You know why you've been thinking about taking your next meeting or incentive to Switzerland. It's beautiful, it's safe, and you know exactly what you will get: excellent and reliable service.
But maybe you've been worried that it might be a bit too perfect? Nothing to excite your group? Nothing to write home about? Too expensive? You couldn't be further from the truth.
Zero in on the western (and French-speaking) part of Switzerland and you will be astonished at all of the exciting activities you can include, all the fun your group can enjoy, and all the memorable sights they can see, within an environment that still guarantees all the performance standards you can set: The Lake Geneva Region, on the shores of Lake Geneva, facing the Swiss and French Alps, encompassing the cities of Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux. And Switzerland gives more value for your dollar than ever before--literally. The value of the Swiss Franc has gone down against the U.S. dollar in the past year, meaning Americans will appreciate a 20 percent gain in buying power.
The region's access is superior, with flights to Geneva International Airport from 80 destinations and excellent train service from Zurich Airport, as well as easy access from the rest of Europe by train on the French TGV, from Paris; or the Italian fast-speed train, the Pendolino, from Milan.
The climate is mild, even in winter, and summers are warm but pleasant, with no humidity. And, did you know that the Canton of Vaud, which encompasses the Lake of Geneva Region, is the third-largest wine-growing region in Switzerland? Whole villages are decked with picturesque vineyards.
Though each of the major cities of the Lake Geneva Region has its own office of conventions and tourism, the Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office can offer the meeting or incentive organizer a centralized information desk to obtain information on any destination in the region. Tell them what kind of event you have in mind, and they can coordinate bids, arrange site inspections and promotional materials, and aim you in the right direction toward the most appropriate facilities and services, without bias. They will save you numerous overseas telephone calls and faxes. (See last page for contact information.)
It is not hard to answer the question: Why Geneva? One of the world's leading venues for meetings, conventions, and exhibitions, Geneva has done it all. It has the facilities, infrastructure, and services to ensure delivery of a meeting or incentive that runs like a Swiss watch: to perfection. It is also home to the Lake Geneva area's international airport, with direct flights to and from 80 destinations worldwide. Transfers to town take just 20 minutes.
Geneva is the European headquarters of the United Nations and the Red Cross, and home to 54 international banks and at least 30 multinational corporations. In 1998, it will host more than 20 international conventions. What this means to you is good hotels, more than 1,000 restaurants (four with Michelin stars!), lots of shopping, and splendid sightseeing.
Large congresses here use the PALEXPO (968,000 square feet of exhibit space and conference facilities for up to 11,000 in 20 rooms); the new Geneva Arena (a multipurpose auditorium for up to 6,500 persons); International Congress Centre-CICG-(20 meeting rooms and exhibition space for up to 1,800 delegates--very high tech); or larger hotels' meeting space, such as the 410-room Noga Hilton, with space for 800, and the new, 270-room President Wilson (part of the Kempinski group, it reopened in 1995 after a major renovation and boasts a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, which nicely seats 850 for dinner).
For the largest events, the whole region works together to accommodate delegates. The International AIDS Congress, held in Vancouver in 1996, next year will bring 12,000 visitors to Geneva. Within the city, conferences and incentives favor the lakeside hotels overlooking the famous 140-meter-high Jet d'Eau fountain: High-level executives will be impressed by the elegant character of the Hotel d'Angleterre, part of the Westin/Demeure Group, or the Hotel du Rhone. Also on the lake are the Hotel des Bergues, Hotel de la Paix, and Hotel Beau-Rivage, all five-star properties. Closer to the PALEXPO are the 350-room InterContinental, which can accommodate 700 persons theater-style for meetings, and the Crowne Plaza, with 305 rooms and meeting space for up to 250 theater-style.
SMALL AND PERSONAL However smartly cosmopolitan, Geneva is still a small city, with a population of only 178,000. It has all the attractions and amenities of a large city with none of the bustle and brusqueness. Yet, Geneva's richness of choices enables it to hold the interest of any group for a sustained period of time. Business groups might wish an introductory seminar on the famous Swiss banking system, a conference by a specialist in economics, or a visit to a local industry (high tech, watchmaking, chocolate manufacturing, dairy processing, etc.). A group can learn about Geneva's peace-keeping, humanitarian role in the world or its advanced social welfare system.
FULL OF FUN Geneva is as viable for incentive groups as it is for meetings that are strictly business. Backed by stunning mountain scenery, its low-rise, turn-of-the-century skyline is complemented by its recreational possibilities, including paddle steamers on the lake (with lunch and dining options); sailing, all summer long; and-lately-in-line skating along the lakeshore. Lake Geneva, the largest freshwater lake in Europe,is channeled into a river-like flow through the city, its promenades joyous gathering places for local citizens and visitors alike on pleasant afternoons and romantic evenings. Where it reaches the city symbol, the Jet d'Eau (plume of water) rises day and night right out of the water like a proud bird--a beautiful sight indeed.
Go a short way out of the city and you will find medieval castles, ideal for candlelight dinners; vineyards with enticing wine cellars; skiing in winter; golf (on 50 courses!); hiking; climbing; mountain biking in the Jura, followed by a cheese fondue in a mountaintop chalet; river floating on the Arve River, from the French border through six rapids down to the center of Geneva; panoramic flights over the Alps in a renovated DC3 or around the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in a light aircraft; or hang gliding from the Saleve Mountain with instructors. Montreux is nearby; Gruyere and Gstaad are also less than an hour away. It is easy to take famous and gorgeous train rides via the Golden Pass, Jungfraujoch, or the Glacier Express; or to visit Annecy; or to spend a day in Lyon, France. Try a murder mystery on the Orient Express arranged by destination management company MCI, headed by Roger Tondeur, who was elected 1996 Member of the Year by the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives. Take a cocktail cruise from Geneva to the medieval French village of Yvoire, where the streets are too narrow for cars, and your guests can dine on the freshest of fish in a restaurant set in the old ramparts overlooking the lake. Have a garden party and barbecue at the Polo Club. Throw a theme party at Arthur's nightclub (one of Europe's largest). Or hire the Ariana Museum of Pottery for your event. Younger groups will enjoy the Casting Cafe, an American-themed restaurant packed with memorabilia.
Dine at the old manor house restaurant in the elegant Parc de la Grange, on the lakeshore, or the Domaine de Plein Vent, a beautiful old home owned by an antique dealer; it seats 100. Work in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. Or work all day and have fun in the evening. Visit one of the city's 30 museums. Listen to an open-air concert or attend the opera at the Grand-Theatre (where there is a breathtakingly beautiful function room with a high, gilded ceiling, exquisite frescoes, and a delicately inlaid wooden floor).
The medieval walled part of Geneva, with its antique shops, art galleries, and typical bistros, has good dine-around restaurants ranging from the very traditional, like Les Armures, specializing in fondue and raclette, to modern hangouts such as La Clemence, great for people-watching. This year, a group of 3,000 will take over the entire old town, using a set menu in all the restaurants, allowing them to choose where they want to eat.
Geneva Tourism has excellent publications with even more descriptions of options and arrangements to keep your group busy and happy all day and all night long. Contact them for more information. (See phone and fax numbers at bottom of next column, or last page for address or Internet address.)
INCENTIVE PACKAGE GENEVA 1997/1998 6 DAYS/5 NIGHTS Rates for this package are guaranteed in Swiss francs (based on an exchange rate of Sfr 1.30 to U.S. $1), per person, double occupancy, for a minimum of 20 persons. One free person per 20 attendees. Any additions or changes to the basic package will modify the overall cost.
High season (now through October 31, 1997; April 1 - October 31, 1998): Five-star property:Sfr 1,540 (US $1,185)
Four-star/superior property: Sfr 1,075 (US $827)
Low season (November 1, 1997 - March 31, 1998):
Five-star property: Sfr 1,335 (US $1,027)
Four-star/superior property: Sfr 960 (US $739).
