Without a doubt the most common question I am asked is, what is the next, new, great destination? Following hints of new countries and remote destinations opening up the world, the quest becomes like a treasure hunt. What new discoveries can be made? Where else can we go? What new ‘Insider’ experiences can we unlock for our guests? And then, where to after that?
This past month, however, I was reminded of how some of the greatest discoveries we can make are, in fact, rediscovered destinations. Taking in their beauty a second, third or fourth time can be as spectacular as the first.
On this occasion, the location was Zermatt, Switzerland. The occasion: Schweizer Ferientag/ Switzerland Vacation Day, the annual conference for almost 1’300 members of the Swiss Tourism industry who come together to share and learn. The presentation: Tour Operators today and tomorrow.
As per usual, I arrived armed with my invitation from my kind hosts, my ready-for-stage presentation, and admittedly, an innate sense of comfort being in a destination that is entirely familiar to me, in an area I frequently visit in the winters in my adopted homeland. However, the advantage of being in a known place, does risk becoming a blur.
Thankfully however, this blur quickly had the brakes applied when I awoke to see the sun rising reflecting off of the grandeur and splendour of the Matterhorn. There, towering over me, powerfully yet ever so peacefully, stood one of the great natural wonders of our world. In that moment my thoughts were frozen in genuine awe.
Poignantly, the sight of the Matterhorn reminded me of one of the great truths of the travel industry; Switzerland is one of the most beautiful, truly spectacular places on earth.
The beauty I experienced all around me was not limited to the landscapes. Equally, over the duration of the meeting, I was reminded of the authenticity of the people – the local artisans from chocolate to cheese, to less traditional wares. With their passion for their homeland, and an exceptional welcome to all – Swiss hospitality is both true and genuine.
Switzerland Tourism does an exceptional job of capturing and sharing with the world a true gift; destination Switzerland. They bring life to a word that can be so often overused in our tourism marketing world – ‘real’. Somehow this is simply in the essence of their nation, Switzerland Tourism makes ‘real’ an honest travel experience, one that was far deeper, richer and more embracing than I would have ever imagined.
Returning back to my home in Geneva, I found myself walking a step slower along Lake Geneva as the fresh mountain water acted as a perfect mirror for the sun’s rays. Not only could I feel myself breathing in the pure, clean air, I could also feel myself breathing in the incredible sense of blessing.
How remarkable and renewing it was, and continues to be, looking out over those waters and appreciating again and again all that surrounds me each day, wherever I am in the world.
May places newly discovered, and those comfortably familiar, continue to slow your steps and awaken your most grateful of senses.
3 thoughts on “WELCOMING THE AWE OF TRAVEL … AGAIN”
Really good post.
REVIEW OF SCENIC SCANDINAVIA & ITS FJORDS ADVENTURE (2015)
Dear Mr. Gavin Tollman, My wife and I have taken half-dozen Trafalgar tours, also other ones when single.
Several days ago we completed the spectacular Scandinavian excursion, May 23-June 6, 2015. It is a wonderful experience and true to the Trafalgar program literature.
The Travel Director Catrin Griffiths and the Company’s Motor coach Driver Laszlo are a well-oiled, organized team of professionals who looked after our comfort and safety during our vacation.
Ms. Griffiths is an experienced Director who gave articulate oral accounts of our experiences during the days of our trip, with relevant handouts all Trafalgar guests shared. She had other surprises for us as well.
Catrin did a superb job in balancing her description of Scandinavia and she encouraged us to ask questions as we proceeded throughout our journey.
The Director’s information on Scandinavian history, culture, literature, filmography, and foods of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were current. Her command of the English and Northern European languages was masterful and reassuring.
During the course of our two weeks on the road there were two weather-related “hick-ups,” her colorful term for minor problems. One included a record-rare late spring blizzard which closed a major Norwegian highway and de-toured our itinerary through the mountains of the beautiful countryside.
This and other unexpected events illustrated clearly how our Director’s experience, language, and logic skills saved the day! She set her contingency plans into motion which guaranteed our safety and more-than-adequate compensations for the delays while insuring the continuance of our excursion without worry. If she was pressured by these unexpected circumstances, you would never have known it because of her efficiency and command of the situations. The changes to our travel plans took place smoothly and she was respectful of our interests as well as for Trafalgar’s.
Our Director gave us flexibility in lieu of the unusual record cold we encountered, although frankly the weather was refreshing because of the air’s dryness and lack of humidity. An outdoor picnic was a treasured stop, as well as an impromptu snow-ball fight. Two cherished memories! In addition, transitions between regular travel and optional tour excursions were seamless and some of the best ones we have ever experienced.
Catrin Griffiths’ competency is further illustrated by relationships she has cultivated and nurtured among service persons in restaurants, hotels, and stores, as well as with other professionals which demonstrated her and the coach driver’s knowledge of local geography and customs. I know that because of her initiative the “Be My Guest” dinner was better than we have ever experienced in the past, emphasizing clearly the Company’s mission of enabling their guests to view a country or region from the inside out.
We are two of many faithful travelers who heartily recommend the Trafalgar Scandinavian/Fjord adventure. We wish future guests will be placed in the capable hands of Catrin and Laszlo. These two professionals made us feel safe, content, welcome, and they were conscious of our particular needs. A hard thing to do when there are forty-plus other travelers. I admire the Director’s competency and self-confidence. It is always heartening to recognize one who enjoys her work, as illustrated by her enthusiasm. What a “job” to have!
PS Mr. Tollman, I met you several years ago and booked the Best of Britain trip because of your enthusiasm and love of your work! A suggestion: we would like to see a Trafalgar Favorite Cities tour, say for example running each for about nine days total, visiting several cities in certain regional areas, like Bruges and Amsterdam or Oslo and Stockholm or Naples and Palermo or Glasgow and St. Andrews, for example. We are running out of Trafalgar tours to take!
Traveling is a gift! I have the opportunity to travel a lot before I got married. It is amazing how many things you could visit if you travel solo and skip the distractions. Thank you for sharing your post. Greetings!