will reportedly be the only one in the Engadin valley to provide a true ski-in/ski-out experience. The hotel will have 70 rooms, all with a balcony, terrace or garden space. Families or larger groups will appreciate the 14 connecting rooms and 10 large junior suites. For adults looking for some pampering, the Nira Spa has some delicious-sounding treatments (for example, a Swiss chocolate body wrap). Treatment rooms are available for clay wraps, sports and hot stone massages, exfoliation treatments, pedicures and manicures year-round.
And skiers will appreciate the private glassed-in walkway leading straight to the adjacent Corvatsch cable car, which gives quick access to the mountain peaks. (Bonus: Guests can reach the mountaintops faster, thereby getting access to pure snow.) Inside, guests can unwind at two restaurants serving local Swiss favorites as well as international cuisine using fresh, local ingredients.
We touched base with Alex Hermann, director, North America for Switzerland Tourism, about what was new among Switzerland’s travel trends. In the beginning of the year, the country’s economy was impacting its exchange rate with other nations’ currencies, making inbound tourism expensive. In the summer, the Swiss central bank cut interest rates to zero in order to keep trading up—and the gambit seems to have worked. From January to September, Switzerland saw only a slight decrease of overnights from the U.S. compared to the same time in 2010. In part, Hermann said, “this is due to the positive effect of the Oberammergau Passion Play last summer. So far, we’re satisfied with this result, given the weak [exchange rate between the] U.S. dollar to the euro and Swiss franc. Looking forward, we’re cautiously optimistic.”
Soaring in the Summer
Leisure carrier Edelweiss Air, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, will begin flying between Tampa and Zurich twice per week in May 2012 for the summer tourist season. Great news for golf fans: Golfing equipment will be carried free of charge on all long-haul flights, in addition to the baggage allowance.
Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS), also a Lufthansa subsidiary, will fly daily from Newark to Zurich as of early summer. This will replace the current business class-only jet with six flights a week.