Null Stern, translating to ‘Zero Star’ is not usually the rating we look for when we have a scroll through Trip Advisor, but this hotel is not about the accreditation or rating in the usual sense; instead it’s all about what you bring to the experience, what you make of it and what you take from it. “The only star is you,” says co-founder Daniel Charbonnier, as he tells me more about the world’s first ‘zero star’ hotel: “Since the guest is the actor and director of their story (they are the only star), our objective is to provide them with the setting and environment to experience what they want. Each guest’s expectations and motivations are different, and therefore what they experience will be as well. We provide them with as much freedom as possible to experience what they are looking for.”
Charbonnier co-founded the hotel with concept artists Frank and Patrik Riklin, merging the brothers’ clever conceptual artistry with the hospitality background of their Swiss counterpart. The artistic installation became a real-life suite, and in 2009 the first ‘Null Stern – the only star is you’ hotel opened in Teufen, Appenzell. “The digit zero (Null) is not something bad, without service or comfort. On the contrary, it means freedom to redefine the boundaries of luxury,” explains Charbonnier.
Picture this: the hotel sits atop the Göbsi summit, literally open to the elements, with the backdrop of Switzerland’s Alpstein mountains as the bedroom wallpaper. Forget air conditioning, you’re breathing in fresh mountain air and you’re surrounded by some seriously awe-inspiring views. It’s sort of like glamping, but you’re in a hotel bed, and you’ve got a personalised butler service at your disposal – what’s not to love?
The Modern Butler concept is a service provided by local residents and headed up by a local farmer who is also owner of the land on which the suite sits. The idea is that the community is at your service, but it’s more of a sharing concept, so you share the experience with them. Well, this all sounds very nice, but what about the rain, you say? There is a backup plan in place for rainy days (or nights); guests simply call the Modern Butler, who will move the guests swiftly into the shelter of a Swiss Alpine hut (with a toilet) which is located about 100 metres away. And if you forget to pack your pyjamas, the Modern Butler has an extra pair on hand!
Say farewell to your smartphones and social media for the duration of your stay and just switch off for a weekend. You might be surprised by just how good it feels to fall off the radar for a day or two. And if you feel a little out of touch with the world, then fear not, the Modern Butler also provides entertainment in the form of analogue television, on the ‘TV-Direkt’ channel, as conceptualised by the Riklin brothers. This is a face-to-face broadcast that includes the day’s news headlines, the weather forecast (definitely useful), as well as local anecdotes – all delivered through the frame of a recycled television. Genius! This hotel is truly unique, and I am sad to say that I am not talking from experience while I write this, but the whole concept just drew me in, and I had to talk to the people behind the initiative to find out more.
SATC: How and why did this project come about?
Daniel Charbonnier: The original Null Stern Hotel was in a nuclear bunker, underground with no view. Thanks to the chemistry between art and tailored guest services, our guests forgot they were in a bunker and they adopted the concept immediately. The brand ‘Null Stern – the only star is you’ encapsulates the essence of the concept: the star is not the hotel, but each guest and his/her experience. This new version kept the same essence but this time we got rid of all the walls and the only thing left is you and your experience. With this open air version, Switzerland becomes the hotel.
SATC: What has been some of the feedback from guests who have stayed at Null Stern Hotel?
Daniel Charbonnier: The feedback we’ve received from guests shows that what you take out of this experience, depends on what you bring in. Every person has their own motivations, but one thing most guests remember after this experience is the fact that they are the only star. Guests also commented on the fact that all your senses are triggered during the night – since we re-created a real hotel room, you feel like you are in a real hotel room, but all of a sudden you hear a noise or feel a breeze that reminds you that you are outside. Another constant feedback is about the Modern Butler and how this made their experience unique and tailored to their needs.
SATC: What are the plans for expansion, and where will you launch the suites?
Daniel Charbonnier: Our vision is for the Null Stern Hotel to travel throughout Switzerland featuring one region per year. The objective is to use the concept ‘Null Stern – the only star is you’ to highlight and introduce different regions of Switzerland to the world with the cooperation from partners and tourism associations.
SATC: Do people travel internationally to come and stay in the suite, or are guests predominantly from Switzerland?
Daniel Charbonnier: We have welcomed guests from all around the world, including: South Korea, India, USA, Iraq, Japan, China, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Holland, Italy, France, UK, and Belgium.
The Null Stern Hotel has received over 1,300 reservations to date, and as you can see – the interest is global. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic idea, and the ethos behind it gives it genuine value – what with the local community getting involved, and people experiencing the outdoors in such a novel way. Sign me up, Switzerland here I come!