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Lake Geneva region targets bigger ME numbers

Andreas Banholzer, Director of Vaud Tourism Board, Switzerland talks to Charmaine Fernz on the importance of the Middle East market and plans to boost tourism numbers from the region….

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Andreas Banholzer, Director of Vaud Tourism Board, Switzerland

Recent statistics from the regional tourist office state that the Lake Geneva region attracted close to 2.8 million tourists in 2016. These numbers include approximately 95,000 tourists from the Middle East region, highlighting its growing importance. Andreas Banholzer, Director of Vaud Tourism Board, Switzerland gives Travel Bulletin Middle East an overview of the region and plans being adopted to boost awareness in the Middle East and grow tourism numbers.

Just glimpsing through some key highlights of the region, a fact to reckon with is that Lake Geneva boasts the biggest lake inside the country within Europe. The region is surrounded by the towns of Lausanne and Montreux and should not be confused with Geneva. The two towns are also famous among Middle Eats travellers who are an important target segment.

Market overview

Tourism to the region has been on the increase with global numbers rising in 2016; a big part of the overnight stays however comes from the domestic market within Switzerland. The next in line are the European counterparts coming in from France, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The Lake Geneva region has a huge French influence so does attract a substantial number of French tourist.

The long-haul market would consists of visitors from the United States of America, India and China. Russia is another big market and tourist prefer the Lake Geneva region due to its close proximity. The Middle East region is of importance to the Lake Geneva region not just for the mere number of tourist which amount to 95,000 for 2016. The Middle East tourist are also known for their long overnight stays which amount to an average of approximately 3.5 nights as compared to other tourist, who stay for around 1.9 nights. The target for 2017 is to touch the 100,000 number for this region.

Going as per specific country, tourist from Kuwait stay for around 4.2 nights while the other GCC country visitors stay for over three nights on an average. This is an important indicator for the region as it shows that tourist from this region don’t just come for the weekend but stay longer periods. The average spend of the Middle East tourists are also high which is on an average 420 Swiss Francs per day.

The Lake Geneva region has also welcomed new hotels and capacity coupled with new sights. The most active markets from the GCC are Saudi Arabia and UAE which are the bigger numbers, followed by smaller markets like Kuwait and Oman. There is also a substantial number of Qatari tourists coming into the region.

Strategizing Ahead

Shopping in Lausanne

The tourism entity working in close co-operation with Switzerland Tourism. In light of the importance of the Middle East market, investments into promotions of varied kinds has been increased. Travel events such as the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) along with Switzerland Tourism is just one of the activities followed by on-site visits and road shows to keep the travel agents and tour operators updated with the latest happenings

Social media and the use of a PR agency is another route adopted for boosting awareness. Constant traction of the market has resulted in the tourism authority recognising a change in the way people are travelling. There are a lot of travellers booking online or directly to an airline or hotel. Many of these travellers are by-passing the traditional way of using a travel agent or tour operator. There is a rise in social influencers not just in the Middle East but also globally. Riding on this trend, the tourism authority has engaged social influencers to promote the brand and talk about new developments.

The Way Ahead

Catering to the Muslim tourism in the towns of Lausanne and Montreux is no issue with its list of hotels that offer halal food. Several restaurants around the region also offer halal food with some hotels also providing other facilities.

With all the facilities in place, some of the new attractions of interest are the Charlie Chaplin Museum. It is known that Charlie Chaplin lived the last 25 years of his life in Manor House, Verve, along with his family. The place is very close to Montreux. Another attraction in Lausanne which is due to open in 2017 is the biggest sweet water aquarium in Lausanne. This will be the biggest in Europe. The region will also host the 2020 Youth Olympic Games.