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Swiss kiss: Agents get the Switzerland Travel Experience in Toronto

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Toronto got a Swiss kiss on Tuesday (May 28) as Switzerland Tourism hosted travel advisors at the third edition of its Switzerland Travel Experience, a Canada roadshow that, this year, involves 17 Switzerland-based partners.

Held at the tourism board’s headquarters in downtown Toronto, the trade show and networking event – which concluded with a sky-high cocktail party, complete with a raclette station, at Sky Club – welcomed roughly 40 travel pros, who were invited to mix, mingle and make valuable Swiss connections.

“There’s quite a variety of partners here. We’re representing all parts of Switzerland,” said Oliver Weibel, director for Canada at Switzerland Tourism, speaking to PAX at the cocktail soirée.

Several brands from Switzerland were spotted on the scene yesterday, including representatives from the Swiss Travel System, Zurich, Basel, the Lucerne-Lake Lucerne region, Mount Titlis, Mount Pilatus, the Luzern-Interlaken Express, the Interlaken Holiday region, the Jungfrau Region, the Schilthorn Cableway, the Lake Geneva region, the VALAIS Matterhorn region, the Gornergrat Railway, Zermatt, along with team members from Switzerland Tourism.

The bustling afternoon gave members of the travel trade an opportunity to meet with Swiss partners one-on-one, ask questions, and set up potential strategies for future bookings.   

The travelling roadshow, which started in Montreal on Monday (May 27), comes following the recent launch of a new Toronto to Zurich flight with SWISS.

Switzerland’s flag carrier, a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group, began non-stop service between Zurich and Toronto on May 10 and will run five times weekly.

Speaking on the new flight, Weibel was confident that it will “boost the summer period” for Canadian arrivals in Switzerland.

Canadian arrivals increase

Switzerland is home to four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romans. In a way, it’s like visiting four different countries in one place. 

READ MORE: “Grape Escapes,” trains & more Canadians: Switzerland Tourism hosts “Suitcase Party” in T.O.

From the glacier-encrusted Swiss Alps to world-class ski resorts to 65,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails, visitors have a dreamy menu of travel experiences to explore.

And it appears Canadians are seeking out their own piece of Swiss bliss. The arrival numbers are seeing a positive trajectory, Weibel said.

From left (of HeatWave Travel): Reza and Kayvon Salkhordeh. (Pax Global Media)

Last year, Switzerland saw roughly 312,000 overnights stays from Canadians, representing a 13.1 per cent increase over 2019 levels, he said.

Canadian arrivals in January this year were up 10.3 per cent over 2023, and for Q1 overall, there was six per cent growth, Weibel said.

Switzerland travel trends

Canadians are also spending big bucks (or Francs) during the trips. In a previous interview with PAX, Weibel revealed that the average Canadian visitor drops around 290 Swiss Francs ($436 CAD) per day, per person.

“They’re mostly staying at four and five-star hotels,” he said.

Visitors also tend to loop Switzerland into a multi-destination itinerary that may include other countries, such as France or Italy, Weibel said.

From left: Michael DeGrace, Air Canada; Sherif Sedhom, Lufthansa. (Pax Global Media)

The biggest change in travel habits, in recent years, has been the number of visitors booking Switzerland during the shoulder season, Weibel said, noting how last September was a record month.

The tourism board is betting on a strong winter season. For ski and snowboarders, Switzerland accepts both the Ikon and Epic passes, which are multi-resort, multi-day access programs.

See Switzerland by train

Switzerland’s trains are also an eco-friendly way to get around. Among its many rail routes is the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, which visits more than 10 lakes and covers five UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Others include the GoldenPass Express, which connects Interlaken with Montreux, the Glacier Express through the Alps from Zermatt to St. Moritz, and the Gotthard Panorama Express, which offers a combo of boat and train, transporting guests from urban Central Switzerland to Mediterranean Ticino.

The best way to see Switzerland is via the Swiss Travel Pass, an all-in-one ticket that allows travellers to see the entire country by rail, road and waterway.

The pass includes perks, such as unlimited travel on premium panorama trains, free admission to more than 500 museums, mountain excursions and discounts on other activities.

According to Switzerland Tourism, sales of the Swiss Travel Pass are up 179 per cent, with more than 60 per cent of Canadians choosing train travel.

“You can reach 87 per cent of the country by train,” Weibel said.

The Switzerland Travel Experience will take its partners on an immersive trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake today before heading to Calgary on Thursday (May 30) and concluding in Vancouver on Friday (May 31).

To learn more about Switzerland Tourism’s resources and training for travel advisors, click here.


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