Ritu Sharma, Deputy Director, Switzerland Tourism, tells Nichola Pais that new brand ambassador Ranveer Singh has spiked year-round interest in Switzerland
It is most Indians’ dream to visit Switzerland and luxuriate in its beauty. What has the growth been like over the years?
India and Switzerland have always had strong ties and we certainly intend to continue keeping this bond strong in the future as well. Switzerland has always been the favourite romantic destination for Indians thanks to Yash Chopra and Bollywood, who have been showing the snowclad mountains, the lush green valleys and the glacial lakes of Switzerland in their films since the 1970s. We have always had a sustained growth of overnights from India since we started counting the figures from India in 1999 from 165921 overnights to 739,185 in 2017. However, 2017 was a bit of an exception – with an increase of 23.4% in overnights generated out of India. This was definitely influenced by our brand ambassador Ranveer Singh whom we signed on in August 2016. The reason we decided to get Ranveer on board is that with his energetic, outgoing personality, we thought he would be the best to showcase the not so well-known side of Switzerland. Switzerland is known throughout the world as a perfect destination for active travellers whether it is in winter or summer. But in India, it was seen mostly as a romantic and a family destination to be visited in the summer months. We wanted to also showcase the other segments like adventure, culture, food and wine as well as winter and autumn as seasons. And Ranveer has been the perfect medium as he showed the adventurous side of Switzerland to our Indian travellers. The trends show that we have Indian travellers now travelling all-round the year and is no longer restricted to one particular season. They also travel to more varied destinations and want to experience more rather than the only visit.
What are the factors that influence Switzerland’s popularity with different travellers?
Switzerland lives up to all the expectations of the traveller. The Swiss Travel Pass is a key USP and makes FIT travel very easy. Ticket holders can access all scheduled trains, boats and buses, essentially making the entire public transport system one big hop-on hop-off travel experience. Children up to 16 years travel free of charge together with their parents. The Swiss Travel Pass also gets you free entry to 500 museums as well as discounts on mountain excursions. Swiss cities are like boutique towns – easily navigable, close to nature with a unique quality so Indians love staying in cities where you have all the comforts of a city but just a few minutes away from the mountains and the countryside.
What is the range of special experiences Switzerland offers to varied tourists?
We offer an array of amazing experiential activities such as paragliding, skydiving, canyoning and bungee jumping or wonderful trails for cycling and hiking. Even just enjoying our many lakes and rivers is great fun and doesn’t cost you anything. The lakes and rivers are perfect for swimming, boating and many other fun activities. For the cultural traveller, we have museums focusing not just on art but also on the transport system, FIFA and Charlie Chaplin. Switzerland also has some great food and wine owing to its location in the middle of Europe, surrounded by France, Italy and Germany. And of course, we have our glaciers and mountains where you have snow throughout the year like Jungfraujoch, Titlis and Glacier 3000 which can be enjoyed by all age groups. For winters, our new product, the ‘First Ski Experience’ is specifically created for guests who want to try their hands at skiing but have not experience or equipment. All is provided at one point of contact from the ski equipment, outfit, instructor to the ski pass. From our last trip with Ranveer at the Lake Geneva Region, destinations like Montreux and Lausanne offer amazing landscapes, activities and culinary experiences for guests who want to explore Switzerland off the beaten track. Explore the UNESCO world heritage Lavaux vineyards, Chaplin’s World (the home of Charlie Chaplin in Vevey) or Glacier3000 with its peak walk and alpine luge. We have something for everybody.