On both occasions, I put it to the show’s managing director that the event’s problems could only be truly solved if it moved out of the city of Basel.
He did not rule out the suggestion, but there are no signs that a shift to a more accommodating destination like Dubai, Hong Kong, Las Vegas or Paris is in the pipeline.
That strikes me as a mistake.
News reached me last week that Basel’s hotels are refusing to issue refunds for bookings in the week when Baselworld would have run this year.
The city’s only 5-star hotel, Les Trois Rois, not only declined requests for refunds this year, they added insult to injury by demanding a 10% administration fee to move bookings to January next year, the date set for Baselworld in 2021.
I have seen similar terms and conditions being imposed by Merian Basel and heard from a retailer booked into Basel’s Victoria Hotel that they have completely ignored inquiries about refunds for this year or moving a booking to 2021.
Mr Loris-Melikoff knows full well how frustrated visitors to Basel are with the way they are treated by hotels and restaurants in normal years. People are sick of being charged prices that can be three or four times higher during Baselworld for rubbish hotels and awful food.
He has implored hoteliers to treat guests better and move away from gouging tactics like insisting guests pay for the entire duration of Baselworld in order to secure rooms.
He has even threatened them with moving Baselworld to another city if they do not change.
Baselworld is scheduled to take place in 2021 from January 28 to February 2 in Basel. It may be impossible to move the show before next year, leading to retailers I have spoken to in Europe saying they are likely to visit the show without even staying overnight. Most retailers only need to see half a dozen brands, and that can be done in a day.
Everything the Baselworld team is trying to do with the show — turning it into a celebration of watchmaking, welcoming people from the trade along with watch-loving members of the public — will fail without the city of Basel doing its part to make visiting the show as enjoyable and affordable as possible.
The attitude of hotels towards their loyal long term guests is a disgrace, and likely to either drive Baselworld out of the city or kill it altogether.