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Switzerland

#Meetingexcellence made in Switzerland

Business travel differentiates itself from leisure travel because it offers the delegates a unique experience they won’t get elsewhere. The delegates will have the opportunity to visit exclusive venues, meet local key figures in economy, sports or entertainment and have VIP experiences at the destination. Many travellers might not not even consider travelling to a certain destination for leisure, but after they visit for business and have this exclusive experience they are likely to come back for leisure.

The recent Meeting Trophy event organised by the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau demonstrated how Switzerland can help planners achieve their event objectives and what Switzerland has to offer for MICE. The Meeting Trophy event now was in its 13th year and is a well tested and established concept that encompasses all the elements of a successful event: planners visit multiple Swiss MICE destinations and discover unique opportunities for corporate events, learn about key economic sectors, get insights into Swiss history, culture and traditions.

Meeting Trophy 2017 – MICE in the Eastern part of Switzerland

From 29 June until 2 July 2017 I was in Switzerland for the Meeting Trophy event organised by the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau. In its 13th edition now, the yearly Meeting Trophy brings together international event professionals to compete in a series of tasks. These include both knowledge questions and sports activities with the aim of getting to know the different MICE destinations, as well as Switzerland’s history, traditions and culture.

This year, the event focused on the Eastern part of Switzerland, including Schaffhausen, St. Gallen, Flims – Laax – Falera and Zurich. Total of 8 teams and around 90 participants took part to compete for the coveted trophy. The teams were from North America, Belgium, Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Nordic Countries, Russia and my team, Germany.

Looking at the programme I knew some of the destinations because I lived in Switzerland for five years. And some locations I even visited myself. But I didn’t let it destruct my excitement and was open to new experiences. Luckily the organisers didn’t reveal the entire programme upfront and there were several surprises to expect!

Interlaken for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions

Interlaken is a resort destination in the heart of Switzerland. The little town in Bernese Oberland is located on an alluvial land between lake Thun and lake Brienz and is a getaway to the mountains. Its location and easy accessibility from major airports and business hubs such as Zurich, Bern, Basel and Geneva, makes it an attractive destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), and the proximity to lakes and mountains offer further incentive and team building opportunities.

Buyer and supplier relationship – the decision making process (part 1)

There is a lot of confusion about what the role of a Convention Bureau is, how to best approach them and work with them. In this month’s #EventPlannersTalk live event we were joined by Livio Goetz, Manager UK & Ireland at Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (SCIB) to give an overview about his role representing Switzerland oversees, their challenges and opportunities for event planners. The presentation followed by a panel discussion about the evolving relationship between buyers and suppliers and the decision making process.

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Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau is a marketing organisation and part of Switzerland Tourism Board. They help buyers to find destinations and venues in Switzerland or assist with finalising details of booked events, providing contact details or additional ideas. Planners who are pitching the destination to clients can request texts and images for free. Other services include site-inspections, arranging itineraries for site visits and travel bookings (through close collaboration with the national airline and national rail). Providing this range of services, the CVB is an intermediary rather than a DMC or an agency.

But there are few challenges SCIB is facing.

Exchange rates

Over the last two years the exchange rate to pound has been volatile and therefore it’s unknown how the pound will be at the time of the event. While it’s not a major challenge, it’s recommended bringing it to clients’ attention.

Relationship with local partners

As an intermediary, CVB is the first point of contact for clients who want to plan an event in Switzerland. The challenge is that the response time might be longer because there are many parties involved (Venues, hotels, restaurants etc.).

Positioning

Destinations within a destination (E.g. – in Switzerland there are 21 partner destinations) have different positioning and some prefer targeting association business and large congresses, while smaller destination will prefer to target small meetings and incentive. In such case, it can be a challenge to sell small-medium size events in certain destinations whose focus is on large scale events.

Short lead times

Lead times can be as short as 24h, putting enormous pressure on agencies and CVBs. CVBs who have representatives oversees usually have small teams of 2-3 representatives and don’t have the capacity to assist within 24h. Therefore it’s recommended to provide reasonable time frame to get back with all required information.

Brexit

The approaching referendum on 23rd June poses a question mark for future outbound MICE business from the UK. Hope is that in the long term the currency will recover and existing contracts will remain.

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Switzerland has an image of an expensive destination, but the good news is that there are ways to save money.

Firstly, high service quality can save planners money on the overall event because of reliable service and responsiveness throughout the event management process. Secondly, when hosting an event in Switzerland public transport is included in most destinations when there’s a booking confirmation from a hotel. Thirdly, Switzerland has the lowest VAT in Europe of 7.6%. Lastly, knowing when the peak season for MICE business is can save planners also money. In Switzerland, for example, strongest months for meetings are the lowers for leisure tourism and include March, May, June and November.

The advantage of working with a CVB is that they can offer their local knowledge and insider tips. For example, according to Livio most requests come from clients who want to go to big cities such as Geneva or Zurich but there are other destinations which are cheaper and also less than one hour away from major transport hubs.

To conclude, CVB can provide planners with enormous resources for free that can save time and money. The CVB is a neutral body that provides information free of charge and doesn’t get a commission on bookings, they don’t have preferred partners and offer a non-biased advice. But keep in mind, to get the most out of it and meet expectations it’s recommended to get in touch as soon as possible.

This is the first part of #EventPlannersTalk event, second part is coming soon.

Big thank you to Switzerland Convention and Incentive Bureau for sponsoring and supporting this event!

Photos by Sandeep Rai