At the recent European supplier/buyer event, Torchbearers 2013, we met with Caroline Pidroni, director of sales/marketing with the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (SCIB). She highlighted an impressive list of modern new developments around the country, which are completely reimagining the Swiss meeting experience. Pidroni also emphasized how few countries can offer so much variety as Switzerland, so conveniently accessible for all types of meetings, incentive programs and mid-size conventions.
“Switzerland is often seen as a very traditional place, with things like the cuckoo clock, which isn’t even from Switzerland, along with chocolate, cheese, watches and all that,” she explains. “But at the same time, Switzerland is one of the most innovative countries in the world. So many things have been invented here, like the Internet in Geneva…. It’s really amazing what’s coming up in terms of new hotels and meeting facilities.”
In terms of business, Switzerland made it through the last five years following the recession and AIG in 2008 better than many.
“We never had a huge decrease because Switzerland is very stable, and in fact we even had a 2.7% increase last year over 2011,” says Pidroni. “We’re actually gaining some conferences because Switzerland has always been seen as a serious business destination.”
Adding to the value, the Swiss franc is still more favorable than the euro, and the North American market especially appreciates many of the freebie add-ons that the SCIB and its partners provide, like free transportation cards, free museum cards, free WiFi, etc.
Here’s a look at the slew of wildly modern event venues opening soon and on the horizon:
Swiss Tech Convention Center, Lausanne
The $225 million Swiss Tech Convention Center is scheduled to open in April 2014 as one of Europe’s most edgy and sustainable facilities for conferences. Located in Lausanne’s “Innovation Square,” the auditorium seats 3,000 delegates. But here’s the cool part. In 15 minutes, the seats can rotate under the floor to create a level surface, which then lowers to a flat plane for functions for up to 1,000 people. Lausanne is two hours from Zurich.
The 216-room InterContinental Davos Resort & Spa opens in Davos at the end of 2013, just 90 minutes by train from Zurich. The gold honeycomb covering is surrounded by thick forests overlooking Lake Davos. The top story is designed entirely for F&B space, which includes two private dining rooms. Altogether, there is 16,500 sf of meeting and function space, including a ballroom for 500 people. Stayed tuned for an upcoming “On Location” story next year.
Burgenstock Resort, Lucerne
This looks ah-maz-ing. The new $485 million Burgenstock Resort overlooking Lake Lucerne opens in 2015. There will be three hotels in one, perched atop a high mountain accessed via funicular or car. The setting has attracted celebrity weddings for years, which has long been occupied by a grand hotel, but the new resort is cutting edge in terms of design, sustainability and programming. Basically, you have a wellness resort and conference hotel rolled into one. Lucerne is one hour from Zurich.
The 160-room Waldhotel will be themed around medical health and advanced wellness. The 110-room Park Hotel is the 5-star luxury product for high-end incentive programs, and the 108-room Palace Hotel is a 4-star resort with 24,000 sf of function space. There’s also the voluminous 110,000-sf Burgenstock Alpine spa and 12 restaurants, all with staggering views of the lake. We’re keeping our eyes on this one.
Basel Event Hall
Opened this spring, the new Basel Event Hall is a beautiful pillar-less space designed by the legendary design firm, Herzog & de Meuron, based in Basel. The 36,300-sf space hosts up to 2,200 pax. Basel is one hour from Zurich.
The Circle, Zurich Airport
We’re a few years away but The Circle at Zurich Airport is going to be a major landmark when it opens in 2018, based on its design alone. The facility includes direct access to Zurich Airport’s great shopping scene, a new Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place with over 500 rooms, multiple event venues (the largest of which seats 1,500) and an immediate link to 200 international flights. For U.S.-based attendees, there are 85 direct flights to America weekly.