Switzerland Switzerland

SWITZERLAND: Elusively Understated

Switzerland has been a favourite among the world’s elite for decades, bestowing upon them the luxury of its picture-perfect scenery, opulent accommodation options and top-quality products.

Yet, the country still shelters plenty of well-hidden gems.

“Switzerland is world-famous for its chocolate, cheese and clocks; but look beyond the age-old clichés and there is even more to discover,” assured Marion Talbot, director, public relations, Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva.

Mirroring her conviction was Laura Amanzi, director, marketing and communications, Park Hyatt Zurich, who stressed that even as a small country, Switzerland offers diverse opportunities to discover culture, events, dining, sports as well as various activities which are both unique and exclusive, perfectly fulfilling the needs of the world’s elite.

The main challenge is that global travellers often know too little about the destination, according to Nina Mueller, co-founder, Cosa Travel Switzerland, who further explained that for this very reason, unusual experiences are often overlooked by both tourists as well as tour operators.

“Soft adventurers can do a walk on eternal ice, the glacier next to the Jungfraujoch, choosing the level of risk they want.

A more challenging adventure can be some of the world’s best canyoning in Ticino, where you also find one of the clearest waters,” she enthused.

“Very exquisite is also the opportunity to make the Jungfraujoch train stop where there is no stop, so guests can get out of the train and enter an old mining tunnel, walk through it and end up in the middle of the Eiger-Nordwand, where you have a spectacular view of the top of Europe which usually only the bravest climbers have,” shared some insider tips Mueller.

For those looking for off-the-beaten-track gems, there are plenty of hidden secrets, insisted Mueller, listing natural underground lakes and a church built by acclaimed architect Mario Botta on the top of Monte Tamaro Mountain among the must-visit attractions.

Yet, according to Astrid Heitz, director of sales and marketing, Le Grand Bellevue, today’s guests also seek authenticity in their travel experiences, thus, the hotel’s special fondue backpack and cheese making programmes with local farmers.

Recognising guests’ desire for lifetime memories, W Verbier included a special treat for adrenaline-seekers in its winter programme – a chance to enjoy a ski or snowboard ride alongside world-class snowboarderÉEmilien Badoux, revealed Pierre-Henri Bovsovers, general manager, W Verbier.

Family experiences with a slight educational input are also in demand, pinpointed Melanie Horn, director of sales and marketing, Gstaad Palace, adding that nevertheless, the country’s untouched natural beauty also remains a major
drawcard.

“Being amidst Switzerland’s most stunning and authentic mountain region makes Gstaad Palace also very popular for city dwellers and those who live in countries with much less healthy and natural resources,” she said.

In line with this, Baur au Lac in Zürich now serves honey from its very own beehive.

“The hive is housed in a mini version of the Baur au Lac and contains 80,000 Apis mellifera carnica bees […].

Because bees collect nectar and pollen from blossoms within a 5.6km radius of their hive, the honey harvested will be local Zurich honey that guests can enjoy with their breakfasts or buy at the hotel kiosk,” explained Carole Baumann, director of sales and marketing, Baur au Lac.

Yet, it is not only the nature that makes Switzerland so alluring to travellers but also the high standards.

“Since the beginning of this year we changed our service regulations,” said Amanzi, explaining that the hotel is now even more committed to offering personalised services.

“Our staff is trained to behave authentic and to adapt to each guest and to each situation individually,” explained Amanzi.

Similarly, Baur au Lac has introduced SuitePad Tablets, a digital concierge that provides a wide range of information and services.

The hotel also teamed up with Zurich Airport to provide bespoke experiences from the moment guests touch ground.

Apart from adults, youngsters are also being pampered and at Gstaad Palace they are invited to enjoy a new playground made of natural wood, as Andrea Scherz, general manager, Gstaad Palace revealed.

The property has also recently renovated its banqueting room for some CHF1.6 million (USD1.66 million).

At Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola guests can benefit from with larger rooms, an enhanced wellness area and a new restaurant, disclosed Ivan Zorloni, general manager, Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola.

Finally, when it comes to luxurious Swiss novelties, one cannot miss to mention the upcoming Grace St. Moritz, due to open in mid-2018.

“In addition to a boutique hotel, [Grace St. Moritz] will also be an exclusive new residential address, which is extremely rare for St. Moritz.

The hotel will offer 56 rooms and suites, including 17 private serviced apartments,” elucidated Marco Novella, chief operating officer, Grace Hotels.

Mueller confirmed, “Switzerland is becoming more and more an upcoming destination for all markets; Arabs, Chinese, the US but also Europeans – there is so much to be discovered and so little has been seen.”