Travel agents will play a key role in promoting Switzerland as an autumn destination as climate change pushes the traditional winter season back, according to the country’s UK tourism chief.
Speaking to Travel Weekly on a fam trip attended by 48 UK agents, Switzerland Tourism director Alex Herrmann said the country is looking to “extend” the summer season as the ski season shifts in line with changes in weather patterns.
“One of the main reasons we are pushing autumn is to extend the summer season because the winter season is limited,” he said.
“If you look at the last five or so years, snow is coming later and we still get snow into April.”
Herrmann said mid-October is a “great time” to visit Switzerland as it is quieter in mountain resorts and cities and there is a “special quality to the air and colours” in the mountains.
He hailed the rebound of the UK market this year, which saw a 0.2% growth in the number of British guests staying in hotels across Switzerland between January and August 2023 compared with the same pre-pandemic months in 2019.
August alone saw an increase of 10.8% in hotel stays by British guests versus 2019 and July was up by 3.4%.
Switzerland Tourism predicts UK arrivals for the whole of 2023 will be up by 3%-5% against 2019.
Herrmann hopes the ‘Grand Yodel’ fam trip will result in a further uplift next year, as well as promote less-visited regions in the country beyond the most popular destinations.
“We are back to pre-Covid levels [of UK visitors to Switzerland] so that goal has been achieved,” he said. “The next step is to make sure we expand the portfolio with new destinations, new experiences and new times to visit the country.”
The four-night fam trip was run in partnership with Inghams, which selected the agents who attended.
Natalie Alcraft, Travel Counsellors
“Switzerland is so diverse and beautiful. It’s been a real eye-opener finding out how much of the country clients can experience with the Swiss Travel Pass: it’s not just trains, it’s all modes of transport and even museums. And because children under 16 can travel for free, it has opened Switzerland up as a destination for families which I had never previously considered.”
Tom Coulter, Not Just Travel
“This trip has blown away a lot of preconceptions I had about Switzerland. There’s so much to do, whether it’s mountains, lakes or cities, and the transport system really stands out as a feature, allowing clients to get around built-up areas and also up into the mountains with ease. We have the knowledge from seeing so much of Switzerland, so it’s now a case of finding the right customers to match up to it.”
Nicole Eaves, Garstang Travel
“This is my first time in Switzerland and I’ve been blown away by everything; the organisation by the Swiss tourist board and Inghams has been first-class. I’ve learnt you can get anywhere so quickly and efficiently with the Swiss Travel Pass. Now I’ve experienced it first-hand it’s given me a lot more confidence to sell the destination, but I’ve still got a lot more to learn, so I’m going to do more of the online training.”
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