In an era when many tourist boards are hunkering down to conserve resources and wait out the pandemic, Switzerland is making a conscious effort to stay front and centre with the travel trade.
“Once we are set to travel again, we feel there will be an onslaught of travel marketing from destinations such as Florida and Las Vegas,” said Ursula Beamish-Mader, Toronto-based Manager of Media Relations for Switzerland Tourism. “But people are dreaming of travel today – ‘Dream now, travel later’ is the concept we are promoting.”
Those plans have included this week’s two-day B2B online conference and marketplace for over 70 North American tour operators, media and 32 suppliers in Switzerland who graciously ignored the significant time difference to give attendees up-to-the-minute live info. The country, known for its postcard-perfect countryside, sparkling towns and villages and enviable efficiency, is currently closed to North American business and leisure travellers, but positioning itself as a destination of choice once “all this” is over.
Like many countries including our own, Switzerland enjoyed tremendous domestic tourism this year, but clearly misses those international travellers. What are key selling features for travel advisors to hone in on when planting the seed for future travel?
Tina the Travel Agent taking time out from skiing in Zermatt
One is certainly safety. Switzerland is widely considered one of the safest destinations in the world.
Predictability. “We are not exotic, we are not edgy,” said Beamish-Mader. It’s true: the trains run on time and the infrastructure is completely reliable. Switzerland is a country of no nasty surprises.
Cleanliness. The Swiss are known for their obsession with neatness and hygiene. Not bad attributes for when the world takes a deep breath, dusts off its passport and looks for a post-Covid vacation.
As part of the re-think, the country will be looking to target a younger (late 20s+) demographic, as typical visitors, many in their 70s, may be slower to resume travel. Outdoor enthusiasts, luxury travellers and small groups will also be targets.
Tina the Travel Agent at Hotel Alex in Zermatt, Switzerland.
One thing clients shouldn’t expect are distress-sale prices when Switzerland opens up again. The Swiss franc remains strong against our dollar (1 CHF = CAD$1.43) and the country is known for being costly.
On the plus side, pricing for meals and accommodation includes all taxes and service charges, and some of the country’s biggest draws – hiking, cycling and swimming in the lakes and rivers -- are all free. The Swiss Travel Pass is an all-in-one ticket for trains, buses, boats and city transport as well as entry to over 500 museums. Beamish-Mader also reminds us that summer season travel is cheaper than winter.
The Switzerland Survival Kit.
“We are no bargain destination, but we believe there is also value and quality behind it," she said. "From the smallest food outlet in a city to the most remote location, you will find your cell phone works, there are clean toilets and water is potable from any fountain in the country.”
Pristine and predictable. Sounds pretty perfect to me.
Martha Chapman Columnist
An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.