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Hip hotel reaches - and passes - Milestone

Rooms are equipped with the latest digital technology (swiss-image.ch)

The first high-tech designer hotel in the Swiss Alps has won this year's "Milestone" prize from the Swiss tourism industry.

At an awards ceremony in Bern on Tuesday, the "Riders Palace" hotel in the eastern ski resort of Laax was cited for responding to the demands of hip young snowboarders.

Instead of bed and breakfast, guests get bed and broadband Internet access - and a lot more in the way of multimedia entertainment.

It is a concept that has proved attractive to the 20-something snowboarder from London, Zurich or Berlin. It also impressed the jury of somewhat older and greying veterans of the Swiss tourist industry.

"If Swiss tourism wants to develop in future then it's got to find new markets," the Swiss Tourism Association's Gody Künzi told swissinfo at the ceremony.

"Young people don't want to spend a lot of money on their hotel room but they want to do sport and they want to party," said Reto Gurtner, head of the company that owns the hotel, after accepting the award.

Disc jockeys and DVD

Instead of breakfast, the hotel bar is open 24 hours; top international DJs play in the hotel club and DVD videos are shown on plasma screens. Ski passes are included in the price of the room.

A bed in a five-person dormitory room costs SFr115 ($80), which includes one night at the hotel and two days on the slopes.

For SFr160, rooms come equipped with a DVD player, PlayStation, video recorder and digital stereo.

"The Rider's Palace Hotel is sensational," added Künzi. "It is our goal to find new market segments and, in this case, to give the younger generation what they want. Reto Gurtner has accomplished this in a very fine and intelligent way."

Künzi also admitted that the choice of Riders Palace was meant as a wake-up call for Switzerland's stagnating hotel industry.

Cultural tourism

Also cited at the ceremony for outstanding achievement was the Lucerne tourist board for its ground-breaking marketing agreement with the city's theatres, museums and concert halls.

Although most tourists travel to see Lucerne's wooden Chapel Bridge, do some shopping and tour Lake Lucerne by paddle steamer, the city is home to world-class art galleries and music festivals.

The aim of the agreement, according to Lisa Schilling of Lucerne Tourism, is to bring "more recognition to Lucerne as a city of culture" and attract more people to the city outside the summer high season.

Emanuel and Rosmarie Berger who run the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa in Interlaken were given a lifetime achievement award.

Graubünden Tourism won a special prize for promoting tourism during the International Year of Mountains in little known alpine towns and villages in the south-eastern canton.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

Key facts

Riders Palace hotel in Laax wins Milestone Prize for excellence in tourism.
2nd place went to "Lucerne Culture Partner".
Special prize won by Graubünden Tourism for promoting little known alpine towns and villages.

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