“We very much believe in the [Canadian] market,” said Martin Nydegger, CEO of Switzerland Tourism. “It’s a love marriage, not an arranged marriage. It really works.”
Nydegger and his Canadian team – Pascal Prinz, director Canada and trade manager for Central USA and Ursula Beamish-Mader, manager of media relations for North America – recently hosted a select group of Canadian travel trade media for breakfast at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto.
The morning gave Nydegger, who was in town only for a brief moment before heading off to a conference in British Columbia, an opportunity to update the trade media on Switzerland’s latest tourism offerings.
Why will Canadians be impressed with Switzerland? Because "reliability, discretion, hard work and precision" is part of Switzerland’s “core DNA,” Nydegger said.
“If you bundle that up, you get a nice service package,” he said.
Switzerland’s good year
Last year was a “marvellous” year for Switzerland tourism, Nydegger said, noting that 2018 was one of its best-ever years for visitors overall and best in 25 years for Canadian tourists.
Last year Switzerland saw 270,000 in overnight visitors from Canada. That’s hotel overnights only, so the number is likely higher when factoring in apartment and Airbnb stays, in addition to tourists that were simply passing through, Nydegger said.
“Mobility and accessibility is key,” Nydegger said, explaining that Switzerland relies on five pillars for driving tourism: economy, currency, weather, competitiveness/price and communication (getting the word out).
You don’t have to break the bank
Is Switzerland too expensive for the average person? It depends on how you look at it.
“Don’t forget, you have the options,” Nydegger said, noting the range of apartments and Airbnb rentals that are available on the market. “We’re a high-quality destination. It’s premium in terms of quality.”
One of the best ways to see Switzerland, whether you’re on a budget or not, is to purchase the Swiss Travel Pass, an all-in-one ticket that allows you to travel by rail, road and waterway throughout the whole of Switzerland.
“You can hop on anything that moves,” Nydegger said.
No reservations are required and it includes good perks, too, such as public transportation within cities and access to 500 museums and 25 castles.
What’s more is that children and teens up to age 16 don’t have to pay for a pass if a parent is a passholder, which can save travelling families some serious coin.
“In terms of experiences, we overdeliver,” Prinz said. “When you see a price, there’s way more included.”
As far as luxury offerings go, Switzerland’s world-class railway routes are a good place to start.
New this year on the luxury front is the Excellence Class on The Glacier Express, an express train that connects railway stations of the two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz in the heart of the Swiss Alps.
The new “premium-class carriages,” a glass bubble of sorts, offer a panoramic rail journey with a guaranteed window seat, open bar, and a locally-inspired five-course menu.
Hit the Swiss roads
After Nydegger went on an epic road trip along Route 66 in the United States, it dawned on him that Switzerland didn’t have a classic road trip of its own.
“That’s what was missing in Switzerland,” Nydegger said. “I loved Route 66, but when you travel for two-three hours, the landscape never changes. That will never happen in Switzerland.”
And so the Grand Tour of Switzerland was born – a road trip of marked signs, 1,600 kilometres in length, that passes 22 lakes, five Alpine passes and 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and other famous sights.
While the length of a road trip depends on how many stops are made, Nydegger recommends visitors budget at least five days to do a proper road trip and drive between the months of May and November.
Rental cars can be booked through providers such as Europcar and Hertz and the route is electric car friendly as there are charging stations every 50 to 100 km along the way.
Check out these new hotels
Switzerland has a range of new and upcoming hotels:
- Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts in Basel, a five-star, 19-storey hotel near the train station designed by the renowned Basel-based firm of architects Miller & Maranta. Offers 264 rooms and suites and timeless design by interior designer Matteo Thun.
- Moxy hotels makes their Swiss debut in autumn 2019 in the Flon district of Lausanne. Located on Rue de la Vigie, it will offer 110 rooms. Moxy will also open a hotel in Bern, which will have 130 rooms and 62 micro apartments.
- Radisson Blu Hotel & Gotthard Residences, a four-star with 180 rooms and suites and two restaurants. Opened in December 2018.
- The Hide Hotel Flims opened in December 2018. This new 47-room hotel is 30 minutes from Chur – perfect for those who want to explore the mountain world.
- 22 Summits opened in Zermatt in December 2018. A four-star hotel with 22 rooms and a two-storey spa area. The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise valley station is only a three-minute walk away.
- Eden au Lac in Zurich, designed by Philippe Starck, is set to open this summer 2019.
- First Swiss a-ja City Resort (German only) opened in November 2018 in Zurich Altstetten.
- The Circle at Zurich Airport. Opening in 2020, the Circle offers six spaces for intimate meetings and large-scale celebrations. The Regency Zurich Airport The Circle (225 rooms) and Hyatt Place Zurich Airport/The Circle (300 rooms) will offer accommodations.
Nature wants you back
“Hiking is nothing new in Switzerland, but we want to give it new approach,” Nydegger said, noting the 65,000 kilometers of marked hiking trails one can find in Switzerland.
With this, Switzerland tourism has packaged three hiking routes, of three difficulty levels, that offer unparalleled views of the country’s landscapes and access to local life.
- Jura Crest Trail – “The Gentle One” – 15 stages, 320 km. Includes views of the Alps, Block Forest and Vosges; crosses two linguistic regions, culture and culinary hotspots; includes five overnight stays, daily luggage transfers.
- The Alpina – “The Classic” – 390 km, 20 stages. The so-called Bear Trek ventures through passes, gorges and alongside glaciers to the holidat resort Adelboden-Lenk; includes five overnight stays, daily luggage transfers.
- Alpine Passes Trail – “The Wild One” – 34 stages, 610 km. Mountain villages, crossing Rhine Gorge and Val Lumnezia, historical landmarks; includes four overnight stays, daily luggage transfers.
All tours can be booked with Eurotrek at MySwitzerland.com/eurotrek.
Incentives for travel agents
Switzerland Tourism, in collaboration with Swiss Travel System and Rail Europe, has launched a new incentive for travel agents called the Swiss Pass SuperStar Program.
Starting in May, agents who sell the Swiss Travel System and log their bookings online at agent.raileurope.ca will be eligible to win a trip to Switzerland (six Canadian agents will be selected).
Agents are also encouraged to brush up on their Switzerland knowledge by registered in Switzerland Travel Academy at MySwitzerland.com/trade.
“We really believe in the travel trade. We care,” Prinz said. “Switzerland is an easy destination to sell and make good money.”
How to get there
There are many ways for Canadians to get to Switzerland:
- Air Canada Toronto to Zurich
- Air Canada Toronto-Montreal-Geneva
- Air Canada Vancouver-Zurich (seasonal June to October)
- SWISS Montreal to Zurich
- Edelweiss Calgary to Zurich (seasonal May to September)
- Edelweiss Vancouver to Zurich (seasonal May to September)
- AirTransat Montreal to Basel (seasonal summer)
For more info on Switzerland, visit myswitzerland.com.