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SwitzerlandMobility: Making it easy

Topics: Building Communities | Comments

Photo by Velo abzug - Flickr

SwitzerlandMobility is a national success story that grew from the modest ambition of a group of cyclists.

In 1993, a group of friends thought that it would be a good idea to develop a national network of cycling routes. They managed to persuade the Swiss Tourism Federation to get on board and under the name of Cycling in Switzerland Foundation, planned work involving all the Swiss cantons began in 1995. In 1998, the Cycling in Switzerland dream became a reality with cycling routes developed in a fledgling national network.

However, this success story was not the completion of one project so much of the beginning of an even more ambitious one. The Cycling in Switzerland Foundation decided to broaden its objectives to encompass not just cycling routes, but routes suitable for hiking, canoeing, mountain biking and skating—basically, all forms of transport that were not motorised. The idea was to make it easier for people to partake in their favourite outdoor sports and enjoy nature and the outdoors by putting in place a coordinated, linked network that provided accurate information to those interested in recreational pursuits.

As a consequence, a host of other groups and organisations began to link into the project, including the Swiss Hiking Federation. In 2000, the name of the organisation was changed to reflect its wider emphasis and the idea of SwitzerlandMobility was born. After extensive preparation, and three years of realization work, SwitzerlandMobility was officially launched in 2008.

Strong partnerships

To develop, promote and support a national network for non-motorised traffic is a massive undertaking, requiring coordination and cooperation between many sectors, and an incredible amount of dedication and perseverance.
Dr George Ganz, the President of SwitzerlandMobility Foundation explains that the project has worked in part because all partners end up by being winners through their involvement.

“Since the beginning of SwitzerlandMobility, all important partners were involved in the development: national government, cantonal governments, local governments, tourism, public transportation, different associations, private sponsors and so on,” he says.

The membership of SwitzerlandMobility now includes the Swiss Alpine Club, the Swiss Canoeing Federation, the Swiss Federal Railways and the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention.

Another factor in the success of SwitzerlandMobility, cites Dr Ganz, is the commitment by all partners to provide users of the network of trails with a wonderful experience.

“There is exemplary networking of all associate partners in support of the guests,” he says, with their needs in terms of information provision, accommodation requirements, public transportation and bicycle rental all linked into SwitzerlandMobility.

Also a key reason for SwitzerlandMobility’s success is the use of what Dr Ganz calls “an authoritative system of signalisation of the trails.” What this means is that the same signs are in use across the network, including national, regional and local routes. Rather than each area of Switzerland adopting its own type of signage there is instead one consistent and official set of signage operating on all trails—an estimated 100,000 standardised signposts in total.
Initiatives like SwitzerlandMobility cannot work without financial support, and a partnership model allowing both private ventures and public bodies to be involved is the model in use here.

Cooperative funding

“The private share is 35-40 per cent,” says Dr Ganz. “The cooperation model of SwitzerlandMobility—a public private partnership—is established and works also in other tourism projects.”

This model is underpinned by what Dr Ganz calls a strong and transparent controlling mechanism for SwitzerlandMobility so that financial accountability is built into the partnership model.

Of course, one of the obvious reasons for SwitzerlandMobility’s success is that it meets the need of people to spend time outdoors and in contact with nature. It also makes the decisions to hike or cycle easier by offering a one-stop-shop which provides maps, trail details, accommodation bookings and other information about places on the trails.

“SwitzerlandMobility is successful because it satisfies the desire of society to be active, healthy, to experience nature and to enjoy the hospitality of the countryside,” Dr Ganz says.

“The high concentration of information about the trails and the easy planning and booking of trips is unique. The enormous traffic on the website attests to a really high interest by the Swiss people.”

An integrated offering

An additional crucial aspect of SwitzerlandMobility is the integration and linkages of the national network of trails with public transport services, especially rail, and the carrying of bicycles onto train services being permitted.

“Every trail in Switzerland can be reached by public transport,” says Dr Ganz, “and a widespread public transportation service is an important part of SwitzerlandMobility.”

Since its official launch in 2008, SwitzerlandMobility has notched up some impressive victories. It was the winner of the Globe Award 2009 by the British Guild of Travel Writers and has cemented its early success with the inclusion of a ‘500 best of local trails’ on its website.

“The business volume achieves more than 550 million Swiss Francs yearly, with yearly growth rates of 25 per cent, except in 2011,” says Dr Ganz.

The website had 1.4 million visits in 2009, and rose to 2.4 million in 2010.

The economic downturn in Europe over the past 12 months has affected the number of overseas tourists utilising SwitzerlandMobility but Dr Ganz is hopeful this will turn around.

“Since 2011, Swiss tourism has significant problems with the Euro exchange rate. This is the reason why fewer guests from foreign countries visited Switzerland,” he says.

“If the exchange rate for the Swiss Franc normalises, more tourists will attend SwitzerlandMobility.”

International possibilities

As for advice for any other countries daring enough to contemplate a coordinated network of trails linked in with maps, accommodation, public transport and a host of sporting interests, Mr Ganz offers this advice: “Every country has its specific conditions,” he says. “The high involvement of all concerned partners seems to be good advice for similar projects. The long-term financing should be assured and the potential for innovation should be verified constantly.”

For the interested hiker or cyclist or traveller, what SwitzerlandMobility means is that it enables the individual to prepare for anything from a day trip to a cross-country walk via a website where you can download maps and guides, book accommodation from camping sites to hotels, hire a bike, organise for luggage to be transported and even book a tour guide. Information is provided in German and French, with much of it also English.

SwitzerlandMobility is showing that being oriented towards customer service delivers dividends in terms both of tourism and in getting people active and outdoors in the natural environment.


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