Saturday, January 19, 2008

Egyptian rescue for Swiss village?

Andermatt, a sleepy village in the Uri canton of Switzerland perhaps best known for producing the champion Olympic skier Bernard Russi, commands a strategic post in the Alps. Three passes--Oberalp, Furka and the famous St. Gotthard--all meet in Andermatt's bucolic valley 4,737 feet above sea level, historically a mountainous choke point for travelers trying to cut through the Alps en route from Italy to Germany or vice versa.

But now this peaceful Swiss village is moving up two ranks to the same level as St.Moritz, Gstaad or Zermatt, thanks to Samih Sawiris, worth $1.5 billion. He runs Orascom Hotels & Development, one of the Egyptian family's companies, which built from scratch the 2,500-bed El Gouna resort on the Red Sea.

Doubling the town's hotel room inventory, he'd make it big enough to attract tour operators and then add an ice rink, a golf course and an indoor pool with its own beach. He'd quickly follow up with 600 apartments and 100 villas. Let's hope it will work out the way the entire village and valley thinks.

Welcome to Switzerland, Alpine Pharao!

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