Last updated: 09:43 AM ET, Tue September 22 2015

Switzerland Opens Swiss Travel Mart in Zermatt

Destination & Tourism | Switzerland Tourism | James Shillinglaw | September 22, 2015

Switzerland Opens Swiss Travel Mart in Zermatt

PHOTO: The Matterhorn overlooks the proceedings at this year’s Swiss Travel Mart, the first to be held in Zermatt. (Photo by James Shillinglaw)

Switzerland Tourism officially opened its biennial Swiss Travel Mart (STM) in Zermatt on Sept. 21, the first time the event has been held in a mountain destination. STM had been held in such cities as Bern, Geneva and Lucerne in previous years.

More than 1,000 delegates have descended on this picturesque Swiss town, which is dominated by the famed Matterhorn. Participants include 500 tour operators and travel trade journalists from over 50 countries, as well as 350 Swiss suppliers representing the entire range of the country's travel and tourism products. They are meeting in newly constructed mini-chalets in the outdoors, while events are being held on the streets and paths of Zermatt itself.

This year’s STM comes as tourism from the U.S. to Switzerland is surging, with overnight visitors from the U.S. up 5.5 percent in the January-July period this year, compared with the same period last year, according to Alex Herrmann, director-Americas for Switzerland Tourism.

Herrmann noted in part that’s due to a much better exchange rate, with the value of the dollar against the Swiss franc rising 3.1 percent from the same time last year and 4 percent since 2012. Top destinations for U.S. visitors are, in order: Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, Basel, and Zermatt, with Lucerne and Zermatt leading in leisure visits by U.S. travelers.

Herrmann said Switzerland also is benefiting because it has tourism products that answer the latest travel trends, with visitors focused on pre- and post-river cruising, active travel, wellness, scenic train journeys and family travel, among other forms of travel. The country also has benefited from major media coverage over the past year in such consumer publications as The New York Times, AFAR magazine, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Traveler, among other media outlets.

Switzerland also has seen strong results from its campaigns promoting the “Grand Tour of Switzerland,” a 1,000-mile drive tour using a GPS, and the “Grand Rail Tour of Switzerland,” which uses the country's excellent rail system and scenic trains to explore key destinations in Switzerland.

Separately, during a brief ceremony attended by the North American delegation to STM, Switzerland Tourism named the winners of the Gold Flower Awards for North American tour operators, including Alpenwild, Travel Bound and Tours Altitude. The Gold Flower Award, which is given out every two years at STM, rewards innovation, a high level of professionalism and outstanding cooperation in connection with the operators' Switzerland products.

“Visits from the U.S. and Canada to Switzerland have been increasing for over five years in a row, with a 6 percent increase in overnights from the U.S. for this year alone," said Herrmann. “The innovation and commitment of our tour operator partners in the market helped make this happen, and we want to reward some of our best partners with this year’s Gold Flower Award."

Alpenwild won the award for its expertise on Switzerland, especially its carefully designed hiking itineraries. The award was presented to CEO Greg Witt. Travel Bound won for its integration of the “Grand Tour of Switzerland" theme into three new itineraries, enabling individual guests and groups to travel across the country to visit key sites and attractions.

Tours Altitude, a Canadian tour operator, won for its programs featuring Swiss ski resorts and for offering innovative new itineraries. For example, the company added two new ski resorts, Arosa and Lenzerheide, to its portfolio in 2015.

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