What a wonderful evening: we bumped elbows, clinked glasses and basked in the balmy Toronto weather. As some 40 industry honchos enjoyed legendary Swiss hospitality, we all agreed it almost felt like the before times. Bliss!
The official reason? We were bidding farewell to Ursula Beamish-Mader, Manager Media Relations North America for Switzerland Tourism. Since 1985, Toronto-based Beamish-Mader has convinced thousands of Canadians to visit her pristine, scenic and hospitable country.
But, as Pascal Prinz, the genial Director Canada for Switzerland Tourism was careful to stress, there was also a note of celebration: Switzerland is also celebrating the return of vaccinated Canadians, who since the end of JUN have been able to visit without a quarantine.
As competitors and colleagues mingled over a delicious buffet and cold drinks (the rosé wine seemed especially popular), the vibe was of relieved happiness.
Bidding farewell to his colleague, Prinz recalled how she introduced him to Canadian humour and hockey (“No need to call it ice hockey, Pascal”). “Ursula is fearless and I have admired her during the past three years since I started in this role.” The best thing about work, he added, is making friends of a lifetime.
Switzerland will also be connecting with Canadian agents when, with Air Canada, it hosts 36 hand-picked agents from across the country who have graduated from the Switzerland Travel Academy program. Between 28AUG and 02SEP this year they will be competing in teams to see which is the most resourceful and knowledgeable. Lisa Pierce, AC’s VP Canada and US Sales who will be with the group, says she can’t wait to “get back on the horse” and start travelling again. (And Open Jaw’s Isabelle Chagnon will be with them – don’t forget to look for on-the-scene coverage!)
Director/The Americas for Switzerland Tourism, Claudio Zemp, says he loves the fact that Canadian visitors head more off-the-beaten-path and connect with places not so known as tourism destinations. “We Swiss are known for being very organized, yes perhaps a bit boring,” he said with a laugh, “But also pragmatic.”
As for Beamish-Mader? She says she can’t wait to visit her come country – as a tourist. But I’d bet she’d be a great tour guide!