Jan Steiner has been a member of the management of Engadin St. Moritz Tourismus AG since the beginning of 2019, responsible for sales, communication and marketing. Before that he was tourism director of the municipality of Pontresina in the Upper Engadine.
Jan Steiner: First of all, I’m happy that we’re actually starting operations on and on. This is not the case everywhere in these corona times. Some ski resorts have postponed the opening for the time being. We have to see what kind of season this will be. Two or three weeks ago I would have said that I am optimistic that things will go well this winter. Today I don’t dare to predict any more. We hope for the best and first orientate ourselves from day to day.
Of course, the pressure is increasing to respond to us too. But the decision is made by the Swiss government, the Federal Council in Bern, and the cantons. Rather, you have to ask there how the politicians are behaving. I now hope that we can keep the season open because the corona numbers will hopefully go down again soon. We accept the actions of the governments of the other countries. But we also expect that they will accept our measures in return.
That is unfortunately the case. So far it seems that bookings towards Christmas are still quite stable. But we have to see how the number of infections develops and how it will end up being. But what we can already see: people are sure to make short-term decisions. At the same time, those who book, but much longer, report the hoteliers. Some guests sign up for a whole month straight away. Even in the top hotels.
We don’t bet on that. On the contrary, we have even stopped advertising in Germany at the moment.
At least these guests have little trouble coming to us. With the Samedan airfield, we have one of the highest international airports in Europe right on our doorstep. If you want, you can fly to us directly without arriving via Zurich or any other airport and then having to change trains. This is sure to be an advantage for some people.
There will definitely be no shortage of your supply. Even if these guests have to do a health check or stay at home after arriving with us or returning from Switzerland, they are definitely well looked after. In fact, we’ve heard that some people would rather go into quarantine for a few days than not come.
Right. Over the summer, we spent months developing concepts for how winter tourism can run this year. And the White Turf or the Snow Polo World Cup really don’t fit in there this year. We postponed the dates weeks ago to 2022, when – hopefully – it will fit again. In the meantime we have developed alternative concepts. There will be an ice rink, cross-country skiing trails and winter hiking trails on the lake. It is clear: we have to reinvent ourselves a little this winter.
Inevitably. We noticed that in the summer. Among other things, we missed all the guests from overseas who would otherwise experience the mountains by train on the Bernina or Glacier Express. And otherwise the audience has shifted a lot. In the Engadine we even had around 20 percent more holidaymakers than usual, many from western Switzerland, for example. Wherever else German, English or Italian are spoken, French suddenly came along.
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Not that, in St. Moritz we had around 20 percent fewer guests. That more or less balanced itself out. But even there we had a lot more visitors from Switzerland. And so we had a lot of people in the region to test the corona protective measures, which we now want to implement – adapted for the winter: distance, protective masks, hygiene concepts, queue management …
I can’t promise you that. With some people that is a thing of personal responsibility. But the mountain railways have provided additional staff everywhere to prevent this as much as possible. A kind of corona guides who create awareness and can show people the way.
I don’t even like to imagine. Because of course alpine skiing and snowboarding belong to the core of our offer. On the other hand, luckily, they’re not the only thing that draws people to us. As a high valley, the Engadin offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature – from winter hiking to cross-country skiing to snowshoeing and ski tours. And in the vastness of the winter landscape, “keeping your distance” isn’t the problem anyway. Whatever happens, winter will still take place with us, it will just be completely different than usual.
The announcement by the Chancellor that ski areas across Europe should close this winter,