Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
TORONTO — Switzerland Tourism has lots to celebrate with a 9.4% increase in overnights by Canadians, for a total of 270,959, one of the country’s best performances from Canada in more than two decades.
Switzerland Tourism’s CEO Martin Nydegger was in Canada this week to mark the occasion, and to remind agents about all of Switzerland’s wonderful outdoor and hiking opportunities.
Nydegger led a delegation which included Switzerland Tourism and partners SWISS, Swiss Travel System, Rail Europe, Zurich, Ticino and Basel.
“We have had one of the best years in Canadian visitors in the past 25 years!” says Nydegger, adding there are five major impacts on tourism from Canada to Switzerland: the economy, currency, weather, competitiveness and marketing initiatives. “We at the Tourism Board are very focused on communication because we have to make sure people notice that Switzerland is a phenomenal country to spend their vacation,” says Nydegger.
Looking ahead to this summer, the tourism board is actively promoting hiking with its ‘Back to Nature’ push. With over 65,000 kilometers of waymarked trails, virtually every corner of Switzerland can discovered by foot. The hiking paths are well marked and with many varied landscapes. Clients can ascend a peak, hike through alpine meadows, explore a forest or take in stunning lake scenery.
“Every year we want to give one topic centre stage. Hiking is not new, but we are going to give it new approaches. We have three iconic hiking trails, which are basically long distance trails, that run across Switzerland along the Alps which you can do in stages over some time,” he says.
First there’s the classic Via Alpina with its 14 Alpine passes and a stamp booklet; stamps for each stage can be collected. Second is the gentle Jura Crest Trail, Switzerland’s oldest trail and one that’s perfect for easygoing hikers. Finally there’s the wild Alpine Passes Trail which challenges hikers with adventurous trails – and rewards them with breathtaking views.
Nydegger was instrumental in creating the Grand Tour of Switzerland, a 1,600-kilometre road trip route inspired by Route 66 in the U.S. From palm-lined lakeshores to sparkling glaciers, from medieval villages to buzzing cities, the Grand Tour of Switzerland packs in an incredible number of sights, including 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It allows visitors to see Switzerland at their own pace by car, and gives agents the chance to help with hotel, car and activity bookings.
Travellers can add to their experience with a bespoke Spotify playlist and a Michelin restaurant guide. The route is also fully equipped with electric powering stations, making it perfect for electric cars. Commissionable packages can be made through Swiss Travel Centre.
“There are so many beautiful road trips in the world, but there is not a single one except ours which is fully electric. Every 50 to 100 kilometres there is a plug where cars can be charged,” explains Nydegger. “We work with Europe Car and Hertz, or Swiss Travel Centre, who provide special packages for the Grand Tour – Teslas are a popular choice!”
Direct flights from Canada can be booked with Swiss, Air Canada and Air Transat from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, he adds.