About Us

Mehves & AlbertDid you ever ask yourself, how a family business could ever survive for over 8 decades? For a lot of people it is very difficult to grasp the concept of a family-run hotel, since in many countries for instance in the States, in the Middle East or in Russia families did not have the opportunity nor the financial means to buy a property and operate it as a hotel. Long before the big chains started their global conquest, many families in Switzerland ran restaurants or small hotels all around the country. Generally speaking these hotels had no more than 20 to 30 rooms. In fact the restaurant was assumed to be the core business; the rooms were just an additional asset. Therefore many hoteliers traditionally were trained to be cooks, such as our great-grand-father Albert Geyer I. The son of the artist Emil Geyer wanted to become a cook. It used to be a prestigious profession at the time. Born in German Strasbourg in 1879, he became a trainee in a goose liver manufacture. As for many specific recipes and products in Basel, they once came from German, later French Alsace and the Markgräflerland (Southern Germany). In 1907 Albert Geyer I. had the opportunity to take over the Bahnhof Buffet (the main restaurant within the Swiss railway station) in Basel and brought along goose liver from the Alsace and his wife, Maria Geyer-Hofmann and the kids, Albert II. and Maria. Already the following year he was able to buy the restaurant Cambrinus in the center of the city. Due to the 1852 treaty between the Swiss Confederation and the state of Baden, the German railway station was built between 1906 and 1913. Thinking it would be a good move to operate a restaurant there, Albert I. sold the Cambrinus and bought the Warteck across from the station. He was only 34 years old at that time. If we think about it in today’s terms, it’s a quite courageous decision to make. He soon realized though, that the Swiss railway station would become more frequented in the future than the German railway station. That’s when he decided to buy the St. Gotthard Basel in 1929. At that time the restaurant/hotel had 41 rooms out of which 7 were used by employees and one was occupied by the family. We would like to underline that the above description is quite typical for any family hotel in Switzerland. The focus was always on the restaurant, the expansion of the amount of rooms has come to question at a much later point in time of history. Since Albert II. liked his father’s profession and probably strived to become like him, he decided to attend the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, the first hotel school in the world founded in 1893, and graduated 1918. After his schooling in Lausanne he moved to the States and stayed there until his father needed his help after the acquisition of the St. Gotthard Basel. As it was common for women at the time, Maria got married and left the restaurant business. Our grand-father Albert II. and his wife Augusta Geyer-Tröndle operated the hotel during WWII and long after. Albert I. and his wife Maria both passed away in 1944. The hotel’s main customers at that time were business travelers and GIs from Holland, Belgium, England and later on the States. All the trains from the North stopped in Basel. Travelers who needed to continue southbound had to switch trains in Basel. Albert I. did the right thing when he sold the Warteck at the German railway station. His son was able to maintain his business due to the strategic location. Albert II and Augusta had 3 children, Yvonne, Albert III. and Charlotte. Like his father Albert III. attended the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and graduated in 1957, and like his father he gained his experience in various hotels and restaurants in Switzerland and abroad. And once more his two sisters, after their schooling and work in the hotel, got married and left the business. Basel developed dramatically since WWII and although the pharmaceutical and therefore the logistics industry boomed, 27 small family-run hotels closed down in the 70’s and 80’s and gave to bigger and more sophisticated properties such as the Swissôtel and the Hilton. Our father realized he had to move forward in order to stay competitive in this new scenario. His sisters and mother (who became the sole owner of the property after the death of Albert II. in 1975) consented our father to buy the property. He and his wife Mehves Geyer-Arel then immediately started refurbishing one part of the property. Think about it. Today you read in the newspapers how multi-nationals, industrialists or hospitality funds buy or develop properties all around the world. The invested sums usually figure 8 digits. For banks an interesting business. For a family to refurbish or develop a small property, not as interesting for banks as a big property with a brand managing it. Anyhow, our father managed to expand the hotel by buying the next-door property and he even rented out the restaurant, the once assumed core business 80 years ago. A vital decision to our business today. Now there’s no Albert IV. There’s the two of us, my sister and I. My sister has been working with our parents for over 20 years. I joined the family business only in 2007. We both attended the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. That tradition hasn’t changed. Thanks to the legal and financial structure of the joint stock company, it is much easier nowadays to incorporate two or more individuals in a company. It’s usually uncommon, but since we’re still a family-run hotel, we as shareholders stand for directorship within our company. So, there’s no problem luckily, even if Albert IV. never was born. What does this personal story teach us? Owning and managing a family business is by far not to be taken for granted. It takes a lot of foresight, future-orientation, risk-taking, some guidance from the senior generation, and finally time.

From the St. Gotthard Basel to the GAIA HOTEL. Natalie & Selinda