BERN— Despite ongoing economic challenges in Europe, Switzerland’s tourism industry remained buoyant in 2012, reporting an increase in visitors from most of its international markets outside of Europe, including the United States.
Alex Herrmann, director Americas for Switzerland Tourism (www.myswitzerland.com), told delegates at the Switzerland Travel Mart 2013 that overnight stays by Americans in Swiss hotels totaled 1,525,000 last year, an increase of 2.2 percent over 2011.
“It’s been a successful year,” he said, adding the first quarter of 2013 brought a further increase of 1.2 percent, and the longer term outlook from 2013 to 2016 is predicting an overall expected growth of up to 15 percent.
Herrmann announced Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, Basel and Zermatt as the top five destinations for Americans in Switzerland in 2012, confirming the nation’s popularity as both a business and leisure destination.
A record 497 buyers from 54 countries and 380 Swiss suppliers attended this year’s event, featuring a spectacular Opening Ceremony in Bern’s Bundesplatz (Parliament Square) and an exclusive look inside the majestic Bundeshaus (Federal Parliament), only the second time in history the palace has been opened for a public event.
In other Switzerland Travel Mart 2013 news:
Host city and Swiss capital Bern, which had seen negative growth in U.S. visitors since 2005, announced an 8.7 percent increase for 2011/2012. This year’s celebrations of the city’s 30th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site are expected to boost local and international visitor numbers further. Visit www.bern.com
Swiss International Air Lines set a new Swiss aviation record in 2012 for the annual number of passengers carried—some 15,816,469 people traveled with the airline, 3.3 per cent more than the previous year. Visit www.swiss.com
W Hotels is on track to open its first alpine retreat, W Verbier, in time for the upcoming winter ski season. The new hotel, set in four chalets in Verbier’s central Place Blanche, features 123 contemporary rooms and suites—each with a fireplace, balcony, and many with mountain views—as well as various restaurant, bar, spa, and leisure facilities which will revolutionize Verbier’s social scene. The ski-in \ ski-out W Verbier will also feature seven private residences and is set to open on December 1. Visit www.wverbier.com
December 1 is also the scheduled launch date for the new InterContinental Davos, allowing it time to iron out any glitches before playing host hotel to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in January. With a stunning pod-like architectural design, the hotel will feature 216 guest rooms and suites, two restaurants and bars, a state-of-the-art spa and wellness facility, and a unique gastronomic space taking up the entire top floor of the hotel. Davos is only 90 miles from Zurich Airport, easily accessible by fast rail connections. Visit www.ihg.com
Switzerland has one of the world’s most efficient travel networks and Americans are clearly enjoying the benefits. Swiss Travel System announced North American sales of the popular Swiss Pass rose by 6 percent in 2012 and further increases are forecast for 2013. Costing from $223, the pass offers free travel on all rail, bus and boat lines, entry to about 450 museums, and a 50 percent discount on funiculars, cable cars and cog railways. Visit www.swisstravelsystem.com
Another must-have travel accessory showcased at the Mart is the Swisscom Pocket Connect, a very handy, pocket-size mobile hotspot offering wireless internet access for up to five devices wherever you may be in the country. Purchase an unlimited data plan, along with a nominal deposit which is fully refunded when you mail the device back, and you can say goodbye to expensive global roaming or hotel Wi-Fi costs and enjoy fast and efficient internet access anywhere, anytime. Visit www.swisscom.ch
Schilthorn Cableway will unveil its new Bond World 007 attraction this summer at the spectacular Piz Gloria revolving restaurant and cable car station perched on the summit of the 9,744ft. Schilthorn, near Interlaken. Marking the 50th anniversary of the Bond movies, especially On Her Majesty’s Secret Service—which featured Piz Gloria as a backdrop—the new interactive showcase will include special screenings of the film and the chance to walk out on a new observation deck with panoramic views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains in the heart of the Swiss Alps. Visit www.bond-world.ch
Another significant anniversary is being celebrated in the Swiss Alps this year, the centenary of the legendary Gstaad Palace Hotel, owned by three generations of the Scherz family. One of the last family-run grand hotels in Switzerland, this lovely alpine retreat will mark its 100th anniversary with a number of celebrations through the year. Visit www.palace.ch
Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne is undergoing a major renovation this year which will restore its long-held reputation as one of the most beautiful luxury hotels in Switzerland. The primary focus is the historic Palace Wing, where two new suites have been added and 37 rooms completed in April this year, with another 61 guest rooms scheduled for renovation by April next year, www.brp.ch
In the lovely Lake Lucerne region, the historic Park Hotel Vitznau and Hotel Chateau Guetsch are reopening this year after major renovations (www.parkhotel-vitznau.ch and www.chateau-guetsch.ch), while GHM will open its first Europe property, the new Chedi Andermatt, in one of Switzerland’s prettiest ski resorts, www.thechedi-andermatt.com