A new mini Andermatt is to be built in Dieni GR.
Martin SchmidtEditor Economics
While hotels have regularly opened up in many holiday destinations in recent years, tourism projects continue to make the headlines, the dimensions of which make you forget all the romantic huts. Most recently in the southern Grisons mountain village of San Bernardino.
Lugano entrepreneur Stefano Artioli (62) wants to invest up to 300 million francs in several hotels, holiday apartments and the modernization of the ski lifts in the village. In this way, 1,500 beds are intended to bring new life to the slumbering mountain village. Artioli aims to complete the entire project by 2025.
The Egyptian entrepreneur Samih Sawiris (65) also has big plans for his Andermatt Swiss Alps AG. In Sedrun GR, he wants to build a new village district from scratch for CHF 170 million: 13 buildings, 410 hotel rooms, 119 holiday apartments. If everything goes according to plan, the new part of the village should be ready by 2027. In the last 15 years, Sawiris has already invested around 1.5 billion francs in a huge resort with holiday apartments, hotels and the ski area in Andermatt UR.
Houses of cards with risks
Christian Laesser (59), tourism economist at the University of St. Gallen, is familiar with such mammoth projects: “The low interest rate environment and the cheap loans in recent years have given such large-scale projects new international impetus.”
The logic behind it is always similar, explains Laesser. “An investor can buy relatively cheap land and use it to develop a real estate business, including tourism.” The potential for increasing the value of real estate, especially on wasteland, can be considerable. It remains to be seen whether this will continue to work when interest rates rise, says the expert.
The investors use the profits from the real estate business to promote the tourist infrastructure in town and other real estate projects. “If the calculation works out, they create a self-reinforcing cycle,” says Laesser. But the projects are anything but a sure-fire success, according to the economist: “If the investors don’t get the real estate business up and running, the house of cards will collapse.”
Destinations hope for warm beds
Major projects can also be an opportunity for established tourism destinations. For example in Saas-Fee VS. Numerous hotels have closed there in the past. With the Swede Peter Wittander (58) there is now an investor who wants to build 67 residential units with 400 beds at six locations. According to “Walliser Bote”, 94 percent of the apartments worth CHF 72 million have already been sold.
The Second Homes Act ensures that the new owners have to rent out the apartments in Saas-Fee. The community can therefore look forward to more guests. However, such a large number of co-owners can be dangerous in the long term. “Projects like this are often profitable in the short term, especially for the lead investors,” says Laesser. “But if major renovations are necessary later on, conflicts can quickly arise between the many parties involved.”
Sawiris is planning a marina and a mini village
In the municipality of Hérémence in the Lower Valais, a 90-million-dollar project is also nearing completion. The key data: 60 hotel beds and almost 160 apartments including a thermal and wellness center. Here, too, the investors have sold some of the apartments.
And then there is another Sawiris project: the entrepreneur wants to build a marina and mini-village on Lake Uri. He is planning a hotel with 50 rooms and 100 other serviced holiday apartments. As in most places, the project met with approval from the population, but also numerous critics.