The future of the Science City Davos

Can existing life cycles be extended or renewed? Which ones are tunring towards their end? These are crucial questions for Davos’ future. From the perspective of the regional development, there are several directions of impacts based on the economic core competencies. At least two of them are directly built on the solid basis of research and education.

Alpine health destination: when Davos turns from a disease to a health location
The health and the tourism industries are actually two clusters. On the one hand, there is the health cluster with its golden age in the early twentieth century. Since then, this cluster has faced a slow, but ongoing decline with many clinics that had to be closed due to financial reasons. On the other hand, the tourism cluster has passed its highest growth stage as well. Hence, it is important to keep up with the international competition by permanently adjust through innovative processes. This raises the question if it is possible to pool the expertise and competences of the health, tourism, research and congress sectors in order to create new offers and services in Davos.

A possible way with a variety of synergies could be the global mega trend health tourism. Experts all over the world are predicting a big economic potential for this topic. Whereas health tourism is often mentioned by location promoters, the question of what health tourism actually is, remains. Kai-Torsten Illing defines health tourism as travelling by own decision for one or several days in order to spend a substantial part of this time to take care of your own body in a non-clinical environment. Core components are the experience, leisure quality, enjoying as well as taking part in “trendy” activities and an explicit differentiation from the psychological strain of patients (Berg, 2008, Gesundheitstourismus und Wellnesstourismus, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH, München).

Health tourism offers are divided into two categories, i.e. preventive and rehabilitational forms. Davos has a long tradition regarding rehabilitation, for instance regarding the history as a location for tuberculosis patients, skin diseases/allergies or trauma. However, prevention, for example nutrition oder high altitude training, is a rather new field for Davos.
Nevertheless, due to its long history as a health and medical destination, Davos covers all aspects of the health tourism. Thus, Davos shows a big potential which could be uncovered by a clear strategy focusing on these location factors. Primary prevention and performance enhancement are perfect examples of new offerings integrating existing infrastructure.
But also a new concept of the existing rehabilitational offerings is possible. As a result, Davos could exploit its synergies as an innovative tourism destination. A first step would be the cooperation in the field of allergies, where Davos has a big advantage due to its history and the existing research and development institutions.

Transfer of knowledge and technologies: when research becomes profitable
Davos’ six research institutes build a solid basis for the regional economy. With their international research excellence and their reputation, the benefit goes far beyond the simple awareness of the destination to hard facts and financial value for the service providers in Davos. Moreover, the research institutes are an important driver against the brain drain faced by many peripheral areas.

One important fact has been ignored so far: in addition to the current value, the research institutes could increase their impact on the regional economy with their potential for the formation of business clusters in the region. The research institutes serve as door-openers for national and international companies which might want to relocate to Davos, the Canton of Grisons or Switzerland in general. For these research and development-focused companies, Davos could be a win-win situation for all partners. This is why the Science City Davos is so important for the regional development of the Landwasser valley: If Davos succeeds in moving from research towards development by transferring knowledge and technologies from research to business, Davos will again experience a substantial growth period – or, as stated above, new life cycles.

Source: Adrian Dinkelmann: Zukunftsperspektiven einer Alpenstadt, in: Franco Item (Hrsg.), 2014: Davos - zwischen Bergzauber und Zauberberg