The Geneva Appeal


Among the sights of Geneva are its namesake lake and iconic Jet d’Eau.


While, historically, Geneva is known for the famous Protestant leader John Calvin, who believed in hard work and minimalism, today, the city is nothing but pure indulgence. Travel Agent was there this past April for the Switzerland Travel Mart, the largest trade fair of the Swiss tourism industry. The 16th edition of the biennial event brought together 350 Swiss tourism suppliers and 470 foreign attendees. We returned with some useful tips on how to go about selling not only this jewel on Lake Geneva, but also its surrounding areas.

The Facts

We learned from Alex Herrmann, director for Switzerland Tourism’s Americas office, that the U.S. is the third most important market for the country and accounts for 7.4 percent of Swiss tourism. According to Herrmann, there were 1,506,435 overnight hotel stays in 2010. Arrival numbers from January to February of this year showed an 8.7 percent increase.

For the U.S. traveler, Geneva is the second most popular destination in Switzerland after Zürich, and one of the three most popular places in the world to live, according to the 2010 Quality of Living Survey by Mercer Consulting. The city is just a six-minute train ride from the airport and has 120 direct connections to cities all over Europe and worldwide. More than 200 trains run through the city every day, including high-speed trains to Paris.

It is truly an international city, with 43 percent of the population being foreign-born. There are 15 five-star hotels, eight gourmet restaurants starred by the Michelin guide and 45 restaurants rated high by Gault Millau. Geneva is also home to 40 public and private museums.

The central, and most defining feature, of the city is Lake Geneva, Western Europe’s largest, spanning 225 square miles. Locals and tourists alike thrive on life around the lake, from enjoying a happy hour on its banks to boat races and a summertime dip. 

Festivals abound in the city and its surrounding region. Perhaps, the most famous is the Montreux Jazz Festival, a 16-day affair headlined by icons of jazz, blues, rock, world music, rap, electro, pop and soul. It typically pulls in about 220,000 visitors. This year, the event will kick off on July 1.

Another top draw is the Geneva Festival, which will take place August 4 to 14 this year. Watch as the city’s harbor is transformed into an open-air circus ring with pyrotechnics set to music.

About an hour from Geneva sits Lausanne, also on the lake. From July 10 to 16, it will host the world’s biggest gymnastics event, where more than 20,000 participants will convene. This sporting event is being held in Switzerland for the third time.


Woods, the restaurant
InterContinental Geneva's restaurant, Woods.


Surrounding Region

Unbeknownst to many Americans, Switzerland is one of Europe’s great wine-growing regions. It is difficult to find Swiss wines in the U.S. because they are not as easy to export. The majority of Americans opt for the products from neighboring France and Italy. Still, it should be noted that some of the world’s finest wines can be sampled in Switzerland. Geneva ranks third among the country’s wine producing states (known as cantons) and boasts the largest Swiss wine-growing community.

We took a day trip to the Domaine de la Côte d’Or winery for a visit and tasting. Here, we strolled through the vineyards, took a look at the bottling process and sampled a sprawling buffet of fine cheeses, cured meats, quiche, fruit and, of course, wine. The winery sits at the top of a winding road that carves its way up a hillside through the very chic, posh Cologny district of Geneva, with views galore. Geneva is surrounded predominantly by French Alps and shares just two miles of its border with Switzerland proper. Needless to say, we were gazing at one of three things: mountains, rolling green vineyards or piercing blue water.

Where to Stay

The city of Geneva has more than 9,000 hotel rooms. Travel Agent stayed at the InterContinental Geneva, a five-star hotel just 10 minutes from the city center. We stayed in room #826, a standard room with views of the city, Lake Geneva and the city’s iconic Jet d’Eau, which peaks at 459 feet.

The 18-story hotel has 334 guest rooms, 103 of which are suites. The large number of suites is due to the hotel’s proximity to the city’s embassies, known as “Missions.” The property is also just a stone’s throw from the United Nations and is a hot spot for dignitaries. Its prominent MICE facilities draw dignitaries and business travelers. There are 16 multifunctional units, all on one floor.

The property’s spa boasts six treatment rooms, a Hammam, a sauna, a 24-hour fitness center and chic Clarins bath products imported from Paris. The spa has an outdoor stairway that connects to the seasonal outdoor pool, which is open from May through September. During these months, there is outdoor dining along with bar facilities poolside.

Geneva’s lakefront is also lined with high-end hotels, including the Swissotel Metropole Geneva, Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva, Grand Hotel Kempinski & Spa Geneva, Hotel Beau-Rivage Geneva and Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Geneva. If your clients are after something equally elegant but more historical, we recommend the Armures Hotel, which is in Old Town and is said to have some of the best fondue in Geneva.

Getting There

We were flown out from New York’s JFK aboard Swiss International Air Lines’ Business Class, and we highly recommend doing the same for your clients. Swiss had unveiled 10 new A330-300s, which serve long-haul destinations in North America, Africa and Asia. The new Business Class comes with brand-new seats that have air-cushion technology and can be converted into beds measuring more than six feet.

Swiss also announced that its Airbus A340 aircraft will have the new Business Class cabin by August. At that point, all Swiss intercontinental flights will offer a First Class cabin. The airline serves 72 destinations in 39 countries.


Woods, the restaurant
An Executive Junior Suite at InterContinental Geneva.


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