August 2, 2021

“The hotel industry has never experienced such a crisis, but it will recover from it”


5 min

Romand hoteliers (ARH) change president in the midst of a storm. Jean-Jacques Gauer, former director of the Lausanne Palace, takes the helm.

  • Jean-Jacques Gauer: “Today who would bet in tourism or aviation for the next four or five years?”

    Credit: Dr

  • Jean-Jacques Gauer also manages theAmerican Colony, in Jerusalem, and a Raffles in Warsaw.

    Credit: Dr

After two months of hospitalization, the boss of the Auberge du Raisin in Cully (VD) has returned to his post. Recovering from a heavy fall in the vineyards of Grandvaux, Jean-Jacques Gauer is not ready to forget 2020. Thedose horribilis in the hotel and catering industry, a world where the former director of the Lausanne Palace and president of the Leading Hotels of the World for twenty years excels.

At the time of the interview, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Friborg, Vaud and the Jura have just decreed a second confinement of bars and restaurants. In his capacity as director of two small establishments of 24 rooms, with Major-Davel taken over two years ago, the future president of the Romand hoteliers (ARH) argues that “it will be complicated for a large number of hoteliers, restaurateurs and suppliers.

But the industry must undoubtedly go through this, even if its situation is more than worrying. A lot of businesses are going to be in jeopardy. The hotel industry does not generate considerable margins, it is a just-in-time economy. Even with the crutches that we received with remarkable speed, the RHT (compensation for reductions in employee working hours) and APG (allowances for loss of earnings for the self-employed), hoteliers have been in debt for years . The deadline for Covid loans has been extended from five to eight years, but the banks will have to be repaid one day. The interest rate is currently at zero, but only for the first year. Beyond that, it’s the unknown. ”

Targeted support

Even though the Covid loans make it possible to relieve the bosses of the payment of wages in the event of a reduction in the working hours, they still have to pay out of their pocket social charges, vacations and public holidays: “This is where he Cantonal aid will be needed to the bottom, ”argues Jean-Jacques Gauer. In Time, the Vaudois hotelier Eric Fassbind (7 establishments in Lausanne and Zurich) and who acts as a maverick outside professional associations, pleaded for targeted help to avoid assisting lame ducks. It even encourages the State to support hoteliers in a reconversion process rather than supporting “a plethora of hotel offers developed on the basis of uninterrupted growth in world tourism”.

Targeted support accepted in principle by Jean-Jacques Gauer, who specifies: “We still need state aid to the bottom, either by the Confederation or by the cantons, like what has been done. in Friborg and Neuchâtel. It is not a question of putting a plaster on a mutilated body. ” This internationally experienced hotelier is also the remote manager of the American Colony, a former sultan’s palace in East Jerusalem, and of a Raffles in Warsaw, owned by Vera Michalski-Hoffmann, who are experiencing the same problems due to the coronavirus. : “State aid is less active there than in Switzerland. In Jerusalem, the American Colony was closed after two months of summer opening for people coming from Tel Aviv. With aviation grounded, it no longer made sense. ”

Arrived at the end of his mandate, Philippe Thuner will have held the helm of the hoteliers of Vaud, then Romans for two decades. The ARH, which does not include Geneva and Valais because of its bilingualism, has nearly 250 establishments with 1 to 5 stars, or 7,000 to 8,000 employees. But if Friborg has decreed aid of 5 million until the end of 2021 to help pay mortgage charges and Neuchâtel has released aid of 1.7 million to employers in difficulty on the basis of overnight stays in 2019, the other cantons are more cautious for now: “We will have to continue the dialogue with the authorities and find the right solutions between the various partners.”

The new hotelier

Hard hit, the tourism sector must receive a promotion aid via Switzerland Tourism of 40 million francs, announced this spring the Federal Council. The Swiss hotel industry recorded 1.3 million overnight stays in March, a collapse of 62.3% compared to the same period. However, they posted a growth of 6% in January-February despite the absence of the Chinese.

Therefore, is the hotel offer in Romandie overabundant? Establishments with a prestigious past are for sale, such as Trois-Couronnes in Vevey and Beau-Rivage in Geneva, but unrelated to the Covid: “There have always been waves of foreign buyers, Saudis, Qataris, Russians or Chinese. But today who would invest in tourism or aviation? Who would bet in these areas for the next four or five years? We do not go through such a crisis without leaving scars, and not only in Switzerland. ”

A paradise for hotel schools with its emblematic EHL, will Switzerland lose an international advantage? Hotelier was until now one of the only professions that could be exercised on the whole planet. This certainty is questioned with the coronavirus-without-border. For Jean-Jacques Gauer, however, the profession is not threatened: “We could see the emergence of a new breed of hoteliers. Before, young people sharpened their weapons in large standardized chains. Today, they prefer to be their own boss and their own entrepreneur. Hotelier is a profession of passion and commitment. Love of the profession cannot be standardized and passed so easily from generation to generation. You can’t teach it online. With every misfortune there is an opportunity. We will emerge different from this crisis, but the hotel industry will recover from it. ”