English Corner

View of Toronto's skyline and the 553-meter-high CN Tower.

The new Swiss destination: a magnificent city

Gregor Waser

Opening flight, gala dinner, city tour – on the first flight to Toronto, it quickly becomes clear that the Canadian metropolis has great potential in more ways than one.

Flying directly to Canada with a Swiss airline was already possible: Swiss offers flights to Montreal, while Edelweiss flies to Vancouver and Calgary. Since Friday, May 10, 2024, Toronto has now been added to the Swiss flight schedule. There will be five non-stop flights a week from Zurich to Toronto Pearson Airport. Travelnews was invited on board for the almost nine-hour inaugural flight and spoke to some of the protagonists.

Heike Birlenbach, Chief Commercial Officer at Swiss, knows Canada well, having once spent an exchange year in Canada and later studied in Montreal: "Let yourself be surprised – Toronto is a wonderful city with many ethnicities. The city has a lot to offer, culturally, culinarily and also economically. North America is a very important market for us, with ten destinations that we now fly to. Toronto ideally complements our route network." The Swiss Head of Commerce also expects many Canadian passengers to fly to Zurich as a transfer or final destination.

Impressive skyline

A small delegation of around a dozen people attended the first flight, along with a few journalists, a Swiss social media crew, the Swiss cargo manager and the vice president of Switzerland Tourism. After a brief stop at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, they embarked on a boat tour to Toronto Island, enjoying views of the impressive skyline. In the evening, they attended a press cocktail and gala dinner at the Design Exchange, alongside Canadian travel professionals, local journalists, and the entire Swiss cabin crew. Switzerland's ambassador to Canada, Olaf Kjelsen, delivered the opening speech.

Corinne Genoud, Member of the Executive Board of Switzerland Tourism and Head of Market West, is delighted about the additional capacity from Canada to Switzerland: "The Canadian market is doing well, we have seen steady growth over the last three years and the growth trend is continuing." According to Corinne Genoud, Canadian guests spend a relatively high amount in Switzerland, averaging 290 francs a day. They also appreciate trips on the Panorama train. "Canadians are interested in Europe and travel a lot. Switzerland is an ideal starting point," she noted

Lorenzo Stoll, Head of Cargo at Swiss WorldCargo, also talks about Canada’s great potential—Toronto in particular: "We transport pharmaceutical products from Canada to Switzerland, some of which are refrigerated. There are also a lot of automotive industry parts that are manufactured in Ontario. We also transport perishables, i.e. food such as salmon or lobster, and ensure the cold chain." In addition, valuables such as gold and diamonds are also transported to Switzerland.

Overall, Swiss WorldCargo handles 80 percent of its transit business via Zurich to other destinations. Specifically, Swiss flies luxury fashion from Italy and France to Canada via Zurich, as well as watches and food from Zurich. "Today we had cheese on the flight," says Lorenzo Stoll. Previously, Swiss had to transport goods to and from Toronto via Montreal by truck, but now it does so directly.

Great tourist attraction

While Swiss, