Tourists to receive warmer welcome
Switzerland Tourism, the national marketing organisation, has launched a new project to rid the country of its reputation for unfriendliness.
Four destinations are taking part in the “Enjoy Switzerland” project, designed to put a smile on the face of hosts and guests alike.
If Switzerland Tourism has its way, customs officials in future will greet visitors arriving at the border with a smile - and a chocolate - to sweeten the start of their vacation.
The organisation admits, though, that the Swiss tourist industry has its work cut out before it reaches that stage.
It launched the “Enjoy Switzerland” project a few months ago to combat the image - rightly or wrongly – of an overpriced destination run by unfriendly people.
“It is all about friendliness,” says Mauro Ghirardi, of Switzerland Tourism, who is heading the project.
“We want to ensure that wherever a tourist may go in the country, he is made to feel welcome and greeted warmly by whoever he comes into contact with.”
Value for money
Even with a weak Swiss franc, holidays at alpine resorts in neighbouring Austria (eurozone member) are often cited as being much better value for money.
To get the project off the ground, Switzerland Tourism is working with four pilot resorts, Scuol and Lenzerheide in the eastern canton of Graubünden, Zermatt in canton Valais and Villars in canton Vaud.
A visit by swissinfo to Villars revealed that the resort already performs well when it comes to ensuring customer satisfaction.
From the initial telephone enquiry regarding accommodation, to the restaurants and finally check out (see related item), service was excellent.
Ghirardi, though, defends the choice of Villars, as well as the other three locations which also have a reputation for good service.
“We had to choose destinations which already do things well,” says Ghirardi.
“They set an example for others and highlight areas that need to be improved,” he added. “No matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement.”
“We want to be the very best resort in Switzerland,” says Villars’ tourist director, Patrick Henry. “And we have to continually improve since tourists demand quality.”
Henry adds that the emphasis, in Villars at least, is on improving services in winter – by far the busiest time of year.
“During the high season, we notice that nerves become frayed because the queues at the ski lifts are long, or guests have difficulty finding a place to park their cars.”
As a first step, the pilot resorts have hired project managers. Kathrin Peterer, who is filling the hot seat in Villars, has already identified where investment has to be made.
“When you arrive by train, you can’t get your bearings because you don’t know where to get information, because there are no maps or signs directing you to the tourist office,” she says.
“At the hotel, information is not forthcoming; you have to ask the staff. And maps have to be more detailed.
“It’s important to get all the different service providers working together so the tourist is better oriented.”
Peterer says as one of the first steps she will be organising a series of forums and workshops on customer service which she hopes everyone working in the resort will attend.
“The livelihoods of everyone in the village depend on tourism, so it’s important to improve quality.”
swissinfo, Dale Bechtel in Villars
Switzerland Tourism wants to ensure that visitors to the country receive a warm welcome from everyone they come into contact with.
Therefore, the marketing organisation has also entered talks with, among others, the Federal Customs Office, Swiss international airlines, Zurich airport and Swiss Federal Railways.
Lenzerheide, Scuol, Zermatt and Villars were chosen from 20 applicant destinations to take part in the pilot project “Enjoy Switzerland”.
Switzerland Tourism has earmarked SFr2 million for the project, which runs until 2006.
Enjoy Switzerland compliments the “Quality” label awarded to companies guaranteeing a minimum of service standards in tourism (see related item).
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