Includes: * Five nights' accommodation in double room
* One-hour wine and cheese welcome party
* Daily Swiss breakfast buffet
* Two dinners at the hotel: one welcome dinner (three-course menu with coffee), one farewell gala four-course menu with wine and coffee)
* City sightseeing tour
* Half-day excursion to Montreux/Castle of Chillon
* Service, taxes, and VAT
Options: * Tour of the Geneva countryside with wine tasting
Sfr 49 (US $38)
* Rafting on River Arve
* Sfr 51 (US $40)
* Ski and fun day in the Alps
* Sfr 150 (US $116)
* Dinner with Swiss folkloric entertainment
Sfr 76 (US $59)
MEETING PACKAGE GENEVA 1997/1998 3 DAYS/2 NIGHTS Rates are guaranteed in Swiss francs (based on an exchange rate of Sfr 1.30 to US $1), per person, double, minimum of 20 persons.
High season (now through October 31, 1997; April 1 - October 31, 1998): Five-star property: Sfr 875 (US $673)
Four-star/superior property: Sfr 650 (US $500)
Low season (November 1, 1997 - March 31, 1998)
Five-star property: Sfr725 (US $558)
Four--Star Property: Sfr595 (US$458)
Includes: * Two nights' accommodation in single room
* Welcome wine and cheese party
* Two buffet breakfasts
* Four coffee breaks
* Two three-course business luncheons with soft drinks, tea/coffee
* One three-course dinner with soft drinks, tea/coffee
* Two days' use of conference room, including basic equipment and mineral water
* Service, taxes, and VAT
Lausanne is the pleasant, modern city that everyone would like to live in, and it is known the world over as the seat of the International Olympic Committee. It is also home to the Bejart Ballet, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and about 20 museums covering such subjects as photography, fine arts, decorative arts, and Roman history. Its mix of climate, landscape, and cultures, along with extensive public parks and pedestrian areas, has attracted the famous, from Rousseau and the romantic poets, to today's modern bankers, financiers, consultants, and manufacturers. Bobst, GBM Mechanic, Logitec, Elca Informatique, Suisse-Atlantique, and the European headquarters of Alcoa International, Grace, Kodak, and Philip Morris are all here. Lausanne stands at the crossroads of Europe, only 35 minutes by car or 43 minutes by rail from Geneva Airport. It is an important train intersection for Europe and connects by boat with many lakeside resorts, including Evian, France.
Lausanne's old town and cathedral (Switzerland's largest) stand witness to seven centuries of history.
A MAJOR GATHERING PLACE Lausanne is one of Europe's foremost congress towns. Its major hotel partners for meetings and incentives are the Hotel Beau Rivage Palace, Hotel Lausanne-Palace, Hotel Movenpick-Radisson, Hotel de la Paix, and Hotel Royal-Savoy. The city's Beaulieu Congress and Exhibition Centre's congress hall seats from 650 to 1,300 persons, while its lecture hall can hold up to 700. The Atlanta Auditorium has capacity for between 3,000 and 7,250, and the Athenes Theatre seats 1,850. The total exhibit space is 1,560,990 square feet.
In September, Beaulieu opened its new third floor, specifically designed for events for up to 630 participants: The Forum, elegant and sophisticated, with natural lighting combined with the warmth of wood, has the latest PA, lighting, and projection equipment and modular rooms for "tailor-made" service. It has three plenary rooms for 200 to 626 persons, one modular room divisible into three for 70 to 350, ten breakout rooms for 40 persons each, and a business center. A major find for meetings executives has been the new Olympic Museum, which opened in 1993. Its elegant yet modern setting, in a beautiful park, allow visitors to relive in lively, interactive formats the entire history of the Games, from ancient times to the present. The facility has a video library, a 160-seat auditorium, and five meeting rooms.
TRULY SPECIAL The Lausanne Tourist Office and Convention Bureau, which acts as the destination management company () for the city, can organize gourmet dine-arounds, a medieval candlelight dinner in a historic castle, a typical Swiss dinner in a charming restaurant, winery tours, art lovers' tours, a lakeside barbecue, a car rally, and a trip on the Orient Express or the Jungfrau Glacier Railway.
