Switzerland’s first-ever ‘capsule hotel’ opens (again)

The first Japanese-style capsule hotel in Switzerland made headlines twice towards the end of last year – first when it opened and then again a week later when it was forced to closed its doors.

Switzerland’s first-ever 'capsule hotel’ opens (again)
Photo: The 'relax capsule'. Photo: Hirschengraben Coworking + Innovation

The hotel in Lucerne, which promised to make Switzerland “affordable for everyone” with prices ranging from just 38 to 76 Swiss francs (€34–€68) a night, was shut down after local authorities said it didn't have the necessary permits.

On Monday, however, the futuristic establishment opened again with operators Hirschengraben Coworking + Innovation saying all paperwork was now in order.

Read also: Strict Airbnb rules to stay in place in Switzerland

The hotel's pods come with free wi-fi, USB charging stations and private lockers. The establishment is also offering women’s-only capsules and a premium version with a larger bed and enough room to stand.

Co-founder Johannes Imholz told Swiss news site 20 Minuten that there have been plenty of bookings since the re-opening was announced.

He said that expansion was now possible.

The Lucerne business model could be used for other locations in Switzerland, he added

According to operators, part of the profits from the pods will go towards funding young entrepreneurs.

Read also: What is actually cheap in Switzerland

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Merkel slams state plans to open hotels for families over Christmas

Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly slammed plans by state leaders to allow families to stay over the festive period.

Merkel slams state plans to open hotels for families over Christmas
Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

What's happening?

Contact restrictions will be relaxed over Christmas and New Year to allow for low-key celebrations in Germany.

But will people be able to travel and stay in hotels while visiting their family and friends? The federal government and states are in disagreement about this.

Currently, hotels throughout Germany are only allowed to accommodate people travelling for essential reasons such as business. That's because during the partial lockdown, which has been extended until at least December 20th, there is a ban on tourist overnight stays throughout the country.

However some states have decided to go their own way and allow relatives to stay in hotels over the festive season.

IN DETAIL: Germany extends coronavirus shutdown and tightens restrictions


Which states are offering hotel stays?

Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony announced they will allow hotels to open over the holiday break.

Other states are considering this move too.


What's the reaction?

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the government are not happy about this move.

Merkel warned that it risked worsening the coronavirus resurgence hitting Germany, participants in a conservative party meeting said on Monday.

According to Reuters, Merkel said she couldn't understand why states are allowing hotels to accommodate family, particularly in large cities and regions with high infection numbers.

She also criticised that state premiers had not informed her about this plan.

“Citizens remain called upon to avoid tourist trips,” said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert later on Monday. Travel for family reasons is difficult to distinguish from this, he added.

A hotel in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Seibert then referred to last Wednesday's meeting at the government and states summit – the decision did not include “private use” of hotels, he said.

Despite Merkel and the government's comments, the state leaders have the final say on what happens to hotels under the federal system.

Skiiing holidays 'could worsen situation'

Seibert also said that the German government was sticking to the goal set by Merkel of limiting the skiing season in cooperation with neighbouring countries because of the pandemic. Seibert said that the number of infections could rise again “by starting the skiing season too early”.

The closure of ski resorts is the subject of fierce debate in the EU. Austria and Switzerland want to open their slopes. Besides Germany, Italy is also in favour of closure. France does not want to ban skiing holidays, but wants to prohibit the operation of lifts.