Category Archives: Switzerland

Thoughts on the 2010 FIFA World Cup: H.E. Peter E. Specker, Consul General of Switzerland

What is your message to the football team and what are your views on South Africa hosting the FIFA World Cup?

My message to the team is to show the best of our football and show that you are  fair players.

It is a challenge, a chance and a just reward for South Africa for her achievements in many sectors. Go RSA, go for the Cup and bring your joy to the world!

How far do you think your team will advance?

Second Round.

Who according to you are the top 3 favourite teams to win the FIFA World Cup in South Africa?

Spain, England, Germany.

Who is your  favourite to win the “Golden Boot” award?

A South American player.

Interview with Jean Philippe Benoit, General Manager (India and Southwest Asia) for Swiss International Airlines

Jean Philippe Benoit has been the General Manager of SWISS for the past 2 years and here he shares his views why SWISS International Air Lines should be your preferred choice for travel to Europe.

What have been the achievements of SWISS in 2009 regarding India and what are the likely routes and frequencies that you plan to introduce in 2010?

An integral part of the airline’s global fleet renewal program was the introduction of the brand-new Airbus A330-300 to serve our 2 Indian routes, Zurich-Delhi and Zurich-Mumbai. This took place in autumn 2009, as per plan. One can talk of a fundamental move, with benefits for all stakeholders in a win-win-win situation: our customers enjoying substantially enhanced levels of comfort, improved economics for SWISS thanks to aircraft of the newest technology and exemplary fuel efficiency and, as a natural consequence, positive impact for the environment. Those are just core elements; numerous others would take more than these columns to enumerate and describe.

Strictly from the customer perspective, we saw it as important not to limit ourselves to come up with a state-of-the-art new business class, but to revisit all cabins with a fresh and modern approach. Hence the rethinking and setting of new quality standards for each passenger category of service: First, Business and Economy. From an overall perspective, one can talk of a quantum leap in terms of passenger comfort. By the way, this entire process was not limited to laboratory research and statistical evidence, but accompanied A to Z by a range of customer panels. Customer satisfaction was key to the project, and customer involvement came out as a natural. As an outcome, I must tell you that customer satisfaction and response has been overwhelmingly positive on our Indian routes.

You have been in India for 7 years. How has SWISS evolved during your tenure and what were the challenges faced by you?

We served India, an identified important market, since the beginning of the company’s existence, 7 years back. Tangible proof of our commitment to the Indian market: even during the recent crisis of 2009 we continued to serve both our Indian destinations, Delhi and Mumbai. This consistency, by the way, should come our way at the time of recovery of the economy, the first signs of which we seem to see now. We are certainly well positioned as an actor of the improved trend.

Take us through the products offered on SWISS for the leisure and corporate traveller and which are the market segments that SWISS plans to target for the coming year?

Mono-culture was never our credo. SWISS is a company wanting to serve all customer segments. Though seasonality, origins of traffic, purpose of travel inevitably forces one to set priorities, segregating as such is not our idea of a modern business approach. To the contrary, we aim at standing for each and everyone, the opulent as well as the budget traveller, whatever the reason of the journey, albeit with a red thread: care and quality must be built-in in your product and service chain irrespective of the class you choose to fly in. Our focus remains unaltered: that of a healthy balance combining all traffic types, prioritizing destination Switzerland and surrounding areas and, by extension Europe, our natural playground. Going this way enables us best to take advantage of our prime geographical location at the centre of Europe. Essential is a well-coordinated strategy with one’s home airport, in our case Zurich. This well-managed, high-quality infrastructure of human dimension magnificently supports our policy for individual care and easy connections. Zurich is probably one of the easiest and most agreeable points to enter the Schengen area (of which Switzerland is a member). All in all, as SWISS, we want to keep the pleasure of travelling intact, by delivering quality all along the service chain, by keeping the human touch to our endeavours, by putting the passenger’s convenience at the centre of our preoccupations.