OLYMPIC INCENTIVE PACKAGE - 1997/1998 Available only through the Lausanne Tourist Office and Convention Bureau (see last page), this six-day, five-night package at Sfr 1,432 (US $1,102) for a five-star property or Sfr 1,088 (US $837) for a four-star, superior property, includes the following:
* Five nights in twin-bedded room; daily Swiss buffet breakfast
* Roundtrip transfer to and from Geneva Airport by deluxe motorcoach
* Olympic welcome and farewell dinners at hotel with wine/coffee, table decoration
* Olympic walking rally, cocktails at the Olympic Museum, and prizes for winners
* Full-day excursion to Zermatt
* Service, taxes, and VAT
Rates are guaranteed per person in Swiss Francs for a minimum of 40 persons. Changes to the basic package will modify the overall cost.
There is more than one reason why Montreux, "The Pearl of the Swiss Riviera," will lure your meeting or incentive to its shores.
The first is certainly its natural setting, with remarkable views of the Swiss and French Alps, miles of flower-bordered promenades along Lake Geneva, and a wonderfully mild climate. Even in winter when days may be overcast, temperatures reach the 50s.
The Montreux Convention & Tourist Office acts as a destination management company as well, bringing years of knowledge and experience to managing your meeting.
EASY ACCESS A PLUS Meeting executives express enormous pleasure at the simplicity of getting their attendees to Montreux from Geneva International Airport. From the plane, passengers take an escalator down to the train for a 50-minute ride, which is so pleasant, the scenery so refreshing, and the cost so little, that there is little reason to schedule (and pay for) motor coaches or limousines. Hotels are close to the Montreux train station when they arrive, most within a one- to two-block radius. For the group that prefers the service and convenience of motor coaches or limos, the drive is short and pleasant as well. From Zurich Airport, attendees can take the train to Montreux or drive--a two-and-a-half hour journey.
EASY MEETING The Montreux Convention & Exhibition Centre, which is managed by the Montreux Convention & Tourist Office, contains many multi-functional areas for meetings, congresses, banquets, and gala events and is frequently used in combination with the many nearby hotels when convention groups have larger space requirements. Groups often use the Convention Centre's Stravinsky Auditorium, with its exceptional acoustic and architectural features. The center hosts many prestigious international events, including the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival. An addition has increased the center's exhibition space to almost 200,000 square feet.
INCENTIVE PLEASURES Montreux is a resort city of ancient lineage, making possible unique incentive events, such as dining at a local castle or on a lake cruise (perhaps a jazz cruise?), bike or rail rallies, or dining and gaming at the Montreux Casino. Many groups use Montreux as a departure point for excursions throughout Switzerland, including Berne, Zermatt, and the majestic peaks of the Matterhorn, Interlaken, and the Jungfraujoch (the highest railway station in Europe). You can even arrange to visit Italy and France.
INCENTIVE PACKAGE 1997/1998 This six-day/five-night Montreux Incentive Package is available only through the Montreux Convention & Tourist Office, depending on availability (call them at 011 41 21 962 8484, or fax 011 41 21 963 2895).
For Sfr 1,375 year-round (US $1,058), based on an exchange rate of US $1 = Sfr 1.30, at a five-star property, or Sfr 1,143 (US $880) at a four-star property, you receive:
* Five nights' accommodation in double room
* Roundtrip motorcoach transfer to and from Geneva Airport
* Welcome wine and cheese party
* Welcome dinner (three courses with wine/coffee)
* Five Swiss buffet breakfasts
* Sightseeing tour of Montreux; visit to world-famous Castle of Chillon
* Excursion to medieval village of Gruyeres, home of the cheese
* Full-day excursion to Zermatt and Matterhorn
* Dine-around in Montreux
* Excursion by Crystal Panoramic Train to Gstaad
* Farewell dinner in a mountain restaurant, including wine/coffee
* Service, taxes, and VAT
These rates are guaranteed per person in Swiss Francs for a minimum of 40 people.
INSURANCE CONFERENCE PLANNERS COMMENT Switzerland is full of surprises. One is, the country definitely is not boring. "People tend to underestimate Switzerland," says Susan Alpert of International Travel Incentives in Santa Ana, CA. "They don't know about the variety of things to do, the warmth and hospitality of the people, or the breadth of the scenery. They don't know about the wonderful venues and events."
