Sign Up for Our Monthly Europe Newsletter
Approximately 460 tour operators and travel trade media represented more than 50 countries at this year’s Switzerland Travel Mart (STM) held in Lucerne, Switzerland. Now in its 20th iteration, the biannual event took place Oct. 20-23 and presented opportunities for some 350 Swiss suppliers to meet with attendees during 20-minute business appointments, networking events and more.
Spirits were high at STM’s opening ceremony held at KKL Luzern, which kicked off with a rousing performance by Swiss group Drum2Streets as well as a Swiss yodeler. Martin Nydegger, CEO of Switzerland Tourism, offered a formal welcome to attendees from all over the world before spotlighting the dynamic wine regions of the destination.
Wine tourism is a significant focus for Switzerland Tourism this year. Despite 252 different indigenous grape varieties cultivated in the country, only about 1.5% of its wine products are exported — a statistic that can incentivize clients to visit Switzerland for, at the very least, local wine.
Another campaign push underscores Switzerland’s underrated fall season, due in part to climate change, according to Gilles Dind, executive board, director Europe West for Switzerland Tourism. More than ever before, September and October have great potential thanks to temperate weather and wine-tasting opportunities.
Claudio Zemp, who in August was named market director Switzerland Tourism Americas, shared a positive outlook on the country’s tourism growth. He said the country saw a year-over-year increase of 9% in arrivals and 9.7% in overnights by U.S. travelers from January to August 2019. What’s more, roughly one out of five U.S. travelers to Switzerland are from California.
This fantastic growth is largely attributed to the efforts of U.S. tour operators with itineraries in Switzerland. Held every two years in conjunction with STM, the Gold Flower Award ceremony recognizes leading companies for their achievements in partnership with Switzerland Tourism. This year’s U.S. winners included Tauck, represented by Mihaela Weaver, product manager for Europe, and Michele Molnar, product manager for river cruising; and EuroBound, represented by Luigia Mangifesta, sales manager for Europe.
Other updates announced at STM focused on transportation to and throughout Switzerland. Flag carrier Swiss International Air Lines will offer daily service to Zurich from Washington D.C., starting March 2020. It currently has daily flights to Zurich from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York (John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport), Miami, Boston, Chicago and Montreal.
Clients on long-haul flights with Swiss International Air Lines to destinations outside of Europe (such as Southeast Asia and Israel) can take advantage of the new Stopover Switzerland program. Launched earlier this year, it offers 11 packages with up to four nights in Switzerland, with the stopover's starting point in Zurich.
Also of note is Swiss Travel System’s new Excellence Class onboard the Glacier Express. The elevated rail journey experience through the Swiss Alps features concierge service, welcome drinks, a five-course gourmet meal with wine pairings, a Glacier Bar and a guaranteed window seat.
All in all, sustainability continues to be an important pillar for Switzerland.
Zemp pointed out examples including the country’s high-quality tap water that is suitable for drinking; focus on “basic” activities such as biking, hiking and swimming; and specialization in boutique experiences instead of big, Disneyland-type attractions.
An especially unique eco-friendly offering is Switzerland’s E-Grand Tour, which is said to be the first-ever road trip specially designed for electric vehicles; some 300 charging stations line the route that stretches almost 1,000 miles.
“Switzerland has been the poster boy for sustainable living for many, many years,” Zemp said.
Switzerland Tourism will be in the U.S. during its Road to Switzerland event, which will take place March 23-27, 2020. Attendees will be able to network with about 40 Swiss suppliers in six cities across the U.S., including Seattle on March 25, San Francisco on March 26 and Los Angeles on March 27. More information will be announced.
The DetailsLuzern Tourismus AGwww.luzern.com
Swiss International Air Lineswww.swiss.com
Swiss Travel Systemwww.mystsnet.com