Beirut-born Naja credits the hotel’s look and feel to his business partner, Weilguni. “He came up with the concept,” Naja explains. “I think I had some good suggestions which he incorporated [Marwan modestly cites the hotel’s terrace and high-tech services as examples], but my role is to build on his concept, to keep us focused, and to make sure that this ends up being a successful investment.”
Weilguni concurs, attributing his innately hospitable nature to his upbringing in Tyrol, Austria, which was cherry-topped by his education in business and hospitality in Zurich. “I grew up with tourism all around me. I have always had friends and colleagues who were in the hospitality or tourism sector, which has always had a positive influence on me and helped push me in the right direction.”
While Naja didn’t grow up in a world of hospitality, he did develop a skillset that was vital in transforming the Steigenberger Alpenhotel and Spa into the gleaming Huus Gstaad. “In my late teens, I received a scholarship and moved to the U.S. where I attended Indiana University and then Dartmouth College. I then went to Wall Street and London, specializing in Latin American and Eastern European investments, respectively, before moving to Switzerland in 1999 to set up my own investment company, Manixer.”
It seems that the pair realized their compatibility early on, which ensured that the conceptualization process of Huus could be long and thoughtful, leaving no stone unturned. “We wanted to come up with a concept that was different” explains Weilguni. “We wanted people to feel at home.”
They decided to include a variety of additional “add-ons” in the room rate, such as guided winter hikes, canyoning, climbing, and mountain biking, by working closely with the Alpine Centre Gstaad and another ski school in the area. This led to the pair settling on a concept that can be neatly summarized in two words: adventurous hospitality.
Perhaps this concept was in bloom longer before their partnership began, however. Weilguni evidently has the eye for hospitality: Much like Shakespeare’s assertion that “there’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face,” Weilguni can “read the guests’ wishes from their eyes” and Naja obviously has the nose for investments. Maybe that explains why the once-diametric duo have successfully created a luxurious, adventurous, and welcoming hotel in a setting that has captured both of their hearts.