Switzerland invites Chinese travellers to stay longer in the destination

The three-day-long annual Switzerland Travel Experience (STE) China 2023 held in Hong Kong last week drew 110 buyers and travel agents from Greater China, as well as 30 Swiss partners and suppliers.

Aside from Swiss suppliers conducting 15-minute sessions to introduce their latest products, the programme also included a gala dinner, and farewell dinner with games and teambuilding activities.

Switzerland is hoping to get visitors to stay longer and explore the country’s hidden gems; Lungern in Switzerland, pictured

Each day also focused on different markets. The first day was dedicated to Northern China and business events, the second to the Eastern and Southern China markets, and the last day focused on Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Switzerland Tourism’s CEO, Martin Nydegger, remarked that it was “symbolic” to be back in Hong Kong to reconnect with existing players and create new contacts. This was despite Switzerland Tourism keeping its tourism offices open during the pandemic.

He added that Switzerland is trying to “build a new form of tourism” post-lockdown, and aims to “drive more immersive experiences”, and get visitors to stay longer and explore the country’s hidden gems, beyond just visiting the main highlights.

Nydegger acknowledged that certain issues will also have to be tackled, such as the capacity for air seats, availability of hotels, and available visas for the Chinese market.

He pointed out: “We don’t want a thousand visitors staying for one night in our country. (We would prefer) 100 visitors for 10 nights, as it’ll be less hectic, and visitors will be able to enjoy Switzerland fully. It is also more cost-effective to stay longer in one country, and is better for the environment.”

On the sustainable front, Switzerland’s Swisstainable programme has already certified 1,800 local hotels, restaurants, excursions, railways, and others, into three levels. As such, Nydegger encouraged visitors to Switzerland to opt for train transfers and stay in hotels with the Swisstainable certification label to minimise their travel impact.

Currently, Hong Kong-based Miramar Travel is the only operator to offer a Swisstainable tour, available from now to October 31. The 10-day tour includes experiences like a bike tour in the old town of Bellinzona, health walking and picnic at Bachalpee, and accommodation in accredited environmentally-friendly hotels.

Alex Lee, general manager, Miramar Travel, said: “Based on our estimation, a tour group of 30 travellers generates 300 plastic water bottles (two bottles per hotel room per day) for a 10-night journey.”

To encourage visitors to make sustainable choices, he shared that the agency is offering a HK$200 (US$25.50) cash voucher to guests who bring their own water bottle for the trip, which can be redeemed at the group’s restaurants.

Overall, the Hong Kong market is expected to rebound to 50 or 60 per cent of 2019 levels, with China’s recovery pegged at 40 per cent in 2023 due to visa issues.

Aside from STE, the Switzerland Travel Mart will be happening this September, and the tourism board is planning to invite more than 500 stakeholders from around the world to meet with 500 local providers in Geneva. Buyers from Greater China would be able to return this time.

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