More than 50 years ago, Walter Gurtner established Bergbahnen Crap Sogn Gion AG, thereby laying the foundation stone for a successful Swiss tourism company. Today, the company is known as Weisse Arena Gruppe and is run by his son, Reto Gurtner. The qualifi ed economist and jurist is well known for his entrepreneurial vision. We ask the man himself what drives him.
It might be summer already, Mr Gurtner, but tell us – how was the winter in the region?
Under the circumstances, not bad at all! The season got off to a slow start due to the lack of snow, but January and February were good months. Things really went downhill again in mid-March, though. But that’s how it is – things are rather unpredictable at the moment. There are various factors holding us back, with the high Swiss franc and the low numbers of hotel beds here in the region taking their toll, for example. The weather also has a big part to play in determining how successful a season will be. Nevertheless, the product we offer still manages to convince both domestic and international guests.
Your own conviction is apparent in your willingness to invest. You are now embarking on the third stage of construction at the rocksresort in Laax.
Following the success of our “buy to use and let” Rocks model and the sale of all apartments, nothing is standing in the way of a third stage of construction. Our staff accommodation building will be demolished this summer, and winter 2018 should see the completion of the fi rst of three planned buildings with a further 300 to 400 beds. A car park will also be added on the site between the signinahotel and the Freestyle Academy Laax. But we’re doing it all step by step.
«WINTER 2018 SHOULD SEE THE COMPLETION OF THE FIRST OF THREE PLANNED BUILDINGS WITH A FURTHER 300 TO 400 BEDS.»
– Reto Gurtner,President of the Weissen Arena Gruppe
The most spectacular investment will be the new Cassons cable car.
Yes, the Cassons cable car is another project among many – but certainly one of the biggest and most exciting. If we are to remain competitive worldwide, we have to resurrect Switzerland’s role as a tourism pioneer that was established over 100 years ago. Switzerland is after all renowned for its public transport system, elements of which can be an attraction in their own right, whether in terms of landscape, technology or architecture. A normal cable car – one that just takes its passengers a certain distance up the mountain – doesn’t get you any attention. In this pioneering project, we are combining unusual architecture with solid and innovative engineering. The simple fact is that we have to be prepared for the future. Just a little touching up here and there will not be enough to make us more attractive and viable as a destination in the future.
Knowing you, there are surely a few more surprises in the pipeline for us to look forward to.
Of course, how else could it be! Over the next few years, Crap Sogn Gion will undergo a rejuvenation process as part of a project called GaLAAXy. I don’t want to tell you any more right now, otherwise I’d be revealing too much. What I can say, however, is that Crap Sogn Gion will have Europe’s highest-altitude co-working space. In today’s digital media age, all we need to be able to work is a chair, a table and Wi-Fi access. In concrete terms, this means that we aim to develop an ecosystem for digital nomads. This will also be an interesting working environment for journalists, who can enjoy the morning on the slopes and then get working around lunchtime. Families will continue to be another clear target group, and we will be expanding our programme for children and young people. To summarise just a few points: we are planning a new crèche with lots of surprises, an archery park in the woods, which will open this summer, and an asphalt mogul run for vehicles of all kinds. In addition to this, we are working together with the municipality of Laax to design a treetop trail from Laax Murschetg to Laax Dorf.
With all of these projects going on, do your staff ever see you in the office?
This has been a major challenge for me and all my colleagues at times, and I’m happy to say that we’ve found a solution. At the end of March, the operational management of the company was taken over by Flavio Battaini, a versatile and effective leadership personality. In the role of COO, he provides valuable support for the management board as a whole, and we are all delighted to have him with us. His recruitment has enabled me to focus more closely on visions for the future and on developing the strategic orientation of the company.