When winter comes to Canada, our residents love nothing more than to get cozy, whether that means enjoying a few rounds of Tim Hortons hot chocolate, or curling up by the fire.
In Switzerland, the start of winter signals a time to come together, and that feeling of "togetherness" is exactly what Switzerland Tourism is trying to convey through its new winter marketing campaign which targets active, outdoor, and multi-generational travellers.
Winter in Saas-Fee
"Togetherness is a beautiful thing, and we are convinced that there are wonderful winter experiences for multigenerational families, or friends, to have a winter vacation here in Switzerland," said Pascal Prinz, director, Canada, and trade manager, Central USA, Switzerland Tourism, during an interview with PAX. "Everybody has a great time, and nobody gets bored. In Switzerland, there are hundreds of things to do."
Canada is one of the biggest markets for Switzerland, given both countries share a love for nature and the outdoors.
But how, exactly, do you sell a winter destination to Canadians, who pull out their swimsuits and book a trip down south at the mention of "wind chill" and the promise of -45 degrees Celsius?
"Switzerland's winters are very warm, in comparison to Canada," laughed Prinz. "Winter tourism started 150 years ago in Switzerland, and it's much more affordable than Canadians might think--ski passes cost about half of what you'd pay for ski passes in North America, and we're a seven-hour direct flight into Zurich or Geneva, and an hour later you're in a mountain resort, going skiing or going to Christmas markets. Plus, you get a tan while you ski, and you won't freeze your face having fun, because it's always about zero degrees!"
Switzerland also promises visitors an "upgraded winter", but what exactly does this mean? According to Prinz, it's about convenience and affordability.
"In Switzerland, we have guaranteed snow," explained Prinz. "Switzerland has the most ski resorts in Europe, and this combination is really fantastic, not to mention the après-ski culture. Even if you don't ski, après-ski is a concept everybody enjoys, and it's a fantastic opportunity to try some Swiss wine, cheese, or chocolate at the end of the ski day."
Non-skiers can still head up to the summit and enjoy a walk in the fresh mountain air, or enjoy some fondue on the terrace.
Want to warm up even more? Prinz recommends a Kaffe Schnapps in the mountains.
NEW: The Glacier Express
Switzerland's tourism numbers are currently up, with a four per cent increase in arrivals and overnights from January 2018 through July 2018. These numbers come after Switzerland announced a record year in 2017, where they had the best results in 25 years.
Excellence Class on the Glacier Express
Scenic train rides through Switzerland are a major selling point, and with the brand new Excellence Class on the Glacier Express, launching March 2019, the beauty of a European winter will be on full display for visitors.
"There are only 20 seats per carriage, so everybody has a window seat," said Virginie Baeriswyl Koulibaly, director of sales and marketing, North America, Matterhorn Region, Swiss Alps. "Travellers on board can expect a dedicated concierge, a four-course meal, and afternoon tea. There are only two carriages, travelling from St. Moritz to Zermatt, and vice versa, per day. The trip takes about eight hours, and with the Swiss Travel Pass, your ticket covers your fare, and you also have a seat reservation. It's 420 Swiss francs to upgrade to the Excellence Class, but all of your meals are included, as well as the wine, and transfer of luggage services."
Excellence Class on the Glacier Express
More winter offerings
Over in Interlaken, one of the new fun things to do is backpack and fondue, says Nathalie Röthlin, manager, markets, Interlaken Tourism.
"In the backpack, you'll find everything youo need, including the cheese and wine, and you can take it wherever you'd like, such as that means going on a hike up the mountains and eating it somewhere with the best view."
There's also a new gondola being built in Interlaken; part of it runs on the way to Jungfrau, to open officially December 2020, reducing the trek to Jungfrau's summit by one hour. Currently the trip to the top takes about two hours.
Next year marks 50 years since James Bond famously skiied down Switzerland's slopes for the hit movie, and those who want to feel like Bond himself will enjoy a James Bond themed festival, coming to Schlithorn Piz Gloria next May.
"Two of the three 4,000 ft. mountains we have here are found in the region, and at the top, you can enjoy 360-degree views," said Samueal Bohren, sales manager, Schlithorn Piz Gloria. "The revolving Piz Gloria restaurant at the top offers amazing views, and everyday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m brunch is offered here, and it's a nice experience to start with before skiing all the way down."
A James Bond-themed igloo resort is also coming to the region. While not designed for overnight stays just yet, Bohren says it's a great place to grab lunch.
For more information on Switzerland's latest winter offerings, click here!