Thursday,  May 23, 2019  2:16 pm

Geneva: where business meets leisure

Geneva: where business meets leisure
(From left): Pascal Prinz, director Canada & trade manager Central USA, Switzerland Tourism; Francois Michel, vice-president & marketing director, Lake Geneva Region; Francois Margot, Fete des Vingeron; Urs Eberhard, head of markets, Switzerland Tourism; Kristelle Gentina, PR & market manager – overseas countries, Geneva Tourism. (In front, from left): Michaela Ruoss, media relations manager, Switzerland Tourism; Virginie Baeriswyl Koulibaly, director of sales and marketing, North America, Matterhorn Region; Ursula Beamish-Mader, manager – media relations, North America, Switzerland Tourism.
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

While the majority of Geneva’s visitors are there on business, the city is inviting them to stay a little longer by extending those stays through the weekend with hotel discounts and a range of activities on offer.

In addition, an upcoming celebration of Switzerland’s winegrowers in the Lake Geneva region plus a gathering of the next generation of Olympic stars in Lausanne are expected to draw more visitors in the coming years.

Representatives from the Geneva and Matterhorn regions joined Switzerland Tourism for an evening in Toronto’s Distillery District, sharing the latest updates from the destination heading into 2019.

Extended stays

According to Kristelle Gentina, PR & market manager – overseas countries for Geneva Tourism, the city welcomed more than 33,000 Canadians from January to August this year, a four per cent since 2017.

With 80 per cent of international arrivals heading to Geneva for business, Gentina told PAX that the challenge for the city is in extending those stays through the weekend, when many of the local hotels (18 of which boast five stars – the highest concentration in Switzerland) offer lower rates. In addition, the city’s proximity to the Alps offer skiing opportunities in the winter months, while summer brings activities such as rafting and paragliding.

“We’re trying to get these visitors to extend their stay through the weekend with outdoor activities and shopping – things that are part of our DNA but that may not be expected of us,” Gentina said. “Once they’re in Geneva, they discover there’s a lot to do!”

For travel agents

Travel agents and tour operators interested in learning more about Geneva can explore the city’s new online training tool, Gentina said, adding that upon completion, participants qualify for a FAM trip including flights, five-star accommodations and activities for two people.

The program can be accessed here.

Upcoming celebrations

Francois Michel, vice-president & marketing director for the Lake Geneva Region, told PAX that visitors to this part of Switzerland in the coming years will have plenty to take in.

A “once in a generation event,” the Fete des Vingerons 2019 returns from July 18 to Aug. 11, 2019, celebrating the winegrowers of the Lake Geneva region. Encompassing a very specific district along the lakeshore, the participating winegrowers include Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, a 30-km tract of land where wine has been grown since the 11th century; the vineyards were designated a UNESCO site in 2007.

And while Calgary recently declined on its bid host the 2026 Winter Olympics, Michel added that the stars of tomorrow will grace the podium in Switzerland in 2020, when Lausanne hosts the Youth Olympic Games, from Jan. 9-22 that year.

 Rares Dumitru, regional sales director for Rail Europe

Increased arrivals

According to Urs Eberhard, head of markets for Switzerland Tourism, the destination overall saw year-over-year growth of 10.3 per cent in Canadian arrivals as of this past summer, noting that an increase in airlift from hubs across the country have helped to increase visitation.

He added that for travellers flying further with SWISS to other destinations, a new stopover program allows visitors with between one and four nights to explore the country through a variety of packages, including those centred around Zurich, Lucerne and Zermatt.

For travellers exploring Switzerland by rail, a new experience aboard the Glacier Express line will be available next year, offering guests a new class of service with concierge and a limited amount of seats.

“With Switzerland, instead of adding new product, the rail companies are making the existing product better,” Rares Dumitru, regional sales director for Rail Europe, told PAX. “We’re looking forward to partnering with our agency and tour operator partners to sell it in the coming year…. Switzerland has proved that year after year, it goes from strength to strength and the way that the destination has positioned itself in the market is very unique. It’s no longer the destination it was marketed as back in the 1960s, when it was always about mountains and winter. It’s truly a four-season destination where there’s lots to see and do – especially by train!”