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Scenic Switzerland drawing more Singaporean visitors

Switzerland is increasingly becoming a favourite travel destination for Singaporeans. Ivan Breiter, director, South-east Asia, Switzerland Tourism, who is based in the Embassy of Switzerland in Singapore, shares some of the many attractions that his country has to offer.

Cool off in the refreshing waters of Swiss lakes in the summer.

Try a day of skiing in the winter.

Train travel can be made easy with a single ticket, using the Swiss Travel Pass.

Take part in a watchmaking workshop.

The Business Times: What are some of the new Swiss tourism offerings that would be of interest to Business Times readers?

Ivan Breiter: The Swiss way of travel is by Switzerland's excellent public transport system, the Swiss Travel System.

With one single ticket, the Swiss Travel Pass, you can use the services of more than 400 transport companies in Switzerland, travel by train, bus, and boat.

So hop onto the lake steamer, take a scenic panorama train and go by tram or bus to the open-air concert or to the cute chalet restaurant on top of the hill to admire the sunset.

Now, it is even possible to transport your luggage from hotel to hotel. So you just leave your luggage at any hotel in Switzerland before 9 am and you will have your luggage by 6 pm waiting for you in the room at your next hotel.

This is an offer that is useful for leisure and business travellers alike. This is what I call hassle free travel.

Or have you ever wanted to make your own Swiss watch, Swiss cheese or Swiss chocolate?

We have put more than 700 guided tours in Switzerland together for you on ranging from wildlife encounters to culinary tours with locals in our cities.

Learn about the healing effects of our native herbs or conquer a 4,000 metre high peak with crampons, ice axe and a certified Swiss mountain guide.

The Business Times: Why should Singaporeans consider Switzerland for their next holiday destination?

Ivan Breiter: A vacation in Switzerland means quality time in all aspects and for all ages - from the awe-inspiring landscapes that will be engraved in your memory for a life time, to the world-famous Swiss hospitality and the top quality hotels, transport companies, excursions and adventures.

Even our rivers and lakes have drinking-water quality - so you may discover our cities by swimming in or around them.

Swiss food is not only chocolate and cheese - did you know that we have one of the densest network of Michelin Star restaurants in the world and that every canton/region has its own food specialities.

And where else can you have some quality shopping time in the middle of an Unesco World Heritage site?

The Business Times: Which are the top five tourist attractions in Switzerland?

Ivan Breiter: Famous landmarks such as the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, the Jet d'eau in Geneva or the Abbey Library in St Gallen.

For mountain excursions, go up to the eternal snow on Mount Titlis, to the Jungfrau-Joch or to Glacier 3000.

Indulge in outdoor activities such as downhill biking and hiking as well as river rafting and paragliding.

Scenic train excursions include the Glacier Express, the Golden Pass Line, Bernina Express or the Goldenpass Line.

Shop at the famous Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, under the Arcades in the old town of Berne or at the famous outlet shopping malls such as Foxtown or the Landquart Fashion Outlet.

The Business Times: How many people from Singapore go to Switzerland every year for holidays? Is the number going up in recent years? What is their average length of stay? And how much do they spend per person? What are their preferred places of visit in your country?

Ivan Breiter: Since we opened our regional office in Singapore in 2012, the annual overnights from Singaporeans in Switzerland grew from 110,000 overnights to 150,000 overnights last year. This year, we are having an incredible year so far with a double-digit growth in numbers.

Previously, guests from Singapore used to go only to a few famous places in Switzerland but we see in the last few years that Singaporeans now venture to some of our lesser known gems such as the Ticino, the Valais or to Eastern Switzerland.

This has a direct effect on the average length of stay that rose over proportionally. The average stay is about four to five days now, but we see more and more travel itineraries that are going for two full weeks to Switzerland.

The average spending is above S$400 per day per person. This includes the shopping expenses - often, Singaporeans combine the purchasing of their dream watch with a luxury holiday in my beautiful home country.

The Business Times: Is Switzerland a great holiday destination in the autumn or winter? And if so, why?

Ivan Breiter: Autumn - it is probably my favourite travel season. The air is crystal clear and allows for views from the mountain tops that are just incredible. The leaves in the forest changing from green to fire red, the vineyards become golden - and this is the time when we bring down the cows, nicely decorated, from the Alps, share the cheese and indulge in seasonal specialities such as fresh mushrooms, venison and of course seasonal deserts with prunes, pears and apples.

Winter starts with the Advent - the pre-Christmastime, with the famous Christmas markets, the millions of lights that decorate the medieval towns, with the wafting smells of cinnamon, ginger bread and candle wax.

In the mountains, the snow is towering up and you can do horse sledge riding through fairytale landscape, go down an ice channel with a bob sledge, try a day of skiing with one of our ski instructors or just go out with the kids and make your own family snowman.