Martin Nydegger, CEO of Switzerland Tourism: “Swisstainable” Travel

Martin Nydegger, CEO of Switzerland Tourism

Hello Martin, what are 3 takeaways you hope our readers will know about Switzerland Tourism?

Switzerland is a year-round destination. Every season offers a different travel experience and is worth experiencing.

Switzerland offers an amazing public transportation system which makes travelling around the country very convenient. The best part of this: on trains, busses, boats and cable cars, all well-known destinations as well as off-the-beaten-path hidden gems can be reached and discovered.

Switzerland being a first-class travel destination offers best value for the money with very attractive fares on public transportation and many all-inclusive packages in destinations.

It has been 5 years since you have become the CEO of Switzerland Tourism, how has the journey been thus far?

When I started we were in the middle of an intense period of growth from Asian guests. It was an exciting time with the challenge of having new offers ready for new groups of guests. Then came the global pandemic, and we quickly learned that the diversified portfolio of source markets we had established before was what would help us through the pandemic. Coming out of it we’re dealing with new preferences of our quests, such as sustainable travel, which holds great potential for Switzerland. So, my first five years have been a rollercoaster ride, with challenges and highlights, and I’m looking forward to continuing this exciting journey.

The pandemic has adversely affected the tourism industry, which saw the industry lose more than US$935 billion in revenue, how has the Swiss tourism industry performed during this tumultuous period?

The diverse portfolio of source markets was crucial for Swiss tourism during this time. When all borders were closed we still could rely on the very strong backbone of Swiss travelling in their own country. Due to Switzerland being a country renowned for being a safe and clean destination it quickly gained the trust of the first travellers within Europe. By the end of 2022 Switzerland’s tourism is almost back to its pre-pandemic level, only with mostly Asian guests still missing. We’re very happy to see that travellers from Southeast Asia have picked up very quickly with already up to 85 per cent of the 2019-level and with a potential to catch up or even overperform 2019 in 2023.

What travel trends have you observed during this exceptional period?

Most importantly we have realised that Switzerland doesn’t have any problem with its offer. As a tourism destination, it has always been and will continue to be a bucket-list item where people dream of going. We were delighted to learn that the love for travel is untamed. As soon as borders are opened, people start travelling again. And this is even stronger than before, as they have a lot of catching up to do. Nevertheless tourism has changed: guests travel less frequently, but stay longer, and preferably in one country. Plus tourists are looking for sustainable ways to travel — a big chance for Switzerland, as we have a very strong sustainable offer.

What were some lessons learned from this pandemic period and how did it alter Switzerland Tourism’s approach to promoting travel while keeping it top of mind for potential travellers?

Switzerland tourism stayed visible in all source markets, keeping visibility and taking care of relationships. Through this, we were able to stay top of mind with our partners and potential visitors to our country. Besides: showing solidarity and empathy helped strengthen the positive Swiss image. Our reaction to new ways of travel (workation, small groups, longer stays, sustainable travel) hasn’t been to “invent” new offers but to focus even more on the already existing strengths of Switzerland and to put them upfront.

From the stats you shared, the Southeast Asian market is recovering much faster than the other key markets, what are your plans for the region?

This year, we have expanded our presence with one full-time staff in Bangkok plus with the opening of a representation in Manila. Like this, we can be even closer to our partners and future visitors and better understand their needs. Over the course of the next months we want to solidify the growth from the SEA markets, by positioning Switzerland as a multi-fold, four-seasons destination, targeting families, outdoor sports enthusiasts, foodies and snow-lovers.

Being a region that has mixed economic growth, SEA’s luxury market is highly segmented. How is Switzerland able to cater to these diverse groups of travellers?

In each SEA market, we locally engage with a network of travel agents, media and communities who know their customers and followers very well. These partnerships help us make sure we are promoting the right products to the right people.

Apart from sightseeing, Switzerland’s been on the radar for couples to take their wedding photos and honeymoon, what are your views on Destination Weddings?

Wedding couple at Lac Retaud
Image: Switzerland Tourism

Destination Weddings is a niche market, but a very nice one. On the one hand, it deals with the most wonderful time of one’s life — and what better place to celebrate this than in one of the world’s most wonderful countries!

Second, because Destination Weddings is becoming increasingly popular, we are happy that Switzerland is a well-sought-after destination for this kind of travel. We believe Switzerland has a lot to offer with high-end and highly Instagramable venues, combined with smooth, high-quality and reliable service providers.

One of the initiatives that Switzerland Tourism has embarked on is “Swisstainable”, could you tell us more about this and why has the organisation decided to make this its new direction?

“Swisstainable” is a combination between “sustainable” and “Switzerland”, and is a program we’ve launched together with the entire Swiss tourism industry. There are many different sustainability programmes and labels, and at times it becomes difficult for travellers to understand which programme stands for what. Therefore, now every player, be it a destination, a mountain cable car or a hotel, who is engaged in any kind of sustainability program can join the Swisstainable movement. According to the status of his own programme, he will be a member of Swisstainable Level 1 (committed), Level 2 (engaged) or Level 3 (leading). And to strengthen that, we’re promoting all Swisstainable offers globally and ensuring that Switzerland will be perceived as one of the world’s most sustainable destinations.

What are your plans for Switzerland Tourism for the next five years?

We’ll focus very much on sustainable travel. By doing so we’ll balance our market mix with almost half of our guests being domestic travellers, and about 20 per cent of all visitors coming from long-haul markets — with the SEA countries being the most dynamic and increasingly important region. We’ll also make sure that guests will stay longer when in Switzerland and rely on our great system of public transportation. In short, we’ll grab all the many opportunities ahead of us, and we’ll make sure Switzerland stays one of the most desired travel destinations globally.

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