Coping with decline in a Swiss mountain village

Andermatt is a Swiss mountain village. When one of the main opportunities for income disappeared, its economy declined. This case study addresses how the people coped with the solution for this challenge: a large-scale tourism resort.

Andermatt is located in the Gotthard area, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. In the 19th century, it evolved into a tourist destination. Then, the Swiss army became an important actor. The region was geo-strategically important. From the 1940s onwards, the army evolved into the main employer in the village, while tourism decreased.

In the wake of the ending Cold War, the army decided to dissolve the military training area and to withdraw from Andermatt. The economy of the peripheral mountain village declined, having just a small tourism industry left. The impact on the population was considerable. A solution was needed that would stop the decline.

It came with the Egyptian investor Samih Sawiris. He suggested a large-scale tourism resort. Planning started in 2006 and the resort was built from 2009 onwards.

The new opportunity to develop Andermatt pleased the government on the national as well as on the cantonal levels. For residents, on the other hand, the resort is associated with a complex set of hopes, challenges, opportunities, and risks. How will the tourist resort affect locals? What will be its short and long-term impacts?

This is difficult to predict. Over a total area of 1.4 million square metres, the resort consists of six hotels, around 490 apartments in 42 blocks, 25 private villas, an indoor swimming pool, conference facilities, and an 18-hole golf course for the planned ‘Andermatt Reuss Holiday Village’. Various buildings and facilities have been completed and opened since the start of the resort construction. The 5-star hotel ‘The Chedi Andermatt’ has been open since the end of 2013, the 4-star ‘Radisson Blu’ and the ‘Gotthard Residences’ with an indoor swimming pool since December 2018. A villa, the golf course, and a covered parking lot have been completed since 2014 and the concert hall has been open since June 2019. A total of sixteen apartment buildings have been completed and a further seven apartment buildings have been under construction since spring 2022.

Moreover, the adjoining skiing area was modernised and extended. The consolidated Andermatt-Sedrun ski resort is operated by the company Andermatt Swiss Alps (ASA) subsidiary Andermatt-Sedrun Sport AG (ASS) under the name ‘SkiArena Andermatt-Sedrun’. Overall, since the start of the project, 900 million Swiss francs have been invested.

‘BESTandermatt’ is a study investigating the socio-cultural and socio-economic changes triggered by the implementation of this tourist resort over a period of ten years. It investigates how the inhabitants of Andermatt perceive the new resort’s impact at different points in time. It examines what the resort means to the locals, how it affects their lifeworld (the everyday knowledge shared by all people who belong to a particular social entity), how their attitudes towards the resort changes, and how they are dealing with the transformation of Andermatt into a large-scale tourist destination. The video introduces the case.

As you watch the video, think of what you consider the biggest challenge for the project. Write down your answer.

Educator: Caroline Näther