Which were the new products launched by SWISS during the last quarter of 2009 and what can one expect from SWISS in terms of new aircraft, routes, culinary experiences and service on flying with SWISS?

Periodical frequencies will be added, such as a 6th to the Delhi flights this winter, or also a 6th to Mumbai as of June, thereby gradually filling a few loopholes still remaining. As far as culinary experiences, the cycles featuring various regional cuisines of Switzerland, in cooperation with reputed restaurants and chefs in all corners of the country, will be continued in 2010, once again reflecting customer acclaim. Product novelties otherwise are announced when introduced. What I can tell you is that we have no intention to rest on our laurels.

What are the advantages or USP of SWISS when flying…

a) in Switzerland

b) across Europe

c) across the Atlantic and onwards to North America

Flying to and from our home-country, Switzerland, is of course our specialty, so-to-say our basics. Next to promoting our own air services, co-promoting the country as a destination is the object of our particular care, year-in and year-out. This pleasant task, primarily incumbent to the tourist board, Switzerland Tourism, is shared in fact by many actors, down-stream with a large range of players including resorts, mountain railways, hotels and retailers, and up-stream with the distribution system such as tour-operators and agents selling Switzerland in the Indian market. The national airline traditionally plays a pivotal role in all such activities, and SWISS takes its responsibility seriously. The interests are common, all the more is the pleasure shared.

Timings of flights will not be modified; this is a request which emanates from our customers, time and again. On the other hand, what we will do is enrich the pallet of European connections, particularly east-bound on the way back to Mumbai. Let us take Barcelona as a concrete example: this destination with year-on-year increasing demand will receive a new frequency to and from Zurich as of February, and perfectly connect with our Mumbai flights. Other important points, both in the South and in the North of Europe will follow suit. Quality has many sides; the quality of a schedule, or punctuality, or service reliability is not often spoken of, yet they have become important components in travel comfort, components the discerning traveler attaches importance on, and increasingly a decision purchase factor.

What benefits does a STAR Alliance Frequent Flyer get whilst flying SWISS or any of your partner airlines?

Multiple are the benefits. STAR Alliance Network is unparalleled, and so is the choice of the customer in the schedule options. Then of course there are all the fringe benefits such as Frequent Flyer Programme tie-ups, airport lounge accesses, round-the-world fares and airport terminal sharing. The belonging of SWISS in the Lufthansa Group must also be mentioned, with yet more synergies exploited such as savings through economies of scale, joint procurement of various goods and services, joint development of software packages and much more – all of which eventually comes to the benefit our customers. This is the way it should be, and this is the way it is.

You have completed over 36 years in the airline industry. What are the major changes that you have seen in the aviation industry over the last 3 decades and what are the challenges ahead?

Please do not mention those 36 years, underlining the age of my arteries – though I would completely object to any “old thinking” syndrome. Enough young and brilliant colleagues are around me in the company and in this country to make sure I do not get a chance at laying back and relaxing. Still, to answer your question: 36 years of perpetual changes – primarily of technological nature thanks to the internet revolution and the new communication systems. Then the airlines fare structures and the revenue management systems (where I started my career) have progressed to a speed and amplitude unthinkable only 10 years ago, pushed by market liberalization. There has also been a change in the social and consumer habits of customers that triggered the periodical re-thinking of the offers, departing from the one-time elite product for a privileged few to now a much wider base of customers whose demands are different, however no less exacting. But in the end, we still run for the same: full cabins at good yields at all times.

As per your experience what should a leisure and business passenger look for whilst selecting a short-haul and a long-haul flight?

Many criteria could be mentioned to answer your question. Let me just say that passengers today know exactly what they want. With short-haul flights, schedule attractiveness and frequency, punctuality, speedy ground processes all belong to the essentials, in particular to the frequent traveller on a professional trip. Service on board, F&B or amenities, though surely appreciated, are not much of a decision factor anymore. With long-haul sectors, on the other hand, good service and comfort levels on board get relatively high importance, whatever the purpose of travel. Seating comfort or a good entertainment system both play a larger role, naturally so bearing in mind the time spent in the cabin. That safety and security is basics to everything and that the price element is a decisive purchasing factor for the vast majority of travellers, including the corporate one, is a given.

