Selling Switzerland to Indian travelers with Federer’s charm and trains
How does Switzerland continue to look for newer ways to market the beautiful destination creatively? Ritu Sharma, deputy director, of Switzerland Tourism shares how the Indian traveler is important to the destination brand.
When it comes to marketing a destination to Indian travelers, Switzerland has been ahead of the curve for some time. The country has been touting its treasures for some time and has become a favorite shooting destination for Indian films, which has subsequently helped it become the most favored destination within Europe for Indians.
Switzerland Tourism, the destination-promoting organization, has a long-standing association with India, having opened its first office in Mumbai in 1997. Since then the brand has used a combination of global and local campaigns to engage and entice Indian travelers.
Marketing Switzerland to the Indian traveler
“The baseline of travel to Switzerland is to encourage travelers to enjoy nature up, close and at first hand, to experience the local culture authentically, consume regional products and to stay longer and delve deeper,” shares Ritu Sharma, Mumbai-based deputy director of Switzerland Tourism.
Sharma says to ensure its relevance to Indian travelers, Switzerland Tourism continues to communicate different aspects of the country through its various campaigns. One such campaign starred the destination's "friendship ambassador" Neeraj Chopra, an Indian sports icon and Olympic gold medalist, who helped promote the country's spectacular landscapes and outdoor spaces, we well as promoting the multitudes of adventure activities available across Switzerland.
Sharma says the association performed very well. Switzerland Tourism tries to tap into themes that resonate with Indians, such as food to promote the location on an ongoing basis. Sharma says Switzerland celebrated “Swisstainable Veggie Day” last year to coincide with ‘World Vegetarian Day’ by collaborating with numerous restaurants across Switzerland to prepare seasonal vegetarian meals and promote these to travelers – particularly vegetarians. “It was all about celebrating healthy, fresh local vegetables and again, sustainability was the prime focus here,” says Sharma.
Federer returns yet again for Switzerland Tourism
A significant play in the destination brand's marketing playbook has been the launch of a special Swiss Travel Pass promotion, which aims to encourage travelers to stay longer and give them more time to explore the country, Sharma believes this will be particularly attractive to Indian travelers.
The Swiss Travel Pass promotion is part of the brand's latest global marketing push, ‘The ride of a lifetime’, which showcases the stunning landscapes available to passengers on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, one of the most famous parts of most itineraries of travelers to Switzerland.
The campaign, which was directed by Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper, features tennis legend Roger Federer, who is also the global brand ambassador of Switzerland Tourism, along with Trevor Noah, international comedian and best-selling author, both playing themselves in the ad, within an ad.
It is the third time Federer has fronted a Switzerland Tourism campaign, with his previous co-stars including Hollywood icon Robert De Niro in 2021 and actress Anne Hathaway in 2022.
While a destination country rarely promotes train travel as the anchor for a major campaign, however, the idea here was to highlight the fact that the Swiss Travel System makes it easy, convenient and comfortable for travelers to enjoy their rail travel, shares Sharma.
The sumptuously shot film showcases the ease and efficiency of the Swiss Travel System and highlights the famous panoramic rail routes that combine to make the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland, she adds.
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Why is marketing the ‘Grand Train tour’ a big deal for Switzerland Tourism
The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is quite the journey for all rail buffs - it merges all the country’s panoramic lines into one breathtaking route and can be done all year round. Shares Sharma, “Covering a distance of 1,280 kilometers, the tour takes passengers through the most charming Swiss cities to Alpine hotspots, through UNESCO World Heritage Sites and past world-famous sights and landmarks and requires only one single ticket: the Swiss Travel Pass.”
Interestingly, the Swiss Travel Pass - an all-in-one ticket valid across all modes of public transportation in Switzerland, is very popular among Indian tourists, and they are in the top two or three buyers of this pass worldwide, according to Sharma. Thus, promoting a train tour with the Swiss Travel Pass is key to the destination’s marketing strategy in India, she adds.
What is the Indian traveler looking for
Indians, like most travelers, have had a change in the way they are traveling post-pandemic. There is a lot of new-found appetite for local culture, food, history and people.
Shares Sharma, “They are looking for experiences that are exciting, unique and longer-lasting, which is exactly what this tour offers.”
Other than that, there is a growing young target audience for whom the idea of a vacation is evolving. She adds, “They look to being active and engaged on a holiday across seasons – destinations and attractions that go beyond the usual clichés are much sought after by this group.”
Switzerland Tourism has been on a good wicket as per Sharma. “After reopening in 2021, we witnessed double-digit growth and we are hoping for a 100% recovery to our 2019 numbers by 2024,” she says.
The tourism industry continues to be Switzerland’s leading important economic sector and employs around 4% of the working population of this tiny but beautiful nation.