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CORDER’S COLUMN: Basel hotels could drive trade fair out of the city

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I have interviewed Michel Loris-Melikoff twice about his plans to turnaround the fortunes of Baselworld.

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.

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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.

2 Comments

  1. A friend who lives in far North London does 3 days at Baselworld by commuting from Luton airport every day. It’s still cheaper than a hotel.

  2. Dear Rob,
    With all due respect, I partially understand and agree with the Article of yours, but I am sorry to say, you are judging a situation involving a Business Sector you are not familiar with as to how it works.
    Of course Hotels in the city of Basel but not only in this city but everywhere in world where a city is yearly hosting a major event (Geneva Auto Saloon, Barcelona MWC, Berlin ITB, Miami Art Basel etc etc), are, or were profiting from these Fairs. Hotels, especially in a small city like Basel do not have unlimited Guests segments they can profit from throughout the year.
    Anyway, let us concentrate at Basel and the Baselworld fair.
    You will agree with me that, whatever the Journey Purpose is (Business or Leisure), it is inevitably connected with the cost factor. One of the costs is the cost of accommodation. When it comes to events, fairs, exhibitions etc., the accommodation cost especially for exhibitors (either customers and or Staff) is a part of their Logistic calculation.
    For the Baselworld the cost of accommodation for the companies exhibiting is number four on their list. The main cost factor is getting their luxury goods in Switzerland/Basel and transferring these back from where these were transferred. Number two on the cost list is the Booth. With a booth, I mean a) Renting (exhibitor’s fees), b) Construction, c) Planning and d) Implementing. The third cost on the list is marketing prior to the fair. At number four, as mentioned is the accommodation.
    For your Article to be accurate, I would expect an experience Editor like yourself, to shift the “why Baselword has come to this unfortunate situation in Basel” and look more deeply into the “WHY”.
    It is only unfair to point out your finger at the Basel Hotels, and them being the ONLY reason(s) why Baselworld has come to the edge of “extinction”.
    If I take you back, 10 years ago, during the financial crisis, the SARS etc, the Companies involved in the above top 4 cost list, did absolutely nothing to “save” the fair. They did not want to hear anything about it, did not show any flexibility and kept their costs/charges towards all exhibitors with NO exception at the same level. Did you ask Mr Michel Loris-Melikoff how much the Booth fee per square meter was reduced since 2010? Did you ask what Baselword and MCH did to make this fair sustainable?
    At the end of the day, hotels play an important role in the customer Journey. I would allow myself to say the most important role in a customised Journey such as this of a fair. As for moving the fair to Dubai or any other destination, I would say only this: Made in Switzerland.
    I rest my case.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder