The post Time to think “Swisstainable” at the Meeting Trophy 2023 appeared first on TD (Travel Daily Media) Travel Daily.
The Belgium team shrieked with delight as they were announced 2023 winners of the ‘Switzerland Meeting Trophy’. The announcement was made beside Lake Zurich, at ‘8008 See Lounge’s’ largest event space, the ‘Halle Shipyard’; boats (in mid-repair) were pushed to one side providing a unique urban city space for guests to enjoy the DJ, bars, buffet and decking area from which to watch the sun set on three action-packed days.
Competing teams from the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Nordics and North America, comprising of around 70 meetings & event planners, were tasked with taking on a series of challenges and experiences, carefully curated between St. Moritz and Zurich, by the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (SCIB).
Why mention the winners in the first sentence, I hear you ask? Whilst kudos most definitely goes to the Belgium Team, it is time to throw-in some age-old clichés: ‘it is not about the winning but the taking part’ and ‘it’s all about the journey, not the outcome’. And what a ‘Journey’ it became with trains, boats, e-bikes, e-vehicles and cable-cars assisting participants to discover two regions of this diverse and cinematically beautiful country.
“Having not been to Zurich or St. Moritz before, the Meeting Trophy was a great way to experience them and sample activities that I could offer my corporate incentive groups. Spending time with the regional CVB’s in each location meant we could chat and learn more about the destination in a far more relaxed environment, than sitting across a table in a conference hall” stated Rhian Morgan, MICE Manager, Abercrombie & Kent
Now in its 17th year, the ‘Switzerland Meeting Trophy’ encapsulates why SCIB, under the umbrella of Switzerland Tourism, continues to be a trend-setter, innovator and even disruptor within the field of tourism. This is especially pertinent when it comes to ‘Sustainability’ and their ‘Swisstainable’ strategy, which has become the blue print to Switzerland’s long-term travel future.
On arrival at Zurich Airport the slogan “I need Swisstainable, I need Switzerland” was everywhere, reminding travellers of their responsibilities, but also the country’s investment in preserving nature, their greatest asset for future generations.
Taking to the rails
Our adventure began on the rail tracks heading out from Zurich main station, circuiting part of Lake Zurich before transiting at Chur.
Rail travel is a big deal in Switzerland, not only do the Swiss travel more by train than any other nation in the world, but it is also home to the highest railways station in Europe at the Jungfraujoch in the Canton of Bern at 3,454m. It is also world famous for the Glacier Express & Bernina Express; whilst we were not seated upon the ‘Bernina Express’, we boarded a duo of private carriages, one of which was called ‘Stiva Rustica’ (Rhaetian Living Room) to carry us on the same ‘Albula’ route between Chur and St. Moritz, courtesy of our Swiss Rail Pass. This rail line has UNESCO World Heritage status and for good reason, with trains carving a snaking path via spectacular mountain landscapes which cut through some 55 tunnels and across 196 bridges, the most famous of which is the ‘Landwasser Viaduct’ traversing the Landwasser Valley, creating the first of our many outstanding Instagram moments.
Recapturing youthful memories of inter-railing, our group lowered carriage windows, to capture the train gracefully curving across the 142-metre-long, six-arched viaduct, before the train’s distinctive red carriages disappeared into the mountain tunnel, before reappearing into the light, just in time to see the 65-metre high stone pillars recede into the verdant flora and fauna.
Our train continued to climb over a 1,000 m in altitude, with each carriage window framing the pristine nature, only occasionally interrupted by chocolate-box villages marked by church spires and alpine cottages, before we finally reached St. Moritz.
On arrival at St Moritz Station, this famous and fabled year-round resort, enveloped participants with a sensory welcome of crisp alpine air, dramatic and monumental landscapes and turquoise lakes all set against the melody of cowbells.
