Sunny side up at St Moritz

Cross-country skiers skate by the castle in Silvaplana in Engadin St. Moritz

LEGEND has it that winter tourism was born in St Moritz in 1864. From December 2014 to March 2015 St Moritz, the Engadin and Switzerland are celebrating 150 years of winter tourism.

In the autumn of 1864, Swiss hotelier Johannes Badrutt made an offer to his last remaining English summer guests. Winter in the Engadin, he told them, was full of sunshine and much more pleasant than winter in England. He invited them to stay at his hotel to experience it themselves; if they were not satisfied, he would also pay their
travel expenses.

The English humoured the wager and turned up in the Upper Engadin in time for the Christmas season – and stayed right through until after Easter, leaving nicely tanned, rested and happy. They became the first winter tourists of the Alps and discovered a new world: sunny winter holidays in the snow.

150 years later Matthias Albrecht, GCC director, Switzerland Tourism, also explains the beauties of his country, but without the exciting wager. “Switzerland in the winter is very nice. The higher altitudes in the mountains have a lot of sun and clear skies.

“In the Middle East, the trend is to visit Switzerland in the summer, so we are now hoping to convince people here to experience Switzerland in the winter, not only for the skiing, but other winter activities like horse sleigh rides, tobogganing and really just for the change in the scenery with the snow-capped mountains,” says Albrecht. “You can even play golf in the snow!”

Part of our strategy here in the Middle East is to engage with travel agencies and tour operators to offer winter products and offer packages to customers, explains Albrecht. “We would like to reach out to agents with a serious interest in promoting winter packages in Switzerland. We will provide our winter holiday logo to include in their flyers and even assist them financially to a certain extent.

“We will be running a promotion at Ski Dubai the first three weeks in October and during Eid to promote the region, and offering a prize sponsored by St Moritz, offering a hotel stay for a family of four for seven days, including ski lessons with ski rentals and tours, and Swiss International Air Lines will sponsor the flights,” concludes Albrecht.