Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: email@example.com.
In 2017, Switzerland saw the highest number of overnight stays recorded in 25 years. Last night, Switzerland Tourism hosted the trade media at their Toronto office to highlight what's new and exciting in the country this year.
"We got our numbers in February and it was a plus compared to last year, representing an all-time high in the last 25 years," commented Ursula Beamish, manager, media relations, North America, Switzerland Tourism. "This year, our summer campaign is called 'Back to Nature', but more specifically, everything related to cycling."
Pedal your way through Switzerland
"The reason why we're convinced that Switzerland is a great place for cycling is because our infrastructure is amazing," Pascal Prinz, director for Canada, Switzerland Tourism, told PAX. "All of the trails are marked, the landscapes are diverse with flat roads, rolling hills or the Alps, so everybody can ride a bike in Switzerland. There are also four different language regions: German, French, Italian, and Romansh, and then of course, English, so it's a wonderful and convenient destination for all."
When most international travellers think of booking a cycling trip, inevitably, The Netherlands comes to mind. But, as Prinz points out, Switzerland has a competitive edge.
"Switzerland's outdoor scene is beautiful, and the Swiss people have always rode bikes, but maybe we've been a bit modest about it," Prinz said. "A bike is a great way to explore a country because you're seeing places you otherwise wouldn't see, and you meet local people you wouldn't get to interact with. Amsterdam, although beautiful, is very flat. In Switzerland, you can ride through mountain trails and the landscapes are a great mix, with lakes, hills, and forests. For travellers looking for more of a challenge, the e-bikes are becoming very popular, and thanks to the e-bikes and e-mountain bikes, even if it's steep, you get a bit of support from the electric engine, and you can regulate how much support you want."
Pascal Prinz, director for Canada, Switzerland Tourism
Cycling tours for every traveller
Switzerland currently has several partnerships with local e-bike suppliers. Tourists have the option to rent e-bikes or standard bicycles for whichever activity they prefer, be it touring, mountain biking, or road cycling. "The e-bikes started in Switzerland when people declared that they would rather bike to work, instead of taking a car," Prinz explained. "But rather than arrive at work sweaty [from pedalling], the e-bikes are a great way to ride to work without putting in all the work. Swiss innovation contributed to the e-bikes getting better and better, and now you can find the e-bikes in all major cities."
Certain hotels and local tourist offices also have free bike rentals, so long as tourists provide proof of identification.
The Heart Route continues to be the most popular biking tour in Switzerland, which runs across Switzerland, from Geneva to St. Gallen.
This year, Switzerland is also hosting the 2018 Mountain Biking World Championships, taking place in September. Also new this year, from May until September, 12 mountain passes across Switzerland will close down and be car-free, allowing cyclists free range of the Swiss Alps.
With direct flights out of all major Canadian cities, on carriers like Air Canada, which has just launched a seasonal summer flight to Zurich, Switzerland is proving to be an accessible and enjoyable destination year-round for the adventurous traveller.
"Starting June 7, Air Canada expands it service from Canada to Switzerland with the launch of a new nonstop summer service summer from Vancouver to Zurich, three times per week," said Simona Cercel, tourism and sales development manager, Air Canada. "The new flights feature the state-of-art 787 Dreamliner with award-winning service and comfort, including lie-flat beds in Signature Class, extra room in Premium Economy and over 600 hours of complimentary on-demand entertainment at your seat in Economy. The new nonstop flights are an increased service to Switzerland, in addition to Air Canada’s year-round flights to Zurich from Toronto and to Geneva from both Toronto and Montreal."
"Switzerland has the answer to many travel trends, and that's why business is booming," Prinz said. 'From multi-generational, pre-and post river cruise stays, and soft adventure (biking, hiking), and experiential travel, there are many meaningful and unique experiences that Canadians love. Canadians are adventurous; they want to see the places that haven't been seen, and I think that Switzerland has a lot to offer."
Agents looking to become certified Swiss travel experts can visit www.MySwitzerland.com/trade
For more information on things to do in Switzerland this summer, visit www.MySwitzerland.com/summer.
For more information on the Ride the Alps tour, visit www.ridethealps.ch.