Brand St. Moritz & Sun burst logo is the oldest tourism trademark still in use, their strapline is ‘Top of the world’ and certainly arriving teams felt exactly that emotion, as we were accommodated between the palatial ‘Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski’ and the boutique ‘Nira Alpina hotel’; the latter commanding fine views over Silvaplana’s quaint village and vast lake, with the imperious mountain peaks of Corvatsch, Julier and Surlaj, peering down from over 3,000m.
Nira Alpina’s low-rise architecture embeds itself within the landscape, offering 70 spacious and rustically charming rooms and event spaces. The hotel’s rooftop bar provided the platform for teams to introduce themselves and socialise with Swiss partners from across the country on our first evening.
The name St Moritz immediately conjures up images of mountain glitz & glamour, art-deco vintage ski posters, a resort synonymous with the ‘Cresta Run’, ‘Olympics’ and winter preserve of the elite ‘jet-set’ traveller. Located in the Upper Engadin Valley at a height of 1,800 meters, it is the birthplace of winter tourism in the Alps (1864) and has hosted two Winter Olympics (1928 & 1948). St. Moritz is divided into two parts, the ‘Dorf’ (village) and the ‘Bad’ (baths). It originally owes its importance to its mineral springs, to which people have been flocking for over 3,000 years and which did much to establish the village early on as a summer health resort.
St Moritz’s attraction to the well-heeled does not mean it is out of reach from all but the wealthiest. In fact the resort has evolved its image to attract a more youthful and diverse audience through year round activities from kite-surfing to hiking and a range of experiential events connected to fashion, art and design. Our challenges would touch on similar activities to re-imagine St Moritz, from an event planner perspective.
E-Bikes & mountain top challenges
A short walk from Nina’s Alpina’s spruce forest, we arrived into Silvaplana Village to pick-up e-Mountain Bikes, inaugurating a full day of challenges. Our grand cavalcade of bikers followed a tiny part of route ‘No.65’, a designated cycle trail running for 115km across the Engadine region; our water-based trail, ran beside ‘Silvaplana’ and ‘Lej Marsch’ lakes, subliminally referencing the ancient importance of mineral rich waters, which elevated the region to new markets. We deposited our bikes beside ‘Forum Paracelsus’, named after a 16th century physician who highlighted the therapeutic effect of the highly carbonated water, resulting in St. Moritz becoming a renowned spa destination, initially creating a ‘golden epoch’ of tourism towards the close of the 17th Century.
Via the Signal Cable Car, a series of challenges awaited us on the high above St.Moritz, in the heart of the famous ski and hiking area Corviglia. On the veranda of the ‘Salastrains Hotel & Restaurant’, our taste buds identified various Swiss cheeses. Beside the original Alpöhi hut, within which the Swiss family drama film ‘Heidi’ – based on the novel of the same title by Johanna Spiri – was filmed in 1952, our sense of accuracy was tested, as was our ability to locate Swiss items hidden within the landscape.
Further challenges followed within the cobbled streets of St Moritz village. Intrigued café patrons and waiters looked on as team upon team grouped together in one peaceful square to solve a puzzle depicting the ‘Swisstainable’ logo. Other missions included descending on a local patisserie to analyse the ingredients of the ‘Engadin Nusstorte’ (nut cake) and even to set-out a fine-dining table (correctly!) overseen by the maître d’hôtel within the five-star Kulm Hotel.
This legendary property, covets a 165-year history, which includes the founder’s (Johannes Badrutt) ‘bet’ with four English-guests in 1864, which led to the birth of winter tourism in Engadin-St. Moritz. Another claim to fame for the hotel, was that in 1879, Switzerland’s first electric light illuminated the Grand Restaurant, today forming a major part of the hotel’s events Portfolio.
A full and active day, culminated at 2,987m on the sun-terrace of ‘Berghaus Diavolezza’ in a high-alpine landscape; Alphorn players greeted guests, their backdrop the mighty 4000m peaks of the Bernina Range, with the Pers and Morteratsch glaciers at their feet. Groups can book the ‘Glacier Experience Trail’ to be even closer to nature and sleep the night at the Hotel within the mountain station Berghaus. Urs Eberhardt, Ambassador of the Switzerland Meeting Trophy, announced the mid-point results, Belgium were leading….
