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Mountain huts achieve milestone

The SAC huts are more like mountain hotels these days (milestone.ch)

The Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) has reached a new high, winning the top tourism prize at an awards ceremony in Bern on Tuesday.

The SAC's new marketing campaign was named "most outstanding project" for making its network of mountain huts more attractive to a wider public.

"The SAC has had the courage to redesign its huts so they are a counterpoint to their monumental mountain setting, without disfiguring the natural landscape," said the jury, which is made up of tourism experts from both the private and public sectors.

Reservations for overnight stays in alpine huts increased by about ten per cent in the first eight months of the year, compared with about five per cent for all Swiss accommodation over the same period.

The Milestone jury credited the SAC's new marketing strategy, "Mountain Experience", for spurring the growth.

"The dormitories with their familiar and well-worn army blankets are disappearing," the jury added. "The huts are beginning to resemble mountain hotels, meeting the needs of today's guests."

Among its most recent projects, the SAC is building a new-age hut designed by students at Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology.

The Monte Rosa cabin, located on the flanks of the massif of the same name at about 3,000 metres above sea level, is expected to generate 90 per cent of its own electricity, and accommodate 125 people.

Second prize in the outstanding project category went to the "Enjoy Switzerland" campaign, run by the national tourist office, Switzerland Tourism.

It financed efforts by four pilot resorts – Zermatt, Villars, Scuol and Lenzerheide – to improve customer satisfaction levels. Between 2003 and 2006, the resorts introduced a series of measures, including longer shop opening hours, the removal of graffiti, better signposting and employee training.

"In all four destinations, customer satisfaction demonstrably increased. Some service providers increased profits," said the jury, adding tourism awareness in the four places had also increased.

"Further destinations can profit from the experiences of the pilot resorts."

World Cup marketing

Weggis in central Switzerland came third for its successful bid to convince Brazil's national football team to hold its training camp in the town ahead of this year's World Cup finals.

The jury said the presence of the Brazilian team was more than an event in itself but a marketing coup that had made Weggis better known as a tourist destination.

A special prize, "Small and Creative", went to hotel director, Martin Vogel, of the "Märlihotel" (fairy tale hotel) Bellevue in the mountain resort of Braunwald.

A member of the "KidsHotels" association, the hotel is equipped with a lift that takes children through an aquarium. The director takes time each evening to read stories to his young guests.

Leo Jeker, director of the ski lift company in the southeastern resort of Savognin, was awarded the Milestone Life Achievement award, for his innovative ideas and engagement promoting tourism in Savognin and across the entire region.

Jeker's was the driving force behind the Cube Hotel, which opened in Savognin last year.

The new concept of the all-inclusive hotel helped stop the steady decline in bookings in the resort.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

Key facts

The annual Milestone prize is designed to promote innovation and increase competitiveness in the Swiss tourist industry.
It is sponsored by the Swiss Hotel Association, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and the Swiss Tourism Federation.
It was first awarded in 2000.
The winning entry in the "most outstanding project" category receives SFr10,000 ($8,000) in prize money.

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