During these years you would have travelled extensively within India and Switzerland. Which are your favorite cities or regions in each of these countries?

Extensively? Do you know how big and varied your fascinating country is? I have hardly seen maybe a twentieth or a fiftieth of what I desire to see, so please come in 10 years or so and ask again the same question. Reply guaranteed.

Lastly, your message to readers and why should SWISS be their preferred carrier choice in 2010 for their European or American travel?

We want you to be our customers; we will strive to merit your patronage.  Thanks to Opportunities Today for your tour d’horizon through comprehensive questions.

Interview with Joerg P. Krebs, Director of Switzerland Tourism for Gulf Countries, Russia, Nordic Countries, the Czech Republic, Poland and India

Mr. Krebs shares with us why Switzerland should be the preferred holiday destination in 2010

How have tourism arrivals to Switzerland been during 2009? What are the expectations for the current year from India and the various markets that you are responsible for as Director for Switzerland Tourism?

For 2009 we had a small loss in terms of our worldwide market growth. We compare it with 2008 which was the best year ever in the tourism history of Switzerland. Due to the international financial crisis and various consequences for the international travel industry, an overall loss of 5% will be the result.  But it is still a very good outcome. In figures, we will attain 35.4 million overnights in our hotels. For India in the coming year, we aim to maintain the arrivals and the overnights.

India is one out of 5 strategic growth markets for Switzerland (in addition to China, Russia, Spain and the Gulf Countries).  Specifically, India is positioned 13th amongst  all our incoming foreign markets.

How many visitors from India travel to Switzerland every year and what is the expected percentage growth in the coming year?

We have achieved 140000 travellers to Switzerland and nearly 340000 overnights. We expect a slight growth of 2% for the year 2009 and have targeted a growth of 5% for 2010. My personal expectations however are even higher and, barring any international crises, I am convinced we will achieve a growth of 8%.

As India is a growing market are there any plans to have a dedicated Director for this market in the future?

We are very pleased to introduce Mr. Michael Maeder from 01 April 2010 in our Mumbai office as a Managing Director for India. Mr. Maeder has a very strong and consistent tourism career. He is the head of the Switzerland Travel Centre in London – a subsidiary of Swiss Federal Railways and Switzerland Tourism.

What is the average length of stay recommended for the first time traveller from India to Switzerland and what range of experiences can one expect during their stay?

All travellers should spend at least one week in Switzerland to even begin experiencing its uniqueness and beauty. Of course, Switzerland is a very small country but its variety and diversity is unique. If you want to have a firsthand impression of the country – of the people, of the cities, of the activities and of the international events – one should definitely stay a  minimum of one week!

How high is the frequency of repeat visitor traffic to Switzerland?

This really depends on the type of traveller and the experiences they are looking for. For example, I was in Zermatt during Christmas and I met guests who were the fourth generation visitors to the same deluxe hotel. I think no further comment is needed.

Of course, guests from overseas want to spend their vacations in different exotic destinations every year. But we do realize that we have repeat guests from all over the world. This is the magic of Switzerland: once you are here, you fall in love and you have to come back.

Which interesting regions would you recommend that will encourage visitors to increase the number of overnight stays in Switzerland?

We have regions and cities which are very well introduced to the Indian market since a long time, such as Lucerne, Titlis, Zurich, Interlaken, Bernese Oberland and Geneva. Of course we are working every year to bring more attractive destinations and cities to the Indian market. The city of Basel with the highest density of Indian restaurants as well as a large Indian community and the region of Ticino in southern Switzerland with its palms, small picturesque cities, moderate climate and the Italian way of life are just two examples. We are working on it everyday and I am certain that we still have a few aces in our hands for the near future.

Switzerland is known for its mountains, lakes and natural beauty and is a multi-cultural nation with various influences due to its diversity. What are your recommendations in terms of off-beat experiences that one can enjoy in Switzerland?

One of my favourite regions is the above-mentioned region of Ticino. I like the relaxed mentality and the great food. I like to walk and hike with absolutely no stress. Walking in this region is very relaxing and it always inspires me for marketing solutions or for new creative ideas.

Please do not think that we have snow everywhere during the year. You can always take your bathing suit and swim in one of our rivers or lakes. This is a very unique experience: swimming in one of our famous cities. My kids love it.

You can also explore the fabulous shopping opportunities. I love to shop in our cities because our cities are our main shopping malls. All top brands and even the handcrafted traditional items are within walking distance of each other. You will find me in the same stores as any other Swiss shopper or guest from abroad.

Adventure and student travel are new emerging markets. According to you, what are areas which can be offered to special interest groups of adventure and student travellers?

Switzerland has a very long tradition of student travel. Students come to study languages, economics, travel, tourism, hospitality or just for summer school. Of course, many more young people come to discover our nature. Cycling, biking, walking and hiking is very popular. You find many young people on our cycling and walking networks. Switzerland has many good offers for young people in low cost accommodation such as youth hostels and backpacker hotels as well as a new marketing offensive with the typical Swiss hotels.

What are the various innovative MICE opportunities in Switzerland for companies planning an incentive or a conference?

In brief, the answer would be mountains, mountains and mountains!  The many peaks of Switzerland have numerous offers for MICE groups. Not only are the mountain railway capacities improved almost every year, but so are the meeting facilities and special event attractions on top of mountains.

A few examples of MICE opportunities would be the roller coaster at Glacier 3000 in Les Diablerets, the Bollywood restaurant at Jungfrau at 3545 above sea level, the Dragons of Mount Pilatus near Lucerne and the “Indian Mountain” experience on Mount Titlis with a full Indian programme including Indian food and an Indian discotheque.

As Switzerland is closely associated with Bollywood, what are the new initiatives you plan to introduce in the current year to encourage Indian visitors?

As we experienced stagnancy in our overnight statistics, we have to lengthen our tour operator programmes. Fortunately, some very creative Swiss people met some very creative Indian people and the result was the new “Enchanted Journey” tour of Switzerland. This joint venture pools the Brand Institute Berne, SOTC, Switzerland Tourism and the renowned Yash Chopra with his film production company, Yash Raj Films (YRF). The goal is to bring Indian guests very close to the original scenes and locations where

Bollywood and especially YRF movies were shot in Switzerland. Switzerland Tourism is very pleased to be a branding and communication partner. We expect primarily to achieve almost 20000 additional overnights this year. But of course, we also expect that the travellers will be future tourism ambassadors for Switzerland.

Switzerland is known for its efficient public transport system. Which experiences do you recommend that will enable the Indian visitor to take back interesting memories of your country whilst experiencing the various transport systems and themed routes?

Firstly, you need to have a Swiss Pass of 4, 8, 15 days or more. With this Pass you can explore our public transport system including even the boats, streetcars and buses. So when you arrive at Zurich Airport, your train experience starts immediately. This is very unique amongst most destinations!

Secondly, of course, you should experience one of the famous Swiss mountain railways. The best way to do this is to consult the weather report, decide on which mountain experience would suit you and then have the best time of your life. Most cable cars are available with a discount if you have a Swiss Pass – some even with a 50% reduction so do check at the ticket counter.

Having signed the Schengen Agreement, how does this augur well for Indian visitors to Switzerland?

The benefits of the Schengen Agreement include one visa for all member nations. This means free travel between the Schengen countries. Switzerland is now very closely connected to the European metropolises and airport hubs such as Paris, Frankfurt and Milan.

Lastly, what is your message to readers?

