Switzerland Tourism officially introduced new Canadian manager Evelyn Lafone to the travel industry, with two events held last week.
A cozy lunchtime meet-and-greet was held in the Swiss room of Toronto’s Marche restaurant on Friday (Sept. 5), following a similar event in Montreal the previous day. Lafone, who was previously with Switzerland Tourism in both the U.K. and Australia (where she opened the organization’s office in that country), came to the Toronto-based Canadian office earlier this summer. Lafone will fill the position vacated by long-time manager Mirko Capodanno, who has since gone to manage the organization’s Western U.S. operations in Los Angeles.
“I want to bring an open-minded approach to the position,” Lafone told PAX, “and perhaps look at some new areas such as outdoor tourism. We’ve always had it but I think there’s lots of opportunities there, and there’s definitely a lot of synergy in Canada for that.”
Alex Herrmann, Director Americas for Switzerland Tourism, told PAX that 50 per cent of Canadian travellers to Switzerland hail from eastern Canada (with Vancouver as a noticeable western hot spot), particularly in Quebec where a shared language contributes to those numbers. In addition, Herrmann and Lafone acknowledged the relatively short flight of approximately seven hours between Switzerland and the eastern Canadian provinces as another factor in the destination’s popularity amongst Canadians.
According to Switzerland Tourism, there are approximately 100,000 arrivals of Canadian travellers and 230,000 overnights at Swiss hotels per year, with Herrmann estimating that the market grew more than 30 per cent since 2005.
Lafone, who also oversees the organization’s Central U.S. market, added that there are even more American travellers to the Alpine country than Canadians, citing the Swiss heritage found in areas like Wisconsin and Illinois, Chicago in particular.
Herrmann also told guests about a number of recent and upcoming travel milestones in Switzerland, such as the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn being marked in 2015, and the current celebrations of the 150th anniversaries of the country’s first organized tour (consisting of a group of British travellers led by Thomas Cook) and first winter tour. Those milestones, said Herrmann, has led Switzerland Tourism to re-visit the concept of the Swiss ‘grand tour’ and package the aspects of a country-wide trek into various itineraries, which will become the focus of the organization’s activities for the next few years, he said.
“I hope to continue bringing Canadian travellers to Switzerland,” said Lafone, “in increasing numbers.”
Photo: (from left) Alex Herrmann, Director Americas; Evelyn Lafone, Manager Canada and Central U.S.; Ursula Beamish-Mader, Manager of Media Relations, North America.