In spring 2015, Switzerland Tourism collaborated with National Geographic Traveler to develop the Switzerland Grand Tour microsite, highlighting 1,000 miles of railroad and highway journeys throughout the country. Switzerland Tourism is hoping to direct more long-haul customers to lesser visited destinations in an effort to extend room nights and drive new business to traditionally underserved regions.
In 2014, U.S. arrivals to Switzerland grew 3.7% over the previous year, but most of that was directed at luxury hotels in the iconic Alps destinations. The Swiss marketing team chose National Geographic Traveler to promote the Grand Tour to Americans, because they felt the media company was best positioned to combine the mythical allure of the European Grand Tour and the adventurous spirit of Swiss alpine tourism.
“We saw in various research papers this trend of touring is still one of the most important drivers for international travel, to explore a destination from one place to another in different forms,” says Alex Herrmann, director of the Americas for Switzerland Tourism. “At the same time, there’s a very long history of touring in Switzerland, starting over 150 years ago when Thomas Cook took one of his very first international tours to Bernese Oberland in the 1860s.”
The content for the Grand Tour microsite hosted on the National Geographic website was collected by Nat Geo writer Robert Reid during a two-week trip through Switzerland. The portal opens with a comprehensive map embedded with pins highlighting everything from the CERN nuclear research center in Geneva to a good place to buy bündnerfleisch jerky outside St. Moritz.
Below that, longer editorial content is categorized by Attractions, Activities, Food & Drink, Events and Transport, further supported by existing Swiss content throughout the National Geographic site. For the most part, Switzerland Tourism was completely hands off in the editorial development of the project.
“For this big collaboration with National Geographic Traveler, we didn’t give them a lot of guidelines, although we gave them some ideas,” explains Herrmann.
Switzerland Tourism then created its own crowdsourced content program called “Lights! Camera! Switzerland.” to drive visitors to the Grand Tour site. The tourism organization sent out a request for submissions on social media asking North Americans why they should win a trip on the Grand Tour and $10,000 spending cash.
From over 3,000 entries, the final 10 contestants were posted online for public voting and the winning couple was announced in June. They are now scheduled to host a professional television series, sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, to be filmed during an upcoming 10-day trip through the Swiss Alps.
“We were really amazed that we got 3,000 entries, and over 700 videos, and the quality was amazing too,” says Herrmann. “And then within the first night after posting the finalists, we had over 1,000 people voting, so that’s been another great way to use content to promote the Grand Tour."