A positive outlook for Asia

Batiste Pilet is the new director for Switzerland Tourism South-east Asia. He hails from China, where he last led the organisation’s thrust into Greater China. He talks about his next new challenge.

Are there any observations of the Chinese longhaul traveller that will come in handy when developing South-east Asian arrivals for Switzerland?
One important take-away is that, in an ever-changing environment, you have to embrace change and adapt for survival. China approved outbound travel to Switzerland in 2004, and in 2019 it became our third top foreign source market. To tap this potential, our marketing strategy has constantly evolved – channels have gone digital and media have gone social.

Along the way, the travel trade has consolidated and, most importantly, our customers have changed from group to individual travellers and their destination pursuits have shifted from attraction discovery to deep experiences.

Since entering South-east Asia in 2012, the number of overnights has doubled. The region is now Switzerland’s top 10 foreign source markets.

Switzerland is now a well-established destination. To pursue growth, we have to diversify our customers by identifying high-potential niche segments for which Switzerland has a unique proposition.

Switzerland has always been considered to be a friendly destination for the Chinese. How does Switzerland fare in terms of friendliness for South-east Asian travellers, which are so diverse in demographics?
The legendary Swiss hospitality was, since the beginning of modern tourism, a decisive factor for choosing Switzerland as a travel destination. Guests want to feel heartily welcomed. Our customers want to see the beautiful sights and have an immersive experience with the culture and people of the country they visit.

Such soft factors seem to be especially important for guests from South-east Asia. In a recent study, many guests choose “warm-hearted people”, “family-friendliness” and “pleasant atmosphere” as the main reason to travel to Switzerland.

Travel confidence is improving on the back of a global vaccine roll-out. How does this impact Switzerland Tourism’s destination marketing for longhaul Asian markets?
Incentive travel planners will promote destinations that are clean and safe. This means Switzerland needs to showcase our proven track record of having successful tourism safety concepts, and to communicate that the population is vaccinated and travel in Switzerland is safe and possible again.

We will showcase this through familiarisation trips, several workshops in South-east Asia hosted together with the embassies, promotions with the media, and communications with corporate clients and travel planners.

Is Switzerland Tourism stepping up on South-east Asian MICE trade engagements this year to prepare them for a resumption in long-haul travel and events?
Yes, we have maintained several activities to keep MICE trade partners informed and ready for the time when travel is possible again. We have conducted several hybrid events to showcase Switzerland and they have resulted in additional business in our pipeline.

For 2H2021, we have prepared a whole bouquet of activities for incentive planners, but we will not reveal too much just yet.

For South-east Asian incentive planners looking for something fresh in Switzerland, what top three ideas would you recommend?
Well, that depends on the season. Incentive planners can experience nature differently in Switzerland throughout the year.

In Spring or Summer, I would recommend that groups take our newly renovated steamboat, Stadt Luzern, down lake Lucerne and enjoy visions of cherry blossoms.

Autumn is the best time to appreciate the grape harvest in the vineyard terraces of UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Lavaux.

Come winter, make a beeline for the Jungfrau region for a ski experience. Incentive winners can also touch the snow at the Top of Europe, which the Jungfraujoch railway station is known, as it sits at 3,454m above sea level and is the highest point in the continent.

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