The Swiss tourism industry has lived through and survived many crises. However, 2020 saw the biggest crisis since the Second World War, as tourism ground to a virtual half in the first quarter. This time, the culprit was the ever-changing travel restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which took away the entire basis for a viable tourism industry: freedom to travel around the world.

CHF 6.5 million of extra federal funding in 2020
In May 2020, parliament decided to address the threat to the sector by providing additional federal funding for Swiss tourism marketing. As the figures from the Federal Statistical Office show, this was urgently needed: The number of full-time equivalent positions in gastronomy alone fell by 10.2% year on year in 2020.

Switzerland Tourism ST received CHF 6.5 million from the federal government for the recovery campaign in 2020. This involved marketing activities directed at domestic visitors and the provision of attractively priced offers. Parliament has promised CHF 13.5 million for 2021. During 2020, ST also invested CHF 5.5 million of its own funds in the recovery campaign. Another CHF 2.5 million from ST’s resources is planned for 2021.

Relief contributions for tourism partners too

Parliament also awarded 981 tourism partners a total of CHF 6.5 million for 2020. CHF 13.5 million is planned for 2021. ST’s Tourism Partnerships team contacted the eligible tourism partners and informed them about the individual relief contributions in the form of marketing credits with ST. The partners marketing contributions in 2019 formed the basis for the calculations (more information on the relief contributions(in German).

Empathy with “Dream now – travel later.”

To respond flexible to conditions during the pandemic, ST divided the recovery plan into three stages: empathy, awareness and offer marketing. ST worked with eight different personas to ensure that the right messages reached the right target groups. They included the fictitious character Jasmin, who sets great store on safety and cleanliness – and is therefore addressed via the Clean & Safe campaign. Matteo wanted to take advantage of the unprecedented situation to tick off his personal travel bucket list for Switzerland. Jona saw the Swiss outdoors as a big playground and wanted to discover it with her children. ST developed individual landing pages for each of the eight personas.

Travel was not possible because of the lockdown. What people were free to do, however, was to dream, to seek inspiration and to let their imaginations run wild. Good marketing has to adopt the right tone, which is why the motto chosen for this “empathy” phase was “Dream now – travel later.” ST implemented this, in particular, via the more then 30 country-specific social media channels. A clip published on social media invited viewers to dream and achieved nearly 17 million organic impressions. More than 320,000 people liked, shared or commented on the DNTL social media posts.

ST also took a creative approach in respect of home working, tapping into the surge in popularity of the Zoom video conferencing platform for a competition.

Zoom competition: “Switzerland is calling.”

People were called on to upload an image of Switzerland as their background. The social media ads generated more than 11 million impressions and around 15,000 leads to the competition page, which was itself viewed roughly 35,000 times. As a further empathy measure, ST produced a special edition of the summer magazine, with a print run of 700,000. 185,000 copies were included as supplements with the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers.

Creating awareness with “I need Switzerland.”

ST then activated phase two when campsites, boat services and cable cars were allowed to resume operating at the start of June. This phase centred primarily on creating awareness of what Switzerland has to offer as a holiday and travel destination. That was why ST rolled out the new umbrella campaign “I need Switzerland.” for the first time for all campaign measures in the summer of 2020. The campaign film was also shown via various channels and generated 25.6 million contacts (TV, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok).

The new umbrella campaign “I need Switzerland.” was rolled out for the first time in the summer.

ST received high-profile support from the comedy duos Divertimento, who went travelling through French-speaking Switzerland, and Vincent & Vincent, who toured the German-speaking part. They shared their experiences on social media with their followers, most of whom are in Switzerland. Divertimento reached 326,000 YouTube(in German) views by the end of summer 2020, and nearly 528,000 on Instagram. Vincent & Vincent registered 205,000 YouTube(in French) views and around 32,000 views on Facebook lasting at least one minute. The cooperation also drew media attention, for example in the Swiss publications 20 Minuten (in German) and Le Nouvelliste(in French).

The tourism industry associations also launched the Clean & Safe label, aimed at boosting confidence among Swiss and foreign tourists that Switzerland is a clean and safe travel destination. By the end of 2020, around 4,000 businesses had registered for the label.

Cities suffered particularly hard due to the travel restrictions. Meeting tourism was only possible under very tight constraints, which led many organisers to cancel their plans. Taken together with the lack of visitors from long-haul markets, who had visited Swiss cities in large numbers in recent years, this was a double whammy for service suppliers in the cities. ST therefore raised awareness of Switzerland’s cities, including with a new form of Pinterest campaign, which altogether generated more than 46 million impressions.
The recovery campaign was also specially adapted for the meetings business.

Performance with offer marketing

With a view to the summer and autumn holidays, ST put together attractively priced offers for the third phase, which included building on the longstanding partnership with Coopzeitung magazine. Attractive offers were available to choose from in the summer, in the autumn and for cities. There was a great deal of interest in the summer offers published in the Coop supplement: 8,800 bookings were made. For the autumn, there were 2280 bookings, and the first city offer, Coop City Swap prompted 376 bookings.
ST also continued to use newspaper supplements with specific offers in the leading Swiss media, such as Schweizer Illustrierten.
Touring Switzerland by car or train held particular appeal in 2020. Spontaneous, independent travel was the order of the day. ST created awareness of the Grand Tour of Switzerland packages on Radio NRJ and OneFM and as part of its autumn campaign.  

Recovery measures in the markets

The travel restrictions in force varied considerably from market to market in 2020. As such, it was hard for the tourism industry to find the right moment to take the right marketing measures.

Recovery measures for the Italian market

The Market Research department developed the Market Indicator System(in German) to achieve precisely that. A dashboard with an array of indicators shows in which markets tourism marketing can be started and when. ST and its members used this information as a basis for decisions in relation to marketing planning in the markets, i.e. including the recovery campaigns. The dashboard is available to all ST members and to the media on request.

SwissSwap in Germany

ST’s recovery measures in the markets concentrated mainly on the empathy and awareness stages. In Germany, the SwissSwap campaign was successfully launched. German visitors had the chance to win a holiday in Switzerland by submitting a video. The associated video clip(in German) went viral, registering more than 3.7 million views.