|A record 497 buyers from 54 countries and 380 Swiss suppliers attended this year’s Switzerland Travel Mart.|
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. That upbeat bit of news set the tone for this year’s Switzerland Travel Mart in the Swiss capital of Bern.
Alex Herrmann, director Americas for Switzerland Tourism, told delegates at the May 8-10 event 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 that the first quarter of 2013 brought a further increase of 1.2 percent, and the longer-term outlook, specifically from 2013 to 2016, is projecting 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.
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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.
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 percent more than the previous year.
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, comprises 123 contemporary rooms and suites—each with a fireplace and balcony, and many with mountain views—as well as a restaurant, bar, spa, and leisure facilities, which shouldl revolutionize Verbier’s social scene. The ski-in/ski-out W Verbier will also offer seven private residences and is set to open on December 1.
|One of the renovated lake-view Junior Suites at Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne.|
December 1 is also the scheduled launch date for the InterContinental Davos, allowing the new hotel 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 gastronomic space that takes up the entire top floor of the hotel. Davos is only 90 miles from Zurich Airport, easily accessible by fast rail connections.
Switzerland has one of the world’s most efficient travel networks and Americans are clearly enjoying the benefits. Swiss Travel System announced that North American sales of the popular Swiss Pass rose by 6 percent in 2012 and further increases are forecast for 2013. Priced 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.
Another must-have travel accessory showcased at the Mart is the Swisscom Pocket Connect, a very handy, pocketsize 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.
Schilthorn Cableway has a new attraction, Bond World 007, at the spectacular Piz Gloria revolving restaurant and cable car station perched on the summit of the 9,744-foot Schilthorn, near Interlaken. Marking the 50th anniversary of James Bond movie franchise—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.
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 alpine retreat is marking its 100th anniversary with a number of celebrations throughout the year.
Beau-Rivage Palace Lausanne is undergoing a major renovation this year that 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 of 2014.
In the scenic Lake Lucerne region, the historic Park Hotel Vitznau and Hotel Chateau Guetsch are reopening this year after major renovations, while GHM will open its first Europe property, the new Chedi Andermatt, in one of Switzerland’s prettiest ski resorts.