Bear Park to boost summer tourism in Arosa - and prepare for the future

Arosa is getting a park for maltreated bears. This not only pleases the new residents of the facility, but also the tourism organizations.


On Tuesday, Arosa Tourism, the animal welfare organization Vier Pfoten and the local mountain railroads presented the concept for the Arosa Bear Sanctuary. This was given the green light by the population at the ballot box in November 2016.

The 2.8-hectare outdoor enclosure, which is due to be completed by July 2018, will be inhabited by former dancing and circus bears that Vier Pfoten freed from miserable captivity in southern and western Europe. So-called "problem bears", which have been shot in the past, will not be settled in the park in future either, as co-project manager Hans Schmid explains to Blick: "Including wild bears is very controversial". There will also be no cubs - Arosa Bear Sanctuary will be more of "a retirement home for mistreated animals", says Schmid.


It's not just the maltreated inhabitants who are looking forward to Bear Country, but also the local population and, above all, tourism. Equipped with additional attractions such as nature trails, minigolf, a themed playground and a viewing platform, the project should attract numerous new visitors to Graubünden.

This is especially true in summer, as 90 percent of all guests currently visit the region in winter. The Bären retirement home should increase the proportion of summer guests from 10 to 30 percent, as tourism director Pascal Jenny tells Blick. "We are hoping for a quick go-ahead for the building permit," he hopes.

"Snow culture" will disappear

Co-project manager Stephan Oetiker is also convinced of the necessity and the effect on summer tourism. Although the number of tourists is steadily increasing worldwide, mountain tourism is losing ground, he pointed out at the Information event last September. The new tourist magnets are, among other things, the cities. "This macro trend is a call for change, for innovation," he warns. The second macro trend - above-average rising temperatures - leads to macro trend three: less snow. The average snow depth at an altitude of 1,500 meters is likely to have decreased by around 85 percent by the end of the 21st century, while at 2,500 meters it is still 35 percent. As a result of this development, the population will also lose its "snow culture" over time. This means that sooner or later, it will no longer matter how much snow there is in the mountain regions because most people will no longer be interested in it. "The popular sport of skiing will no longer exist in Switzerland in 50 or 60 years," Oetiker is convinced.

Making a virtue out of necessity

However, this development is a great opportunity for Arosa, as long as we are prepared to make certain innovations possible. Combined with a strong offer in summer that appeals to different target groups, Arosa is ideally equipped for a type of tourism that does not yet exist: Heat tourism. "I guarantee you that the people who visit Paris and London today will no longer be going there in 30 years' time!" Because the average temperature there in the summer months will be 42 to 45 degrees. "People will flock to the mountains," predicts Oetiker. "Not just for the mountains, but primarily to enjoy the lower temperatures".

The bear park in Arosa is one of the projects designed to prepare the mountain region for the future and position it optimally. A "project of the century", as it is described by those responsible. If Oetiker's comments are to be believed, the forced shift from winter to summer tourism could become a great opportunity for Switzerland.

"A top-class experience"

It is understandable that Switzerland Tourism has also campaigned for the bear project in advance. "I am convinced that the strong "bear" theme in Arosa can be translated into added value for tourism," says Director Jürg Schmid on the portal "Bear country is an innovation, as it brings an animal with a myth into a dreamlike mountain world - a top-class experience." Tourism is an experience industry. "You have to give people reasons to travel," Schmid is convinced.

With projects such as Bärenland, Destination Switzerland offers guests these reasons decades before the onset of heat tourism. (hae)

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