Interview: Pierre-André Gremaud on Switzerland’s bid to build GCC markets

Interview: Pierre-André Gremaud on Switzerland’s bid to build GCC markets

The Director of Communication and Marketing at Vaud Promotion wants to put Switzerland’s Canton de Vaud on the map for Middle East travellers 

Canton de Vaud is on a mission to make itself known to GCC travellers. Currently, most visitors from the GCC head for the Canton of Geneva and its state capital, but Vaud has much to offer. It’s Pierre-André Gremaud’s job to make GCC markets aware of this. Connecting Travel met with him to discuss his strategy and the key selling points travel agents should be aware of.

CONNECTING TRAVEL: What percentage of visitors to Vaud come from the GCC?
PIERRE-ANDRÉ GREMAUD: That depends which year you’re counting – 2019 was the best yet. Switzerland saw 74,000 overnight hotel stays with GCC guests – that’s about 2.5% of the total overnight stays, making it the ninth most important market to Switzerland. Domestic travel within Switzerland is the number one market, followed by other European countries, including France, Germany, UK and Belgium.

CT: What is the GCC market target?
PG: The target is to return to the numbers we achieved in 2019, and increase the market share in Canton de Vaud. Currently, most overnight stays are in Geneva, while Canton de Vaud is in fourth or fifth place in Switzerland.

CT: How does Canton De Vaud cater to GCC travellers?
PG: Many GCC guests travel in large groups with family and friends and we can accommodate that. We have a lot of luxury five-star hotels, many with interconnecting rooms.

GCC guests also love to drive themselves and Switzerland has a fabulous Grand Tour – a scenic road route around the points of interest across the country. Canton de Vaud is on the Grand Tour with the recommended stop Lavaux, which is a UNESCO site.

The view from the vineyards is one of the most beautiful sights in all of the canton

CT: What’s your marketing strategy?
PG: We are working with PR agencies; we have hired All Details for the GCC. For us, it’s important to have that visibility. And then we have our partnership with the umbrella organisation of Switzerland Tourism. They have representatives and marketing offices in each strategic market, and we can buy Key Partner Packages – at different levels and pricing, silver, gold and so on – to boost promotion. We also participate in some trade fairs and invite tour operators, media and influencers on fam trips.

CT: How do you measure the efficacy of influencer marketing?
PG: This is very, very difficult. Some people can influence their communities, their followers, and have a positive impact on the perception of a destination, especially in the GCC where people are very much into their mobile phones and Instagram. But influencers alone are not enough; you have to exert influence from other sources as well, for example, through articles on a website or a magazine. So, a person reads an article about the destination first, and then sees an influencer enjoying the destination on social media – and then they start to picture themselves there.

CT: What key selling points should travel agents convey when selling the Canton de Vaud?
PG:  Firstly, we have several five-star hotels. Then there’s the accessibility to nature – beautiful landscapes mixed with luxury and comfort. Lake Geneva is really the touristic highlight with its steamboats and paddle boats. You have Montreux and the promenade by the lake lined with flowers and palm trees. We have Michelin star-rated restaurants and local wine production; the UNESCO vineyards of Lavaux are comparatively small to those in other wine-producing countries and, as production levels are low, the wine is rather exclusive. We don’t export it – we drink it all ourselves.

We have the Alpine experience with mountains and glaciers and clean air, and the Grand Tour for motorists, which has electric car-charging stations all along the route. Canton de Vaud is also home to almost 60 international sports federations, including the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Museum. And, finally, we have a very low crime rate.

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