I wish all readers a fantastic holiday where ever you may travel. To my travel colleagues throughout the world, I wish many old and new customers, many sales and of course, many sales to Switzerland – my home and my country. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Interview with H.E. Peter E. Specker, Consul General of Switzerland

Mr. Specker shares with us the primary areas where India and Switzerland can exchange expertise and ideas to forge better alliances and share knowledge.

What is the role of the Consulate’s office in terms of trade, tourism and investment between India and Switzerland?

The Consulate supports activities of all parties seeking to develop or strengthen ties between India and Switzerland whether in trade, tourism, investment, culture or education. We act as facilitators and try to bring partners together as per their requirements. Essentially, we are coordinators between the two countries. Our role also includes safeguarding the interests of Swiss nationals in India. The issuing of visas is an important part of our total jurisdiction.

Switzerland is present in India through its network comprising of the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi, including the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Swiss General Consulate in Mumbai, the Swiss Business Hub in Mumbai, the Swiss Honorary Consuls in Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata, the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce (SICC) and – awaiting for approval by the relevant authorities in India – Swissnex Bangalore.

What will be the role of Swissnex in India?

Our goal is to fully exploit the potential of cooperation between Switzerland and a limited number of countries in the fields of higher education, research, technology and innovation and to promote Switzerland as a leading country in those domains. So far, the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research of the Ministry of Home Affairs has opened Swissnex offices in Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore. Switzerland has deposited a request with the relevant authorities to operate an office in Bangalore. Swissnex in Bangalore will provide a platform for Swiss and Indian individuals and organisations to share knowledge and form partnerships in science, higher education, technology and innovation.

A recent example of this joint-cooperation was the launch of the first Swiss satellite on 23 September 2009 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. The satellite, called SwissCube, travelled on board an Indian PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) together with 5 other nano-satellites from Germany and Turkey.

India is as a high priority country and Switzerland is committed to strengthen existing links and forming new links with the higher education and research institutions in India. Indo-Swiss cooperation encompasses a broad range of activities including joint research projects, reciprocal visits of faculty members, exchange programmes for students and trainees, jointly organised courses and the coordination of two bilateral research programmes. The leading house for Indo-Swiss cooperation is the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) together with the associated leading house, the University of Lausanne.

What is the role of the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce?

The Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce (SICC) is a bi-national, private sector, non-profit association with 400 Swiss and Indian members. It is devoted to growing business between individuals and companies in India and Switzerland. Founded in 1985, SICC is widely recognized as a key player in advancing Indo-Swiss economic relationships. As an independent organization, the Chamber cooperates with all public and private institutions that pursue similar goals.

SICC achieves its objectives by enhancing the flow of information on investment and trade-related issues between India and Switzerland.  It strives to improve bilateral commercial, industrial and technical cooperation between India and Switzerland as well as support the establishment of joint ventures and strategic alliances between enterprises of both countries

The SICC Board includes representatives of firms that actively pursue the enhancement of Swiss-Indian economic relations. The Board is supported by an advisory body that helps to strengthen the SICC’s network, and functions as a sounding board on a variety of issues that the chamber routinely confronts.

SICC has its head office in Zurich, Switzerland and regional offices in Bangalore (SICC Southern Region), Delhi (SICC Northern Region) and Mumbai (SICC Western Region).

The Swiss Business Hub is part of Osec-Business Network Switzerland covering the area of the export and investment promotion of Switzerland. It is the official Swiss organisation for trade promotion with offices integrated at the Consulate General in Mumbai and in the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi.

What platforms are present for cultural and educational information exchange between India and Switzerland?

In the cultural field, we have a Liaison Office of the Swiss Arts Council in New Delhi called Pro Helvetia which initiates, supports and presents projects that reflect the multicultural character of Switzerland and India. It supports Swiss artists seeking dialogue with other cultures in an effort to forge closer ties. The focus is on quality and originality, on mutuality and respect to ensure that both sides benefit from the exchange.

