The business events area has suffered badly throughout the pandemic. Large numbers of people shifted over to home working, offices stood empty and events of all sorts fell to practically zero in the first year of the pandemic. One year later, the situation is still far from normal, but there has been improvement. According to the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau (SCIB), the number of hotel overnight stays that can be attributed to business events influenced by SCIB rose year on year from 16,251 to 45,329. Turnover consequently increased from CHF 5.4 million to a total of CHF 15.1 million. The progress made on the vaccination front is a key reason behind this improvement. It enabled travel restrictions to be eased in 2021, particularly in the European markets. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic meant that business events were only possible during around four months of 2021, and there was still a great deal of uncertainty with regard to planning for the following year. Despite the difficult environment, SCIB had received 385 enquiries by the end of 2021.

Hybrid events remain a trend post-Covid.

Digital support for event preparations

Companies’ needs have changed over the last two years. Creative and new formats are in greater demand than ever, and digitalisation has become more important at all stages in the planning process. The digitalisation drive that SCIB launched in 2020 came into its own in 2021. The cooperation with provider Matterport played a key role in this: its space capture experts created 3D models of 11 of Switzerland’s largest convention centres. These 360˚ visualisations allow planners to take virtual tours of the facilities from any location. The centres include the SwissTech Convention Center in Lausanne, the Congress Center Basel, the LAC Lugano and The Circle & Circle Convention Center

This speeds up decision-making and creates a clear advantage for Switzerland as a location. “For us, it was a great opportunity to improve our online visibility. This project now allows you to navigate your way around the entire building,” remarked Claudia Burgarella, Event Manager at LAC Lugano. Fabia Roos, Marketing Communications Manager at Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport The Circle & Circle Convention Center, was also delighted with the results: “I think the model is great; it’s really well executed.”

Another new digital planning tool for 2021 was SendSites, which was designed specifically for the tourism industry and is suitable for a range of users such as potential conference venues. Rather than receiving an offer in a Word document, customers are sent a link to a digitally prepared offer. The platform can be customised with each provider’s corporate design and can incorporate photos, virtual tours, maps, availability information and prices. The tool is available to all SCIB partners.

A lot of catching up to do for small face-to-face meetings

In-person events have resumed in most markets, with Switzerland seeing a trend towards small-scale events and meetings, particularly from the short-haul markets. SCIB has therefore increasingly positioned Switzerland as the ideal destination for events of this kind. “We see a great need to catch up and start seeing each other in person again. Working from home and the reduction in office space have made opportunities for face-to-face encounters rarer. Businesses need to find a way to make up for that,” says Barbra Albrecht, Head of SCIB and Member of the Executive Board of Switzerland Tourism ST. “Post-Covid, reliability, sustainability, safety and cleanliness are gaining in significance as factors when choosing a destination. Switzerland scores highly in these areas. Another consideration is that many companies which previously held only large events might now be attracted to Switzerland, which is well set up to cater to small events.” Some incentive travel was also able to restart or be caught up on from August onwards, particularly from North America.

Small incentive trips or product presentations

Mary Kay’s incentive trip was an example of a small-scale business event. Twelve attendees from Germany travelled to Zurich in August, and then on to the Engadin with the Glacier Express. Dirk Auer, Senior Supervisor Sales Force Events at Mary Kay Cosmetics GmbH, was delighted: “Coming to Switzerland after a long travel drought was very special. All the guests were very happy with the short journeys, the exclusivity and the most beautiful corners of Switzerland. SCIB enabled all our contacts to be dealt with in coordinated fashion and made my job as the event organiser very easy!”

Mercedes-Benz AG held a business event of a rather different kind that was big on experiences. In July 2021, the carmaker invited some 160 media figures from all over the world to Switzerland for a driving event devoted to its new, top of the range, fully electric EQS model. The EQS vehicles were put through their paces on a thorough test drive from Zurich via Andermatt and Rapperswil Jona, finishing up at the Daimler Testing and Technology Centre in Immendingen. Switzerland has the world’s first road trip designed for electric vehicles – the E-Grand Tour of Switzerland – making it the ideal location for this event. The driving event also included a varied supporting programme featuring expert talks, culinary treats and exhibitions. 

For both companies, the planning process began at The landing page brings together all the information that users need in the Covid-19 age, such as vaccination progress, entry and exit restrictions, details of the Clean & Safe label and testing facilities, along with information on hybrid event formats.  

Facts and figures
Business events
  2021 2020
Budget CHF million 8.4 6.1
Share of total budget % 8.6 7.4
Tourism turnover CHF million 15.1 5.4
Visits to   80,813 201,520
Hotel overnight stays
generated through KAM
  45,329 16,251
Number of meetings,
events and conferences
  91 97
Number of quotation requests processed by SCIB   385 469