Switzerland to take its show to New York

New York is to be at the centre of a new Presence Switzerland campaign

Presence Switzerland, the government-backed body, which promotes Switzerland abroad, has given the green light to its United States showcase for 2003.

This content was published on March 4, 2002 minutes

Under the title "Swiss Peaks - the Best of Switzerland in New York", 11 projects aim to give New York a Swiss makeover in Spring 2003.

"From the economic point of view and because of our interests, New York is an important place to be present," Johannes Matyassy, head of Presence Switzerland, told swissinfo.

The choice of the Big Apple as the showcase's venue is in line with Presence Switzerland's strategy of influencing opinion leaders such as politicians and journalists.

"Our aim is to build up networks and be sure that within these networks there are opinion leaders, who are well informed about our country," says Matyassy. "Our idea is to intensify bilateral relations between the two countries. They are good but you always have to maintain this level and take care of friendship."

Yodelling and dairy herds

But as well as building relationships, Presence Switzerland hopes to show that there is more to the alpine country than yodelling and dairy herds.

"We want people to say they are surprised [by what they see and experience]," Matyassy says. "On the one hand you have the traditional Switzerland which is known and on the other hand we will have events that show the surprising Switzerland."

Giant cheese fondue

"Swiss Peaks" has been in the pipeline for a long time and last year Presence Switzerland announced it was planning to milk Swiss stereotypes by having a giant cheese fondue and a chocolate fountain as part of the festivities.

But along with scaling the face of the Empire State Building, these eccentric plans were shelved following the devastating events of September 11, when two hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Centre.

Matyassy says the terrorist attack along with the threat of anthrax forced Presence Switzerland to rethink their plans. Some of their ideas were no longer possible due to new restrictions and higher insurance premiums.

Four main areas

However, the Big Apple campaign has now taken shape and is organised into four main areas - Arts, Education, Lifestyle and Business, with different Swiss organisations running various events.

For example, Switzerland Tourism plans to set up a model railway in Grand Central Station, where more than five million commuters will get the chance to see a miniature working model of the Glacier Express and Brünig cogwheel railway.

Under the "Education" rubrique, Presence Switzerland hopes to bring 15 underprivileged school children to Switzerland as part of a cultural exchange.

Big budget

Such high profile PR does not come cheap. "Swiss Peaks" has a budget of SFr 2.5 million ($1.47 million), almost five times as much as the UK campaign and 170 times more than the French one.

The costs however are shared between six different Swiss organisations, which are all using the Big Apple's festivities as a platform to promote their particular interests.

For example the Swiss cultural body, Pro Helvetia, contributed SFr 400,000 and is hosting a number of arts projects such as an Adolf Wölfli exhibition in the American Folk Art Museum.

Matyassy believes that by pooling the resources of the different organisations, "Swiss Peaks" will be bigger and better than first imagined.

by Sally Mules

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