The liaison office in New Delhi is the Swiss Arts Council’s first office in Asia. Its aim is to coordinate Pro Helvetia’s activities in the South Asia region starting with India. It supports artistic and cultural collaboration between India and Switzerland and also promotes Swiss ideas and arts practice among Indian audiences. Contemporary music, design, dance, literature, photography and new media are the areas that Pro Helvetia New Delhi will focus on in the near future.

Can you elaborate on the origins of the name Helvetia and how it came to be associated with Switzerland?

Helvetia is the Latin word for Switzerland and used by the Romans for the territory between the Lake of Constance and the Lake of Geneva. Officially, Switzerland is known as the Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, hence its ISO country code of CH. On each coin and postage stamp of Switzerland, you will find either Helvetia or Confoederatio Helvetica.  This is also the reason why Swiss license plates have the international abbreviation of CH and why the Swiss Franc currency is abbreviated as CHF.

Helvetia became a symbol of unity of the Old Swiss Confederacy in the face of the denominational disputes initiated by the Swiss Reformation in the 17th Century and the term became widespread in the 19th Century.

Today the Swiss Confederation is a multi-lingual and multi-cultural nation.  Helvetia is the symbol of a unified Switzerland.

In addition to being one of the richest economies, Switzerland is also a leader in the environmental performance index. How does Switzerland balance economic prosperity with environmental sustainability?

Switzerland is a small country with very limited resources. We have to care about our natural resources because villages, cities, and factories all share the same space. Because of this close proximity, every interference – such as pollution of air or water – is immediately noticed. Therefore, very early on Swiss people realized the importance of cleaning waste water and implementing air pollution measures.

Of course, one of the most important reasons for achieving environmental sustainability is because we earn our livelihoods from this magnificent nature. This is our value and this is why we have to care for it.

Are there any challenges in maintaining this balance, such as accommodating tourists from nations where environmental awareness is limited?

Even though we have many visitors, we make it a point to always offer environmentally friendly tourism opportunities. We have an excellent system of public transportation in Switzerland. When tourists see how we manage the environmental situation in Switzerland from transportation to waste collection and water treatment, I am certain most visitors think that they should implement similar measures in their own countries. For example, each small village in Switzerland has its own water treatment plant.  If it is possible in a small village in Switzerland, then why not in their own countries?

Which are the primary areas where India and Switzerland can exchange expertise and ideas to forge better alliances and share knowledge?

Certainly one of the focus points this year will be the cooperation in new technologies such as renewable energy and sustainable management in general. Both India and Switzerland realize how fragile the

…environment is and how important it is to take care of it.  Switzerland without the snow and glaciers and India without its wildlife and rural landscape would no longer be the same attractions. We must realize the immeasurable value of these resources and also share this message with our partners.

With the growing Indian economy over the past few years, do you see an increase in investments between Switzerland and India and extension of bilateral trade between the two states?

India is one of the five major focus markets of Switzerland. It is undoubted that the Indian economy has enormous growth potential. Swiss companies are certainly maneuvering towards the Indian market.

There are 150 Swiss companies in India. There are 60 companies in Maharashtra.

Last year, I was present at three factory inaugurations in Maharashtra. This shows the interest of the Swiss industry in the Indian market. They believe in India and its potential.

The main segment of investment is in mechanical appliances and components. Swiss companies are increasingly manufacturing their products in India and covering the Southeast Asia and Middle East regions from a base in India. Swiss and Indian companies are also working together in the automotive sector. For example, in each Nano car, there are at 35 positions with Swiss technology, but produced in India by Indo-Swiss joint ventures. This certainly creates many employment opportunities in the local market. There are at the least several hundred thousand employees of Swiss companies in India.

In terms of bilateral trade, there was approximately USD 2 billion of exports from Switzerland to India in 2009 comprising of machines, appliances and chemical and pharmaceutical products. In the same year, Switzerland imported USD 1 billion of primarily agricultural products from India.  Switzerland is ranked 10 in direct investment to India in the last 10 years. In terms of tourism, 130000 Indian tourists visited Switzerland in 2009.

