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Searching For Open Spaces

Pascal Prinz, Director Canada & Trade Manager Central USA, Switzerland Tourism 

Although there is no date yet for when Canadian travellers can visit, Pascal Prinz, Director Canada & Trade Manager Central USA for Switzerland Tourism, says it’s a positive sign that the destination reopened for tourism from Europe and the UK on June 15.

As a new normal emerges, he foresees sustainable travel paving the way forward.

“We have to respect nature more and live in a responsible co-existence to also allow future generations to experience the wonders of our beautiful planet,” Prinz tells Travel Courier. “In my opinion, we as an industry have to walk the talk and put a real focus on responsible and conscious travel. Switzerland will continue to take its role as a leader in sustainable travel very seriously.”

When COVID-19 hit, he says the organization was gearing up to launch the “You need Switzerland” campaign in Canada, but shifted from the sales-oriented marketing to “Dream now – Travel later” to express their empathy until a date is know for when Canadians can vacation in Switzerland again.

“We had to pause, learn, be agile and flexible, adapt and postpone our activities to this fall,” he says. “Our research shows that adventure travel, luxury and FIT are the first segments who will travel again. We focus on these segments, which have already been crucial for us before COVID-19.”

Looking ahead, he says they are working full steam on recovery activities for October and points out that partnerships with valued travel advisors and tour operators are vital for success.

“We continue to heavily invest in them,” he says. “Currently, we have adapted to the new reality and started offering virtual sales calls. We can’t just be idle until this crisis is over. We have to be proactive and help our tour operators and travel advisors to meet with Swiss suppliers. They need to adapt to the new product and sales needs. We also train them on the strong safety procedures in Swiss destinations.”

As for challenges on the road ahead, he points to helping travellers feel confident to travel again.

“At the same time, after months of being stuck at home, Canadians are stir-crazy and can’t wait to be outside and see the world again. The second one is not having no clear date when borders will open between Canada and Europe,” he adds, noting that the Canadian Association of Tour Operators (CATO) has provided great leadership during this time. “Thirdly, travel is such an interconnected industry. All elements in the supply chain depend on each other. Therefore, coordination is crucial.”

Switzerland Tourism’s latest research shows that in a first step, there is a strong interest in domestic travel. In terms of needs, «safety», «few people», «hygiene/cleanliness», «safety measures against COVID-19», «COVID-19 case numbers» ranked highest.

“People are looking for open space and lots of nature where physical distancing can easily be practiced while enjoying a great vacation with family or friends,” he says. “Trust, human connection and value will be our new post-COVID 19 guiding realities. I’m convinced that travel advisors and tour operators are more important than ever. They will be the leading force in the post-COVID 19 world. With so much uncertainty, advisor’s expertise and connections are crucial in helping put future travellers at ease and stimulate our industry’s recovery. Advisors help their clients when they are in need. New flexible reservation policies give travellers peace of mind to adapt their plans if needed or if they get stuck abroad. This is a game changer. If travellers book directly online, they are simply on their own.”

In order to come out stronger on the other side, he recommends that agents keep in touch with their clients and utilize this time to do more training.

“Continue to make them dream of future travels. We have seen huge increases in our Switzerland Travel Academy e-learning program and our webinars,” he says. “A saying I learned during this crisis goes ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed.’ We have received lots of support from our great industry partners in Canada and Switzerland. On behalf of our team, I would like to express our gratitude and excitement to make Canadian’s travel dreams come true again soon.”

 Photo courtesy: Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Ernst Christen

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