“The problem has been simmering for years”: Davos tourism boss comments


Sleigh ban for Jews“The problem has been simmering for years”: Davos tourism boss comments

This is not the first time Davos has made negative headlines because of anti-Semitism. Is a solution in sight? The head of tourism and the Swiss Association of Jewish Communities have different views.

Daniel Graff
  • The ban on renting sledges for Jews at the Pischa mountain restaurant in Davos is causing quite a stir.

  • The tourism director of Davos Klosters, Reto Branschi, now says: The problem has two sides and has been simmering for years.

  • Branschi is hoping for a task force to solve the problem.

  • The Swiss Association of Israelite Communities sees it completely differently: it knows nothing about such a task force.

That happened

A notice at the Pischa mountain restaurant in Davos caused quite a stir: Because of “various sad incidents, including the theft of a sleigh,” Jews were no longer allowed to rent sleighs. The mountain restaurant Pischa explained to 20 Minutes: “We don’t want the daily hassle anymore and have decided to exercise our right to decide who can rent our property and who can’t.”

These are the consequences

The police are now investigating allegations of discrimination and incitement to hatred. The Pischa mountain railways and Davos Klosters Bergbahnen AG clearly distance themselves from the notice. The business in question is an externally leased location and the notice is solely due to the actions of the tenant.

Tourism director: “The problem has two sides”

Reto Branschi, tourism director for the Davos Klosters destination, also distanced himself from the notice in 20 Minutes. This is poorly worded and does not represent the attitude of the destination. When asked on Monday, Branschi also said: “The difficulties with a small number of Orthodox Jewish guests are unfortunately a fact. The problem has two sides and has been simmering for years.”

Branschi continues: “There are a few people on both sides who keep stirring things up. Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in Davos, nor does the behavior of a few, which repeatedly leads to problems with local businesses.”

However, the tourism director signals a willingness to talk: “As a tourism organization, we discussed the problem publicly last year and founded a task force. We want to work on solutions together with the Jewish representatives.”

It is not the first time that the unfriendly mood towards Jews in Davos has made headlines.

  • In 2017, a notice that urged Jews to shower before and after swimming in the pool caused an uproar.

  • In 2019, a Torah dedication in Davos, attended by 2,000 Jews, caused a stir: an SVP district administrator ranted on Facebook, and the SIG described the comments at the time as “below the belt, hurtful and tasteless”.

  • In the summer of 2023 it became known that a company did not rent holiday homes to Orthodox Jews. Here too, negative experiences with individuals are cited as a reason to exclude all Jews from the offer.

That’s what the SIG says

The Swiss Association of Israelite Communities sees it differently: “We don’t know anything about a task force. So far there has only been one conversation on our part with a mediation center that was commissioned by the Davos Destinations Organization (DDO),” says Jonathan Kreutner, Secretary General of the Swiss Association of Israelite Communities SIG. The DDO is the cooperative behind the tourism organization. “Since then there have been no further steps or discussions with the DDO.”

Branschi unilaterally canceled the mediation project

The DDO and SIG started a mediation project years ago. The statements about its success are contradictory: “After three years, we unfortunately realized that it was not successful. Those guests who don’t follow the rules and don’t value our hospitality have simply ignored the mediation,” says Branschi from the tourism organization.

Here too, Kreutner disagrees: “We definitely don’t see it that way. Our experiences, reports and lots of feedback have shown us the effectiveness of the project. Many Davos residents know how to deal with cultural differences better and understand them more. Many Jewish guests could be reached more directly and in their language and were better informed about local customs.”

These solutions exist

Branschi says: “We are always ready for dialogue. At the moment we would like to continue on our chosen path with the task force. If this doesn’t lead to the goal, which I don’t think it will, we would of course be willing to take part in such a round table.”

The SIG sounds less optimistic: “As of today, there is still no collaboration between the Davos tourism organization and us, as the latter terminated the collaboration in the summer,” says Kreutner. “Meditation has been commissioned, but we are really not very far from further discussions or further collaboration.”

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