Dubai's Burj Al Arab hotel is among the world's most spectacular buildings, and as distinctive a landmark as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The daunting task of managing this "floating" palace has fallen to a Swiss.
Since it opened a year ago, the Burj Al Arab - or Arabian Tower - has established itself as one of the world's most luxurious hotels. The building's dhow sail structure soars 321 metres above the Gulf, and took five years to complete.
The task of maintaining the standard expected by the hotel's elite clientele falls to Christophe Schnyder, a Swiss graduate of the Lausanne Hotel School. He used to work at the world-renowned Montreux Palace Hotel on Lake Geneva, and is now resident manager at the Burj Al Arab.
He told swissinfo: "It's very unusual for many reasons: it's an all-suite hotel, which is not very common, but what is really amazing is that it's not built on land but on a man-made island nearly 300 metres offshore."
Schnyder arrived in Dubai before the hotel opened, and undertook much of the preparation needed to make the opening a success.
"When I arrived in August 1999 the hotel was still a big construction site," he said. "We worked very hard to get the teams together. We have 1,200 members of staff so it was a big challenge. And with expectations so high we had no real trial period ahead of the opening in December 1999."
Schnyder says his ability to handle such a huge responsibility is down to his Swiss training. "I think Swiss people have a very good education in the hotel business. Switzerland is well known for tourism and it's good that we export our knowledge abroad.
"Certainly our language skills coupled with a certain level of education give us a great advantage in the hotel business."
Schnyder says he seeks to ensure 100 per cent guest satisfaction. The building's interior alone goes some way towards that goal, presenting visitors with sumptuous designs, shimmering golds and reds along with multi-coloured waterfalls, and gold columns running up the world's tallest atrium.
In addition, every guest has a butler and the opportunity to use the hotel's helipad for airport transfers.
Dubai is becoming increasingly popular with Swiss tourists seeking a winter break, although most head for less exclusive hotels.
"The Swiss are a very important group of guests," said Schnyder. "They're looking for quality in a new destination that is not too far from Europe, where the climate is good and they can escape the stress of winter in Switzerland."
by Tom O'Brien