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From Sept. 10-13, more than 800 attendees from all over the world came to Davos, Switzerland, for the biannual Switzerland Travel Mart (STM). Tourism officials said this was the largest and most global STM in history. Fifty countries were represented, including large delegations from the U.S. and China, and several countries participated for the first time, including Iran and Mongolia.
During the opening ceremony, Jurg Schmid, CEO of Switzerland Tourism, said that he believes experiential travel and nature travel are major trends redefining the industry. Schmid later expanded on these ideas during a press conference at STM.
“People want to learn more about a country’s people, culture and gastronomy, and not just rush through a country,” Schmid said. “I strongly believe this is the future of travel.”
To coincide with these trends, Switzerland Tourism is launching a new message: “Nature wants you back.” The promotion will highlight the many authentic and natural experiences that visitors can enjoy all over the country.
“We believe Switzerland, with its size, quality of product and ease of travel, is perfectly positioned for this type of tourism, where travelers go from sightseeing to experiencing,” he said. “Plus, with how much nature we have and how close it is — you can get to some of the world’s greatest peaks within one hour of almost anywhere in Switzerland — the region is really special for nature lovers.”
Significant GrowthAccording to Switzerland Tourism, the country has had a nearly 6 percent increase in arrivals from June to July of this year compared to last year. Schmid pointed out that the country receives more than 60 million international visitors, and there are just about 8 million residents.
“We are clearly a tourism nation,” he said.
In addition, during pre-STM meetings, Alex Herrmann, director North America for Switzerland Tourism, said the country received 12 percent more arrivals from the U.S. from January through June of this year compared to 2016. (The U.S. is the second-most important international market for Switzerland after Germany.)
“If you go back to 2010, tourism from North America has grown every year for seven straight years,” Herrmann said. “Plus, we know that we had a really strong summer, so these numbers might even be higher at the end of the year.”
Herrmann believes that Switzerland’s varied offerings are a key to its growing tourism numbers, with activities that appeal to nature lovers, adventure-seekers, cultural travelers, culinary-minded visitors, families and more.
“Some of the increase is due to pre- and post-river cruise visitors, which has seen a lot of growth,” Herrmann said. “But we’ve also seen adventure travel grow a lot in recent years because things such as hiking and biking are so accessible in Switzerland. Food and wine travel has also seen lots of growth.”
To reward some of Switzerland’s top tour operator partners, Herrmann also announced the three recipients of the organization’s Gold Flower Award, which is presented every two years and rewards “innovation, a high level or professionalism and outstanding cooperation in connection with the operator’s Switzerland products.” This year’s recipients were Alpine Adventures, Europe Express and Kensington Tours.
New for Travel AgentsIn addition, Herrmann introduced a new resource for travel agents called “Switzerland Wonderland.” This sales manual, which was released in the U.S. during STM, provides agents with a wide range of activity and attraction ideas throughout Switzerland. This is in addition to Switzerland Travel Academy, a recently introduced online learning program designed to help agents become better educated on the country.
“We strongly believe in the travel trade,” Herrmann said. “That’s why we have a travel mart in the first place and why we have a lot of programs and resources for travel agents.”
Staff ChangesFinally, Herrmann also announced a major staff change in North America. As of Nov. 1, Pascal Prinz will be the new market manager Canada for Switzerland Tourism in Toronto. Previously, he had been working at Switzerland Tourism in New York as trade manager East Coast.
In addition to his new role in Canada, Prinz will also be in charge of travel trade relations in the Midwest and Texas. A search is under way for a replacement for Prinz in the U.S.