At USTOA's Annual Conference and Marketplace in Scottsdale, Arizona this past week, we caught up with Alex Herrmann, director Americas of Switzerland Tourism. Hermann brought us up to date about new hotel developments and attractions throughout the country.
“It’s amazing, the number of properties, especially the four- or five-star segments that have started over the last few months and over the next few months," he said. The first one to open will be the W Verbier in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. "It’s [W’s] first ski resort and their first property in the Alps, so it’s a lot of firsts," Herrmann said.
Andermatt, a hidden Alpine gem (which Herrmann calls “the crossroads of The Alps...where north/south meets east/west”) is seeing new development from new investors. “It used to be a sleepy little resort town,” Herrmann said. “Now, it is really rebuilding…The whole empty space in the heart of this village will now be filled with new life.”
One of the cornerstones of that development is the first Chedi hotel in Europe, which opened while the conference was underway. The opening is a significant step for Andermatt’s tourism profile, Herrmann added.
In Davos, the InterContinental Hotel is set to open this month, and while the area has other notable properties, Herrmann noted the profile of this hotel and the “very modern” architecture by Matteo Thun.
“I didn’t just pick these three hotels at random,” Herrmann added. “You [can] see there’s a trend. Traditionally, the Alpine luxury hotels used to be all family-owned and fourth-generation, and [there were] almost no chain hotels. There’s obviously this increasing attention of these major international hotel companies on the Alps….They all see all the potential of The Alps. They see a big future. That’s why they’re all very interested in getting their share in opening properties in The Alps.”
Beyond the interest major luxury brands are showing in Switzerland, Herrmann noted some independent properties opening in the Lake Lucerne area. “That’s an area that’s has been a little bit more quiet. In the next couple of years, there will be several five-star properties opening in that area.”
Herrmann calls Switzerland’s luxury hotels the “lighthouses” of the industry, but also expressed praise for the country's three- and four-star hotels as well. “It’s at least as interesting, what’s going on there, because there’s too much to actually focus on just a few,” he said.
Switzerland Tourism, like many other tourism boards, uses annual themes to attract visitors to the country’s different regions. 2014 will focus on views--which Herrmann notes does not necessarily mean the view from atop one of Switzerland’s many mountains, but views from the Express tourist trains and the cable cars that take visitors up the mountains. “The world’s first double-decker cable car has opened in Switzerland,” Herrmann noted, “and the top piece is actually outside, so you can travel inside on the lower floor, or you take the little winding stairs upstairs, and you’re outside.” The quick ride up the Stanserhorn (just outside Lucerne) actually uses two cable cars: a historic car takes visitors halfway up before they transfer to the more modern option.
The tourism board is also creating an add-on product to the Swiss rail passes that will help visitors make the most of their views: The Peak Pass offers access to 10 of these most-seen mountain excursions in Switzerland. It is expected to launch in January, just as the new year’s theme comes into effect.