Leasing the Kingdom

At only 61 square miles (160 km^2) and as home to only about 37,000 people, Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest nations by any measure. Nevertheless, it’s a very well-to-do country, with a per capita gross domestic product well north of $100,000. The nation’s derives a lot of its wealth from its business-friendly tax structure — the corporate tax rate is 12.5% — and as a result, there are a lot of holding companies which are incorporated in Liechtenstein, with estimates ranging from about 70,000 to 75,000. (Yes, there are many more corporations in Liechtenstein than there are actual people, by about a two-to-one ratio.) There’s also some manufacturing and a notable tourist industry — its Alpine location makes it great for those into winter sports.

And there’s another business opportunity there — real estate rentals. Not apartments or chalets, though (okay, maybe those too). If you’re really interested, the Liechtenstein government may rent you the whole country.

The rent-a-country plan emerged in the news in 2010, when U.S. rapper Snoop Dogg wanted to shoot a video there. Vulture reported that he approached the nation about renting out the whole thing, and while he was turned down, it wasn’t because the idea is outlandish. If you’ve read up on the ruling monarch of Liechtenstein, Prince Hans-Adam II, you may understand why. In 2003, voters in the tiny nation granted him what the Independent called “startling new powers,” including the unilateral right to “appoint judges, dissolve the government, kill legislation he dislikes by not acting on it, and ignore the constitutional court.” He basically does what he wants to do. So if he wanted to rent out all of Liechtenstein to Snoop Dogg, he could have. The reason he didn’t was logistical, not ideological. The property agent Snoop Dogg’s people contacted told the press that renting out the country “would have been possible, but Snoop Dogg’s management did not give us enough time,” as relayed by Vulture.

But the idea was planted. A year later, apartment-sharing startup Airbnb partnered with Liechtenstein to capitalize on it. On April 14, 2011, Airbnb announced that you could use their site to rent the entire country and a few other towns in Europe as well:

We are excited to expand the breadth of spaces available for rental on Airbnb by partnering with Rent a Village by Xnet, a Liechtenstein-based event production and marketing company, to bring their unique portfolio of event and conference settings to Airbnb.

[…]

The possibilities for customizing the experience are almost endless — rename city streets and town squares, print your own temporary currencies, carve logos or names into the snow on the mountainside — and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The mayors and marching bands can welcome you with a custom medieval festival and present you the key to the city, or perhaps a wine tasting event at a Prince’s estate followed by a fireworks show is more your style.

The cost for renting out of Liechtenstein? $70,000 a night with a two night minimum. Apparently, this wasn’t a PR stunt, either. While the listing is no longer on Airbnb’s site, some of the other municipalities listed on the site are still available, and the company via which Airbnb was sourcing the villages is still in operation as of this writing. Need more convincing? In October 2012, although not necessarily though Airbnb, Microsoft entered into a deal to take over part of the country in support of its Xbox 360 product. The Xbox 360 team “transform[ed] the Principality of Liechtenstein by taking over some of the country’s landmarks to promote the forthcoming launch of Halo 4,” according to the Guardian.

Whether Snoop Dogg has tried to rent it out again has gone unreported, sadly.

 

Bonus Fact: The manufacturing industry noted above? Liechtenstein, according to Wikipedia, leads the world in the export of sausage casings and false teeth. (The two business are likely unrelated, in case you really like sausage but prefer to keep your teeth.)

From the ArchivesHitler’s Plan to Invade Switzerland: The bonus fact is about Liechtenstein.

Related: “Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City” by Thomas M. Eccardt. 4.4 stars on 7 reviews.