Switzerland has recently concluded its annual roadshow, titled Race to Switzerland, and it has been a great success with trade partners and Swiss partners alike, Matthias Albrecht, GCC director for Switzerland Tourism, tells TTN.
“The feedback is unanimous: we have never had so much fun at an official event,” says Albrecht. “And the best part is, the agents learned a lot about Switzerland in an interactive way.”
Switzerland’s roadshow with a difference, Race to Switzerland, engaged 200 travel agents from the UAE over two days (100 agents each day) for a 24-hour event at the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel, earlier this year. While most of it was fun and games, there were workshops as well and breakout sessions, an evening with a comedian and also a dance night.
Travel agents competed in a fun way against each other for points on a race and earned points based on their knowledge of the country, their agility and skills in the games. The team with the most points at the end of 24 hours, won a trip to Switzerland in collaboration with Swiss International Airlines.
A good mix of about 30 partners from Switzerland for the event, including mountain railways, destinations, five-star hotels, four-star hotels and the railways – Swiss Travel System.
In a similar format, the Race to Switzerland event also took place in Jeddah, at the Bay La Sun Hotel & Marina in King Abdullah Economic City, but without the comedian act and with go karting added to the mix instead.
The Race to Switzerland has now taken place thrice in the UAE and twice in Jeddah.
The other important activation for Switzerland annually is the pre-ATM Marhaba Europe event, which takes place this year from April 16 to 19 at W Dubai – The Palm. Together with the tourism boards of Germany, Austria and France, Marhaba Europe is a fully merged entity expected to draw a strong delegation of 130 buyers and 130 suppliers, 40 to 45 of which are expected to be Swiss, meeting over two days.
“I'm quite happy that we could bring all of us together. It was a bit challenging because we are four different nations with four different agendas, and it needs a lot of cooperation, flexibility and generosity to let something new grow and flourish.”
With regards to 2019 performance Albrecht is candid in expressing that the UAE did not perform well enough, owing to a number of reasons, one of them being the weather. This being the hottest summer in the last few years for mid-Europe, steered tourists clear away. “If it’s hot in Dubai, it stays hot for the whole summer but in Europe, it’s not the same over the summer. One week it may be 40 degrees and next week it comes down to 20 degrees, but people don’t know how variable the weather is up there. They think it’s hot now and it will remain hot for the rest of the summer.”
Albrecht continues to explain that even if the plains of Geneva and Zurich may be warm or even hot for a few days, the mountains are never too far away for respite. The weather high up in the mountains – Crans-Montana, Zermatt, St. Moritz, Grindelwald and Engelberg – is always cool, and they are all easily accessible with the Swiss Travel Pass, one ticket and economical prices. So, it’s easy to go out of the cities and up into the hills, whenever the weather heats up and back into the cities when the weather calms down a bit in three or four days.
Switzerland is green, family friendly and peaceful for holidays but medical travel is also a focus for the country, with the GCC being a key feeder market.
Apart from focusing on the Grand Tour of Switzerland, which will always be a focus for this market, sustainability is something that Switzerland would like to focus on for this year
“We know that a lot of people don’t care about sustainability, but things will be changing slowly. We know that sustainability will not help us increase another 100,000 bookings but we think it is an important topic and we have only one planet and we need to take care of it by travelling green.”
And in that context, public transportation begs a special mention being the most sustainable way to travel, better than by private cars or aeroplanes. “The famous Swiss Travel System connects everything, and we encourage more and more people to try it. You can reach every place in Switzerland on public transport one a single ticket and it is all very easily connected.”
The Swiss Travel Pass SuperStar Program is a joint initiative by Switzerland Tourism, Swiss Travel System and Rail Europe for promotion, greater brand awareness and enhanced knowledge of various Swiss Travel Passes among the travel agents and tour operators. This is a unique programme aimed at encouraging the retail travel consultants to promote and sell the Swiss Travel Passes to the end consumer. The top performers stand a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip to Switzerland.
EXPO 2020 DUBAI
The Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai was one of the first to be confirmed and is right next to the Emirati Pavillion. “It’s a big tented structure, with an ice cave, a sea of fog, a panorama of mountains and a light installation highlighting travel through Switzerland. The focus of the main hall is very much on tourism,” he explains. “We believe that 100 per cent of the visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai are potential customers for Switzerland. If you can afford Dubai, you can also afford Switzerland,” Albrecht concludes with a smile.
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