Switzerland Tourism, Kuoni Tumlare go big on small group tours via train

With small group travel poised to gain traction post-pandemic, Switzerland Tourism, Kuoni Tumlare and Swiss Travel Systems have joined hands to launch a joint campaign promoting mini group tours via train in Switzerland among South-east Asian markets.

Two years in the making, the initiative promotes guided tours using only public transport options such as trains, ships and buses.

Tripartite partnership between Switzerland Tourism, Kuoni Tumlare and Swiss Travel Systems taps on trend for small group travel post-Covid

Reto Kaufmann, vice president – sales & operations South-east & South Asia, Kuoni Tumlare, shared that this new product rollout is “timely” as it taps into the post-pandemic preference for travelling in small groups to limit potential risk exposure.

“The underlying concept is to offer visitors to Switzerland a more sustainable way to explore Switzerland using the Swiss public transportation network,” he said, adding that the exclusive itineraries offer “a value-for-money proposition” for certain travellers.

The mini group tours leverage the Swiss Travel Pass which offers unlimited journeys by train, bus and boat for consecutive days; and includes free travel for children up to 16 years and reduced cost for young adults.

“The need for more private and tailor-made travel coupled with an increasing desire to reduce one’s impact on the environment were the triggers for this project,” said Batiste Pilet, director South-east Asia of Switzerland Tourism.

“With the progressive recovery of the industry, the whole supply chain needs to reboot, and for us, as an NTO, it is a great opportunity to exploit new trends and rebuild better the industry, with a stronger focus on the customer experience and towards more sustainability.”

Reto added: “As a matter of fact, we have received first requests for incentive groups that aim for a more sustainable way of travel with the goal to reduce their carbon footprint while in Switzerland.”

While the ideal group sizes for these small guided tours are two to nine persons, larger groups can also be accommodated, Reto said. He pointed out that as reservations can be made on most of the trains and lake cruises, travellers need not worry even when travelling in a larger group.

Switzerland Tourism and Kuoni Tumlare are working with travel agencies in the region to promote exclusive itineraries for these mini group tours by co-financing the marketing efforts.

Said Batiste: “In the early stage of the recovery, we wanted to support our key agents to regain visibility in their market and reconnect with their customers. After the (travel) disruption, we believe that this will speed up the recovery of their sales channels.”

Moreover, by partnering with Swiss Travel Systems, the initiative offers clients door-to-door baggage handling services, with two options available. Travellers can have their luggage transported from their departing country direct to their first overnight hotel and subsequently for every hotel booked in the programme, or hand over their baggage at the arriving airport in Switzerland to be sent to their first overnight hotel and to the rest of the hotels based on their itinerary.

Batiste believes that the demand for this mode of travel spans across the different markets in South-east Asia.

“The product itself is customisable to accommodate the clients’ preferences; however, the trends towards smaller groups and sustainability are global and should find resonance in every market in the region,” he said, adding that by working with agents, they can better meet each market’s specificities.

Reto said they have seen a gradual take-up of bookings right after the product’s soft launch in all South-east Asian markets as well as in India, and expects demand to further grow towards the year-end holiday season as travel restrictions ease across Asia.

He added that given Switzerland’s reputation as “an extremely reliable and safe destination”, they are projecting an “over-proportional buy in” into these packages.

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