The Lake Geneva Region of Switzerland is especially surprising because its cities are each so accessible and so intertwined that it is hard to choose among them. All conventions are not held in Geneva and Lausanne; all incentives are not held in Montreux. Groups choose the city that suits their needs (or their fancy) as a headquarter location and proceed to fly, float, train, bike, hike, or sail freely among the others, having fun along the way.
NO HITCHES Sandy Miller, marketing services manager of Central Mutual Insurance Companies of Van Werth, OH, took 190 qualifiers to Montreux last September for two reasons: One of their agents, who lives nearby, strongly urged the choice, and the Montreux Convention & Tourism Bureau and Montreux Palace Hotel knocked themselves out to get the meeting. "They did everything for us," says Miller. "It was a very good experience. Everything went perfectly--without a hitch.
"Montreux was a good motivator. Lots of people had heard of it and others wanted to go back, so we got good response. We scheduled something for every day. One day, the walled city of Gruyere, famed for its cheeses, was blocked only for our group. The residents held a parade with carnivals and music. Another day we visited Gstaadt and had lunch at the Gstaadt Palace. For an evening event, we had a dinner cruise on the lake. We also visited Lausanne and had lunch at the Beau Rivage Palace hotel and visited the Olympic Museum. I only regret that we arrived at the museum late, when we had little time and people were tired. It's worth doing just that. Don't just squeeze it in.
"One day of our program is always Central Fantasy Day," Miller continues, "when attendees get to do what they want. From Montreux, we gave them first-class train passes to anywhere in Switzerland for the day." Many of the participants went to Geneva to visit the United Nations or just have a look at the famous water fountain, Jet d'Eau.
SHELTER ME Harold Noble, manager, sales promotion for Shelter Insurance Company of Columbia, MO, was a little nervous when he took his first group on his own to Geneva for an incentive in 1995. The choice had been made by a senior executive and he thought of the city as having a very "political, banker, high-roller atmosphere," not the kind of environment usually chosen for an incentive. He was worried about finding banquet facilities for his group of 750--with good cause. (The newly restored President Wilson Hotel, which now accommodates 800 for dinner, was still a boarded-up ruin then.)
Once again, Switzerland held a surprise. Geneva was so, well, French. It was a "one-of-a-kind experience," says Noble. It had enough things that the participants wanted to see and do, including day trips to Chamonix and Mont Blanc and Annency, a medieval village. And for the farewell evening, the 750-person group took over the village of Yvoire, France on a crystal-clear June evening when the snow-capped slopes of Mont Blanc shone in the moonlight enchanting all. It was, however, not an anticlimax when the fireworks went off, choreographed to customized tapes of Carmina Burrana and music from the movie Christopher Columbus 1492. The audience was thrilled.
Was Switzerland expensive? "It was the most expensive incentive we ever had. We took the most people. It was also absolutely wonderful," says Noble. Costs included running constant shuttles from the two hotels, the Noga Hilton and the InterContinental, to downtown Geneva. It was done up right and it did what it was intended to do: motivate.
HARD CHOICES Sandy Cutrone, president and CEO of European Connections in Roslyn Heights, NY, recommends doing a site inspection of all three cities--Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux--to see what each offers for your program and then narrowing down the choices. "Geneva is the only city for some programs; it's larger and has more to offer, including the PALEXPO, but look at Lausanne and Montreux, which are more manageable, with more walk-around areas.
"When I propose Paris and Monte Carlo as venues, I always put the Lake Geneva region in there. I know that, ultimately, they will be satisfied and will come back and say, 'It was wonderful. It was just right.'" She describes the Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office as "So efficient--it shows what should be done all over."
Susan Alpert of International Travel Incentives in Santa Ana, CA, is currently proposing Montreux to a corporate client and has also used Geneva and Lausanne for her meetings. She feels that people underestimate Switzerland. "They don't expect the wonderful venues and events, and the warmth and hospitality they find. It has so many of the characteristics of France or Germany, so much to do, such breadth of scenery."
Alpert planned an upscale, eight-day incentive program for 90 people in Lausanne last year and says that the prices are fair for Europe. She has also chartered the Orient Express to different destinations in Europe.