Switzerland is a favourite for the Indian outbound tourism segment due to the Bollywood influence. According to you, which are the other famous icons of Switzerland?

Aside from chocolate, cheese and watches, an interesting fact is that about half of the computer mouses worldwide are produced with Swiss technology. Logitech, the well-known peripheral device producer for PCs, is a Swiss company.

There are many other products which we use everyday and are not aware that they are of Swiss origin. The very useful and ubiquitous Velcro is a Swiss patent and is used in many clothing items and bags. The origin of the electronic watch was also in Switzerland but the traditional watchmakers did not believe in its future and the technology eventually found its way to Japan and the United States. The food brand Nestlé which produces hundreds of products and employs thousands of people in India is a Swiss company. ACC, another Swiss company, is the second largest producer of cement in India and a key leader in the building and infrastructure sectors.

In fact, perhaps the most popular technology today – the World Wide Web – was invented by scientists at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the world’s largest laboratory) at Geneva.

You have been in India for 2 years. What has been your experience so far in increasing awareness of Switzerland across various fields?

I am very impressed by how India identifies Switzerland through film portrayals.  They have a pure image of the country. I am very pleased to see how Indians are charmed by Switzerland. I assure you that the reality will not disappoint this perception.

Personally, I find India to be very fascinating.  I have visited many places throughout India from Manali in the north to the southern tip of Kanyakumari, from Bhuj to Pondicherry. On a recent trip to Kolkata, I was very impressed by how well the city is planned.

One place in India is not like the next and travelling is a must to get a true perspective of the country and its people.

Which are your preferred holiday destinations in India?

I enjoyed Kerala – the backwaters and the hill stations – very much. I have not yet done so but I am looking forward to visiting the national parks of Madhya Pradesh and central India as well as Kashmir and its surrounding areas.

I recently visited Rajasthan and was very impressed by the city of Udaipur. I think every visitor to India should put Udaipur on their list of destinations. It has an excellent balance of history, culture and scenery – all of which will certainly appeal to tourists.

Which are your favourite summer and winter holiday destinations in Switzerland?

In Switzerland, my favourite destinations are the Italian-speaking region of Ticino surrounding the major city of Lugano and the eastern region surrounding Davos where the famous World Economic Forum takes place. Of course, Switzerland offers much in terms of holiday value covering many interests.

What is the awareness of India amongst the people of Switzerland?

The vast diversity of India makes it many things to many people. Perhaps a person from Switzerland who has never travelled outside the country would initially be overwhelmed at the many faces of India – from the major cities to the rural villages. The diversity in Switzerland cannot be compared to the diversity in India. Switzerland has four languages and four cultures. India has hundreds of languages and cultures.

Personally, I have spent 35 years of my life outside Switzerland. For me however, even India was a completely new place. I had never even visited India before I started my current assignment. But it was not so overwhelming for me because I lived in big cities like New York, Madrid, Jakarta, Mexico. India has much in common with other areas of the world and at the same time also holds a unique place in this world which must be experienced.

Which aspect of your multi-faceted role as Consul General do you find most interesting?

The most interesting aspect of this role is being able to meet and build relationships with people from so many different areas of trade and society. As there is no security risk for me in this country, I can roam freely and explore. I can take a taxi or a train or even walk around during day and night without any bodyguards. Because of this freedom, I get a much deeper perspective of the country and its people. I am not in an ebony tower. I am living in contact with the local community. An excellent example is the location of my residence in the Mahalaxmi Temple area – everyday I see thousands of people gather for their daily prayers.

Lastly, what is your message to readers who are planning to visit Switzerland in the near future?

Switzerland is a destination which allows you to be still and enjoy the beauty of the world. Visitors should take the opportunity to rest and not only to run from one corner to the other. Switzerland is a place where you can take a halt, sit down near a lake and look at beautiful mountains and just enjoy nature. Take your time and take your rest in Switzerland.