12 DEC 2016: One compact European country is known for producing more than its fair share of life’s sinful pleasures (hint: sweet chocolates and rich cheeses). “We Swiss people eat lots of cheese and look forward to a lot of Swiss chocolate,” laughs Franziska Amstutz a rep from the Valais Tourism at a media dinner hosted by Switzerland Tourism and the regions of the Matterhorn and Lake Geneva which includes the Vaud.

But these picture-pretty places in Switzerland have more heavenly surprises worth noting as you consider the next European holiday.

Travel Industry Today held an informal poll to see how the regions differed. But despite my attempts two subjects kept ringing over and over like the echoes of cow bells in the Swiss Alps: each boasts fine food and wine.

The unanimous verdict

“We have the highest density of Michelin restaurants in the Swiss Alps you can enjoy,” Franziska confides.

Philippe Vignon, the CEO of Geneva Tourism and Conventions Foundation who distinguished Geneva as ‘the’ hub of international cuisine due to a large international population, noted Indian culinary guru Vineet has also tackled this discerning market with his sublime fusion resto Rasoi.

“What we have in the (Lake Geneva) region is the highest concentration of Michelin star and Gault&Millau rated restaurants,” he says and adds, “If you take the three regions together (Geneva, Valais, Vaud) per square kilometer we have the most,” he confidently smiles.

Michel Francois, vice-president and marketing director of the Vaud Tourism Office adds, “Without being too pretentious (the Lake Geneva and Matterhorn area) is the place for excellent food and wine. We have the highest concentration of Michelin star restaurants in all of Switzerland but also local bistros where you get fine local products.”

On wines the replies echoed the same sentiment. “The wine is also not so well known outside of Switzerland,” explains Michel who pointed out Lake Geneva is mostly Chasselas and Pinot Noir with some specialities in the Matterhorn. “This is where you will find the best wine in all of Switzerland.”

Philippe deadpans: “Thirty years ago Geneva wines were dreadful because it was all about volume but now you have winemakers who are producing amazing wines in the three regions.”

And in the Valais wine lovers can enjoy fine wines while sipping chubby glasses at extraordinarily soaring high views. “We have forty-five mountains that are higher than 4,000 metres,” says Franziska.

Guests at the Swiss Tourism soiree had a wonderful chance to sample some of the country’s rich bounty. We received personalized monogrammed chocolate bars and dined on a buffet of salmon, sausages, heavenly raclette and other carbs as we toasted our hosts with fine Swiss vintages you’ll never find at the LCBO.

Now for a few more reasons to book a Swiss-made vacation in the Lake Geneva and the Matterhorn Region:

For foodies

It’s all about wine and gastronomy. The area boasts 31 Michelin star restaurants with 40 stars and 220 Gault&Millau restaurants

Hit the GoldenPass “Cheese train” (January-April 2017) Take a ride aboard a Belle Epoque carriage from Montreux to the village of Château-d’Oex and visit local traditional cheesemakers. Highlights are cheese tasting and seeing charming villages such as Rossinière, where the Chalet Balthus, the largest chalet in Switzerland, can be admired.

For faith-based clients In 2017 the International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva (MIR) is resurrecting Gutenberg’s press in order to print the entire Bible – with the help of the public.

Next year marks 500 years of the Reformation Movement. Discover the symbolic places of the Reformation on a footpath divided into 10 stages, in the Old Town of Geneva with a free Walking Tour Pocket Map app available for download.

New hotel inventory: In Geneva, watch for the five star Hotel de la Paix, a new Ritz Carlton Partner Hotel under renovations until spring 2017 and Le Rotary Genève, a 4 star Mgallery by Sofitel Geneva which opened earlier this year.

In Valais the 4 star Le White hotel in Champéry is ready for its first full winter season.

In Zermatt, the newly renovated Riffelalp Resort 2222 is considered the highest-altitude luxury resort in the Alps, is primed and ready for the winter ski season.

For ski buff clients In the heart of Vaud Alps, the fabled resort area of Villars and Gryon and Les Diablerets has a budget friendly daily $20 ski pass. The ski area has added two new ski lifts improving the links between Villars and Les Diablerets.

And in Valais, the SnowPass Valais is a 6-day Snowpass valued at 360 (CHF) Swiss Francs ($466). Skiers can ski different ski slopes in the area which is ideal for organizers of ski safaris or hotels in the Valais.

For culture and nature loving clients
Chaplin's World, a museum dedicated entirely to Charlie Chaplin, opened earlier this year. The museum is located in Chaplin’s home at Corsier-sur-Vevey.  Visitors can immerse themselves in the Little Tramp's world at the Manoir de Ban, a 14-hectare estate on the slopes above Vevey, where Chaplin lived with his family. They can also discover the man through his creative work as they explore exhibits and view HD and 3D images, state-of-the-art acoustics, special effects and even virtual reality.

Insiders say you need three hours to enjoy the facilities.

New Nestlé Museum. What do the Cailler chocolate line and Nescafé instant coffee have in common? Both products originated at Nestlé. Much loved by the Swiss, Nestle which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year has opened a new museum devoted to everything Nestle. Dubbed nest, it is located behind the rail station in an iconic building where Henri Nestlé devised his "Farine Lactée" milk food for babies in 1866.

In Valais, the new World Nature Forum  is a state-of-the-art visitor complex located in the small town of Naters near the Aletsch Glacier, revered as the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps. The dynamic displays have interactive exhibits featuring all aspects of the UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.

Image above: Front row Ursula Beamish-Mader, Manager Media Relations in  North America; Michel Francois; back row Philippe Vignon, Franziska Amstutz; Evelyn Lafone, Director in Canada and Trade Manager, Central USA of Switzerland Tourism; and Lauriane Zosso Switzerland Tourism. 





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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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