It’s one thing to know that travel agent associations are lobbying the government on agents’ behalf. It’s another to actually hear it and see it in action.
TORONTO — As the world waits for global tourism to restart, Claudio Zemp says he has the perfect destination for that first post-COVID-19 getaway: Switzerland.
As Director, Americas for Switzerland Tourism, Zemp is understandably a little bit biased. But Switzerland’s advantages as a post-COVID destination are clear. The country is known for its fresh air and wide open spaces, and its relatively small cities and villages.
“Holidaymakers can rest and relax away from the masses,” said Zemp
Kicking off the first day of Switzerland Tourism’s ‘Road to Switzerland’ virtual conference this morning, Zemp thanked the trade for its loyalty and support over the past eight months. “Thank you for your tenacity, your flexibility and your creativity. They’re all so essential for keeping our industry alive these days,” he said.
‘Road to Switzerland’ is a one-day conference that will be presented on two successive days, Nov. 16 and 17, to accommodate the varying time zones across Canada and the U.S., says the tourism board. Some 32 suppliers and 72 buyers are taking part.
The good news is that Switzerland is well-positioned to capitalize on all that pent-up travel demand the trade is hearing about. The bad news? Borders are still closed. The EU and Schengen Zone countries had opened to Canada on July 1 but in recent weeks have closed their doors again as large swaths of Europe go back into lockdown amid rising COVID-19 numbers.
Agents and suppliers needn’t worry about missing the big announcement whenever Switzerland opens its doors again, said Zemp: “We will email you, we will call you, we will text you, we will knock on your doors. There’s no chance that you won’t be the first ones to know that Switzerland has reopened.”
“1,600 KILOMETRES OF PURE BLISS”
Also speaking this morning, Pascal Prinz, Director, Canada at Switzerland Tourism, promised attendees, “We will go back to Switzerland together.” He highlighted The Grand Tour of Switzerland road trip itinerary as one of the country’s many, many options for post-COVID-19 travel. “It’s 1,600 kilometres of pure bliss,” he said, adding that the tour even comes with its own Spotify playlist.
Meanwhile Paolo Lunardi, Manager, Trade Relations, North America for Switzerland Tourism, made note of new offerings coming to Switzerland by the end of 2020.
They include the December 2020 launch of the Eiger Express, a tai-cable aerial cableway that will take visitors from Grindelwald terminal to the Eiger Glacier station in 15 minutes. The new option will cut travel time to the ‘Top of Europe’ – Jungfraujoch – by 47 minutes. Of course, visitors can also still opt for a ride on the iconic Jungfrau Railway.
Also opening in December 2020, Ceneri Base Tunnel will dramatically reduce travel time between Zurich and Milan, by 30 minutes, said Lunardi. With the new Ceneri Base Tunnel a one-way trip between the two cities will now take three hours.
Switzerland has also opened The Circle at Zurich Airport, a new district at the hub airport that includes dining and shopping options, THE CIRCLE Convention Center at Zurich Airport, and two new Hyatt hotels with 554 rooms between them.
Opening for international travellers however briefly this summer and early fall gave tourism facilities across Switzerland a chance to debut long-thought-out health and safety protocols for international clientele, and that bodes well for reopening post-COVID, says Zemp. “Swiss precision will be integral to our hospitality offering,” he said. “We can’t wait for our guests from North America to come back.”
For the latest updates Zemp directed agents and suppliers to check out MySwitzerland.com/trade. The site offers everything from itinerary ideas and travel info, to upcoming webinars (and access to past webinars), Switzerland Travel Academy, promotional material and more.