Repeat travel, FIT and incentive group numbers from South-east Asia are on an upward trend, fitting perfectly well with Switzerland’s positioning as a quality, premium destination
South-east Asian arrivals to Switzerland are looking healthy year-to-date compared to the mixed-bag performance last year which saw Singapore and Malaysia dropping 12 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively, while Thailand grew 21.3 per cent, the Philippines 10.8 per cent and Indonesia, barely at 0.1 per cent.
Switzerland Tourism’s director-South-east Asia based in Singapore, Ivan Breiter, described the region’s performance so far this year as being “on a record streak”.
He expects all-time high arrivals from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, which are growing in double digits, while Singapore and Malaysia are showing five to six per cent increases – respectable when viewed against the declines last year.
Thailand is Switzerland’s largest South-east Asian market with 117,777 arrivals last year, followed by Singapore (64,664), Indonesia (43,347), Malaysia (33,378) and the Philippines (13,270). All arrivals data are at point of accommodation, i.e. real overnights and exclude the day visits of low-yield tour group series taking the traditional Italy over Switzerland to France route.
Breiter noted a trend towards repeat travellers, younger travellers who are more independent, FITs and incentive groups from South-east Asia. This fits well with the destination’s quality and premium positioning, he said.
It translates to higher earnings and, more importantly, tourism is being distributed to more places in Switzerland than the usual Lucerne and Interlaken.
Using arrivals from Thailand as an example, Breiter said: “When we started our operation in South-east Asia in 2012, only a dozen Swiss destinations received more than 1,000 overnights per annum from Thailand. Within five years, we have doubled the number of Swiss destinations that gets more than 1,000 overnights from Thailand.”
He believes that luxury longhaul travel from South-east Asia will grow “over-proportionately” in the coming years and that Switzerland is well-positioned to take advantage of it.
“Switzerland is the cradle of hospitality and the ideal luxury hideaway. Guests are younger and travelling more individually, and with our public transport system being almost perfect it’s a breeze to travel around Switzerland,” said Breiter.
Sales of the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives visitors unlimited travel on rail, bus, boat and tram in the Swiss Travel System network, have tripled in the last five years, he pointed out.
Added Breiter: “Travellers are looking for more engaging activities, be they yodelling classes, snow-shoeing, wildlife-watching, watch-making, skiing, paragliding, sledging, etc, and Switzerland can offer the right activities to suit their personal desires. Incentive trips have also become more and more popular. We have MICE specialists in the (South-east Asian) markets and in Switzerland to help them achieve the perfect trip.”
Given the trends, Switzerland Tourism is stepping up efforts to be the perfect “match-makers”, i.e. ensuring that customers get their “ideal” products. That starts with training of sales staff and frontliners in the South-east Asian industry, said Breiter.
“With our online education tool, Swiss Travel Academy, travel agents can learn the basics about the country, then specialise their knowledge for their specific customer base. They can become Switzerland experts for family travel, outdoor enthusiasts, luxury travellers, and so on.
“We also help travel planners to learn how to get the best deals, say, by planning their mountain stays during mid-week and city stays during the weekends,” he said.
The one thing he wishes for is to see many more South-east Asian travellers take advantage of Switzerland’s pristine landscape for outdoor activities.
“That’s why we have created specific products like the First Ski Experience (see Hot Stuff) that makes sliding on our winter slopes more accessible to customers who are not yet familiar with snow sports,” he concluded.