Road trip to Zurich via ‘Lindt – The home of Chocolate’
From the Kempinski’s revolving doors, teams appeared, selecting their electric vehicles which would provide the next leg of our journey. The UK Team’s ‘Polestar 2’ Electric vehicle, sat neatly in formation, alongside a fleet of EV’s courtesy of Europcar, another clear example of Switzerland’s sustainable credentials.
When it comes to epic road trips, Switzerland certainly delivers. Having already crossed viaducts by train, we now drove beneath their arches, before hugging hair-pin bends, as we zig-zagged our way through breath-taking views and natural sights. This included the emerald green lake of ‘Lai da Palpuongna’, a location hand-picked by the UK’s Team Captain & Head of SCIB UK, Reto Konrad, for a picnic break.
As mountain roads gave way to motorways, the cosmopolitan delights of Zurich became ever closer; on the outskirts of the city sits a true ‘Willy Wonka’ experience at ‘Lindt – Home of Chocolate’. It provided another team mission, tasting varieties of chocolate developed in the factory. The museum’s voluminous lobby includes a ‘Chocolate Fountain’ with 1400kg of chocolate cascading down per day. Opened in September 2020, the museum sits adjacent to the historic Lindt & Sprüngli factory, which dates back to 1899.
“The Meeting Trophy showed me just how ideal Switzerland is for my classic car tour incentives, especially our exhilarating drive between St. Moritz and Zurich” said French team member, Bénédicte Dufour, Co-owner – Cartisclassiccar.fr
Zurich marked the finish line…
With the sun bouncing off the shimmering Lake Zurich, we boarded our most serene mode of transport yet, a ‘Panorama’ boat exclusively chartered for our group, departing from Kilchberg. Lunch was served on the lower deck, before guests migrated to the observation deck to admire distant summer villa’s peppering the shoreline and fellow sail boats heeling in the wind.
We docked in the heart of the city-centre at Bürkliplatz; the Saturday flea market was in full swing and lakeside cafes thronged with sun-worshippers as the thermometer hit over 30°C. Our final challenges had been set within the old quarter of the city.
Under the shade of Zurich’s oldest church, St Peter’s – our task was to imitate a ‘Flag Choreographer’ as she expertly waved the unmistakable Swiss flag. Next up was Pétanque, played upon the leafy Lindenhof Square, famous for offering spectacular views of the old town, Grossmunster Church, City Hall, the Limmat River, the university and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
As Switzerland’s economic and scientific hub, Zurich might appear at first glance as serious or austere, but nothing could be further from the truth; alongside the historic, Zurich is a hive of creativity with the old industrial district evolving through new start-ups in fashion, art, culture and cuisine. Zurich’s viaduct arches built in 1894, now represent a new urban meeting place and shopping street with innovation at its core; much of which providing unique meeting and event spaces and venues.
With Lake Zurich and the River Limmat running through the old town, Zurich is also a city of sport. We signed-off our ‘Meeting Trophy’ experience, witnessing a rowing regatta from the historical bay window of restaurant ‘Zunfthaus zur Waag’, one of several guilded houses in the city dating to the 14th Century. In the distance, the Zurich City Triathlon was in full swing, the first triathlon in Switzerland to offset all CO2 emissions.
As we took the train back to Zurich Airport, Reto Konrad, summed up what makes his country so special:
“Switzerland is so compact, it is like a pocket-sized Europe, combining different cultures, landscapes, languages, experiences and even temperatures, across our small landmass, making it so attractive to MICE and leisure travellers. The Meeting Trophy is our unconventional way to inspire all you meeting & incentive planners and we think it works”.
………and who could argue with that!
The post Time to think “Swisstainable” at the Meeting Trophy 2023 appeared first on Travel Daily.