2291. A magic number. 2291 stands for 1,000 years of Switzerland. What will it be like then, what will our country, what will Gstaad look like at that time? Many people ask themselves this question. And I did too when I had the privilege of writing an article for the book "2291 – 70 Swiss personalities describe Switzerland on its 1,000th birthday".
One thing at the outset though: I'm not a prophet. I’m a hotelier and therefore directly affected by the major changes that are currently revolutionising our industry. AirBnB, booking.com, Uber, they’re all turning our business model upside down. They are efficiently challenging us traditional hosts. And sometimes I wonder: Will our hotel, this venerable palace from 1913, still exist in 250 years or more?
There are many reasons why it will. As our white fairytale castle, built 106 years ago, is anything but conventional. It’s more like a UFO, a dream object from holiday heaven. And it was precisely this UFO called the Palace that got tourism moving in the Saanenland region. Thanks to a visionary secondary school teacher called Robert Steffen, who really wanted to build a luxury hotel on the Oberbort. And if there hadn't been a few crazy railroaders at the same time, who really wanted to have the Montreux-Berner Oberland-Bahn railway take a detour... – who knows where we would be today. We owe this extra loop from Saanen to Saanenmöser via the no man’s land “Gstaad” to these pioneering visionaries. And this detour, it delivers the goods. To this day: it delivers tourists to us. Gstaad would be nothing today without them and courageous investors. Or rather, not exactly nothing. But certainly not a tourist attraction – and there wouldn’t be a Palace at all. The Scherz family would probably be somewhere in the Emmental region or wherever and would be herding cows instead of rich kids and colourful personalities.
And that brings us to the key to the question: What will Switzerland look like in 2291? The answer is obvious to me: ingenious Switzerland will continue to exist as a small fine country on this crazy planet. Switzerland will still be a prime example, a courageous pioneer for tradition and innovation, for a proud past and a place for crazy ideas. For brilliant inventiveness that makes a lot of sense. And: Switzerland will hopefully still be a place where democracy is practised in 250 years' time, where 7,000 cows live in harmony with 7,000 people, just like here in Gstaad.
With regard to the Scherz family and 2291 I hope that my great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will be nurturing and cherishing this Palace as we do it: with our heart and soul. Perhaps they will be picking their guests up with drones instead of Rolls Royce from Geneva West Space Station in 2291. The suites will have walls that speak and change colour according to the occupant’s mood... Maybe not though. Hopefully our descendants will remember our Swiss values that will still be applied in 2291: reliability, honesty, hospitality. We are not fake, we don’t bluff, we are who we are: authentic, real, different. I promise you: I will do everything I can to make sure that time doesn't stand still here at the Palace but that the good old days also have their place, alongside all the modern things we'll be doing here. Or to put it another way: Although I’m a UFO owner, I don't want to “space out” but keep my feet firmly on the ground. Just in solid Swiss style.