Tel. +31 (0) 33 760 0270

St Moritz: Top of the World?

Read the new column by Renske Heddema

St Moritz: no ski resort on earth evokes more associations with unbridled luxury and wealth. St Moritz means horse races on ice and blondes in sumptuous fur coats, sipping on pink champagne in the snow. German princes and movie stars mix with wealthy Swiss and international jet setters. Banks and luxury brands use the ski resort as a backdrop for their VIP events. The cricket world championships on ice, which just took place in February will once again put the alpine village on the map in India, enhancing the brand quite adequately for a massive audience. 

The place where the English invented winter sports in the 19th century, has hosted the Olympic Winter Games twice. The Ski World Championships were even held 5 five times in St. Moritz. In a recent survey by the UBS on the value of second homes, the village continues to rank no 1 in the list of most expensive Alpine destinations, before Gstaad and Verbier.  CHF 14.300 ($ 15.260) is the price of one square meter of real estate in St. Moritz. The slogan with which the tourist office has been promoting the region so far only reinforced that image: St Moritz: Top of the World. 

But the top location must shift gears. A marketing strategy solely focusing on the most expensive segment has become obsolete.  Several hotels had to close or were converted into apartments. Although still pricey, an apartment in St Moritz is now cheaper than in 2015, with a downward tendency.

The so-called cold beds -vacant second homes - have increasingly become a problem. Around half of them were built between 1960 and 1980. The younger generation prefers to make a city trip rather than spending a skiing holiday in the chalet of their parents.

Meanwhile, the Swiss environment remains expensive. After the upgrading of the Swiss franc, Europeans stayed away, while the increase of Asian tourists could not close that gap. In addition, the expensive hotels and ski lifts each aim at a different type of customer. The 5-star hotels actively engage in customer acquisition in Asia, for instance scoring a commission for an Indian wedding in the snow for selected guests. But the ski lifts and middle-class hotels aim exactly at the opposite end. They need group tourism to make up for the investments in the upgraded ski lift infrastructure and hotel facilities. Therefore, the tourism organization now wants to move away from the headline: Top of the World. Instead, it embarks on innovation. 

Today, St Moritz actively involves its own citizens in the design of a new strategy. At lecture evenings, workshops and online, ski instructors, waiters, students and second-home owners can unfold their views on St. Moritz 2030. The campaign has just been launched. If this will help revitalizing one of the strongest brands in Switzerland? It remains to be seen. At least one innovative step has already been made: St Moritz is the first place where you can pay for your ski pass in Bitcoin.