“Yesterday evening I arrived at Lucerne, and put up at the best inn there, the Schweitzerhof”
[Count Leo Tolstoy, “Lucerne”]
I looked around the Cirrus as we pulled away from the dock opposite The Schweizerhof, one of our host hotels. What an eclectic mix we were – Danes, Germans, Italians, French, various Swiss, many Brazilians, lots of Americans, Irish, UK. English was the common language although you could also hear French, Swiss German, some Italian. People were tired – particularly the Americans whose body clocks were set to a different time – but the mood was upbeat, positively expectant. Folks were curious as to what would happen next, to experience how it all might unfold.
Warm hugs and Swiss Kisses
There were warm hugs, firm handshakes and lots of Swiss kissing amidst the general whooping and hollering that occurs when people in the meeting industry get together. White wine and orange juice were served as we cruised close to shore surrounded by an impossibly beautiful Alpine setting. Our journey had started, the inaugural Ovation Trophy was underway. But this was just the prologue, the calm before the storm. The bravado, nonchalant weighing up of the competition before the game begins.
When you look at the map Lucerne or Luzern, depending on what language you prefer, is right in the middle of Switzerland about 45 mins from Zurich. It’s picture postcard perfect. So too, however, are many lakeshore towns in Switzerland. Think Montreaux. Think Lausanne. “So how do you compete with all this natural beauty”, I asked Lukas Hammer (Luzern Tourismus AG) and Olivier Vrieze (KKL – the Luzern Convention Centre). “We have almost 3000 hotel rooms all within walking distance of the convention centre” said Olivier. “We’re the only Swiss town with equal easy access to the lake and mountains” said Lukas. Roman Omlin, Director of Sales & Marketing at the Schweizerhof mentioned the ease of access from a major international hub (Zurich) and the joined-up way that all meetings infrastructure interconnects. You arrive at Zurich airport and seamlessly connect by train to Lucerne and thence to the convention centre and surrounding hotels.
Magdalena Halbgewachs is the new sales manager at the spectacular Palace Luzern, a member of the Victoria-Jungfrau collection. She’s only been in her new job since February and hails from Germany but is passionate about Luzern and the Palace hotel. She finds Luzern really friendly and remarked on the open, collaborative way the various hotels work together to highlight the overall destination appeal.
Lausanne may have the Olympic Museum but Lucerne has the Swiss Museum of Transport, our host venue for drinks and dinner on this, the arrival night of the Ovation Trophy. It’s a spectacular campus-like facility with individual halls dedicated to trains, planes and automobiles. Isaline Grichting is responsible for Congresses and Events there and told me that previously over 2000 delegates were catered for at the Museum during a special event. Located about 15 minutes on foot from the main hotels in the town this is a perfect facility to support Lucerne’s burgeoning conference and event business.
Max Chocolatier, Lucerne
Having some final work duties to perform I left the Museum on foot with my colleague Renato Grieco and we enjoyed a brisk walk back to the Schweizerhof as the first drops of rain fell on Lucerne. Tomorrow would be upon us sooner than we’d know. Upon entering my bedroom I noticed the red backpack with prominent logos of the Swiss Convention and Incentive Bureau (SCIB) and Ovation. What a thoughtful and useful gift! Beside it was a nice presentation from Luzern Tourismus, along with a precious bagful of delectable chocolates from the workshop of Max Chocolatier, a boutique producer with a retail store adjacent to my hotel. If Tolstoy were alive he’d certainly give a shout out to this most stunning shop with a commitment to “experience chocolate for the first time”.
Pádraic Gilligan is VP of Industry Relations at MCI and VP of MCI’s DMC unit, Ovation Global DMC. Ovation has partnered with SCIB in the creation of the inaugural Ovation Trophy, a “marvellous adventure” style journey from Lucerne to Zermatt. Huge thanks today and every day to Barbra Albrecht, Guendalina Rampazzi and to our own Aoife Delaney for pulling it all together.