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Andermatt project could create 2,000 jobs

Sawaris says he recognises Andermatt's untapped potential

(Keystone)

Plans to build a luxury resort and golf course in central Switzerland could create 2,000 jobs for the economically depressed region.

The Uri cantonal government, which presented the Andermatt project to the public on Monday, said the new resort would be beneficial for the local population, environment and economy.

The major alpine tourism project is the brainchild of Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris, the entrepreneur behind the gigantic El Gouna resort on Egypt's Red Sea coast.

Following the sale of land occupied by a disused army firing range for SFr10 million ($8 million), Uri cantonal government presented its amendments to the local zoning plan on Monday, according to which Andermatt is expected to almost double in size from 35 to 60 hectares.

Sawiris's project will comprise an 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, sports hall and spa. The complex will include five hotels with a total capacity of 800 rooms, 600 holiday apartments and 100 houses. Protection against rock falls and flooding will be erected and the Egyptian hopes to start work in 2008.

Regional development

The development is designed to be "in harmony with nature", stressed the cantonal government, which has ordered a study into the financial impact of the project.

The report, carried out by Winterthur College of Applied Sciences, estimates that the tourist centre will generate SFr120 million in added value and create 2,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly.

The plan will elevate Andermatt from one of the smallest tourist areas in the Alps to a mid-size Swiss resort. Big enough, in Sawiris's words, to make it attractive for international tour operators.

The arrival of the Egyptian tourism magnate, who is keen to get a foothold in Europe, could not have come at a better time. Andermatt has been losing skilled jobs as a key employer, the Swiss army, reduces its presence in the alpine region.

And even though the village boasts challenging skiing at an altitude that guarantees excellent snow conditions, its tourist industry has not been able to compensate for the job losses. Andermatt has been considered up until now too small to have the clout to secure financing to expand or upgrade its tourist infrastructure.

At the beginning of September Sawiris met with local inhabitants, farmers and ecological groups to discuss concerns.

The entrepreneur said that he was convinced that it would be possible to find a solution that everyone was happy with, even if it meant delays in the construction. He is, however, unwilling to give up the idea of an 18-hole golf course, which has received certain opposition.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Sawiris business empire, the Orascom Group, is divided into three sectors: telecommunications, construction and tourism.

Samih Sawiris heads the latter, operating three purpose-built resorts on the Red Sea coast, and is constructing a fourth and fifth in the United Arab Emirates and in Oman.

The company's strategy is "the acquisition of undeveloped land in prime locations, the development and marketing of fully self-sufficient communities..."

The flagship El Gouna resort is a cluster of hotels, restaurants and shopping centres built around artificial lagoons.

Orascom administers the resort with a resident population of 10,000, including its airport, schools and hospital.

end of infobox

Key facts

Andermatt has a population of 1,351, and lies at an altitude of 1,444 metres above sea level.
It has about 800 beds in around 20 hotels and guesthouses.
Samih Sawiris plans to double the figure with his resort.

end of infobox


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