Geneva Group Touts Affordability to Draw U.S. Market

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By Caroline Scutt

NEW YORK -- The Geneva Tourist Office wants to change the U.S. market's perception that Geneva, and all of Switzerland, is an expensive vacation destination.

The tourist office also is again offering a number of themed weekend Value Packages, commissionable at 15%, to entice travelers and travel agents to book Geneva.

Although the number of U.S. visitors has steadily dropped over recent years, Geneva is banking on the increased strength of the U.S. dollar to bring people back, said Marc Grangier, manager of communications for the Geneva Tourist Office.

At press time, $1 was equivalent to 1.36 Swiss francs.

Grangier also said that Swiss prices have remained relatively unchanged.

Approximately 200,000 U.S. tourists visited Geneva last year, down from 250,000 six years ago, he said.

The city is aiming to increase the number of U.S. visitors by about 10% in 1997.

In order to reach that goal, the tourist office is trying to get the word out through print ads and agent seminars that Switzerland is affordable.

For example, according to an independent study conducted in Europe last year, the rack rate of a Hilton hotel room is lower in Geneva than in Paris; London; Brussels, Belgium, or Amsterdam, Netherlands, he said.

The same study revealed that a cup of espresso can cost $3 in New York and $2 in Geneva; a local beer costs about $4 in the Big Apple and $2.80 in Geneva.

In response to the success of the Value Packages, which were introduced last year, the Geneva Tourist Office created a number of programs for 1997.

The packages are a way to demonstrate that "more goes on in Geneva than just business," he said.

About 70% of travelers to the city are on business, and the average stay is about 2.5 days, he added.

The weekend packages offer clients the choice of level of accommodations and length of stay (one, two or three nights).

Rates start at about $78 per night at a two-star hotel and about $111 at a five-star property.

Children's rates are available.

The cost includes breakfast, taxes, public transportation passes, a city tour and coupon booklet.

Some of the themed packages feature the Geneva Festival (valid Aug. 8 to 10); the Amadeus Festival (valid Sept. 4 to 13); the Geneva Weekend, a la Carte (available throughout the year), and the International Fair for Books and Press plan (valid April 30 to May 4).

For more information, call (011) 41-229 297-000; fax (011) 41-229 297-011.

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