Hotelleriesuisse: 5 percent of Swiss hotels won’t survive coronavirus
Andreas Züllig, owner of the four-star Hotel Schweizerhof in the Alpine resort of Lenzerheide, was having one of his best winters in 20 years before the coronavirus stole into Switzerland. As many as 200 guests were arriving daily to enjoy the abundant snow, driving revenues to record highs in January and February. But the season came to a premature end in mid-March when the government mandated a nationwide lockdown to help contain the virus. He closed the hotel temporarily, along with many of Switzerland’s 4,500 hotels. At the time, he only had six guests. “The whole industry has never seen anything like what we have now,” said Züllig, who is also the president of the Swiss Hotel Association. He predicts that 5 percent of Swiss hotels—from 200 to 250—won’t survive the pandemic. Those located in the country with no more than a dozen or so rooms are the ones most threatened, he said. On average, about 1 to 2 percent of Switzerland’s 4,500 hotels close down or go out of business every year. “It’s going to be a tough ride,” said Louis Papadopoulos, owner of Maya Boutique Hotel in Valais. The eight-room wellness hotel, which normally has an occupancy rate of 60 percent throughout the year, hasn’t received a booking request since the end of February. “I think many hotels will be faced with the choice: die now or in a few years’ time.” Papadopoulos remains hopeful that business will pick up over the summer from Swiss tourists who choose to travel locally. Sebastian Schmid, who runs Hotel Glocke in Valais, was also forced to close earlier than planned for the season. The 18-room hotel had received 20 booking cancellations in the last two weeks alone. The Second Hit It’s not the first time the Swiss hotel industry has faced a crisis. In 2015, the decoupling of the Swiss franc and the euro left many establishments struggling for international visitors as the currency surged. When Züllig took on the role as president as the Swiss Hotel Association that year, he thought things couldn’t get any worse. Now he believes the franc shock is nothing compared with the coronavirus. A survey carried out by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts for Western Switzerland expects losses for Swiss hotels to reach CHF 2 billion from March to May. April will be one of the hardest-hit months with revenues down roughly 90 percent, according to projections. “I think the international market is dead for the whole year,” said Züllig, who estimates it will take at least a year before the industry can return to normal. Others see a brighter future. “The Swiss hotel industry is facing a dark time indeed, but it has already proven that it is able to innovate and react quite quickly,” said Giuliano Bianchi, professor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne. “Despite the huge hit, I believe that the high human capital and the flexibility of the Swiss hotel industry will overcome this dark time. There is hope.”
An app to detect COVID-19’s telltale cough
Mobile phones have emerged as a key tool to track the spread of the coronavirus. But can they tell you whether you have the disease? Swiss-based Detect-Now has created an application that uses your smartphone to test for COVID-19 by recording the sound of your cough. Co-founder Simon Hofer explains how it works.
Coronavirus “stabilizing” in Switzerland, top health official says
Switzerland’s coronavirus epidemic appears to be stabilizing, a top health official said on Tuesday, crediting the country’s containment measures with slowing the spread. Asked when the restrictions could be relaxed, Daniel Koch, head of infectious diseases at the federal health agency, said there was no single numerical target. Authorities are using several measures to track the virus, ranging from new infections and hospitalizations to the number of patients in intensive care units, he said. A qualitative analysis is also part of the picture. “We take the different numbers and try to make an assessment out of them—together with the specialists and the cantons,” he said at a news conference. European governments are seeing growing evidence that their nationwide lockdowns are paying off. But in a region that has suffered more than 60 percent of deaths worldwide, officials must balance the need to reanimate their economies against the risk of reigniting the spread. Neighboring Austria, which has far fewer coronavirus cases than Switzerland, plans to allow small shops, hardware stores, and garden centers to reopen next week. Norway and Denmark are looking to open some schools this month. The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged countries not to lift their anti-COVID-19 measures too soon. “One of the most important parts is not to let go of the measures too early in order not to have a fall back again,” said WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier in a virtual briefing. Switzerland declared a state of emergency on March 16, closing shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment and leisure facilities until April 19. The government is working on a post-lockdown plan once health officials say it’s safe to resume activities. Since Monday, the number of positive COVID-19 tests has increased by 590 to 22,242, Koch said. At least 641 people have died and more than 400 remain on respiratory support in intensive care. “It seems to be stabilizing, but it’s too early to say the problem is solved.”
Six European start-ups chosen for Google accelerator
Google has chosen six European companies to take part in its new accelerator for start-ups working on sustainable development goals. In all, 11 finalists were selected from 1,120 applicants with help from UN experts. The tech giant adapted the five-month program to take place solely online after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted plans for a kickoff in Germany last month.
Highlights from the Versus Virus hackathon
A mental health care adviser, a website for victims of domestic violence, and a streamlined application for short-time work. These were just some of the projects conjured up during the Versus Virus online hackathon for coping with COVID-19. But how feasible are they? Tanya König follows up with the winners.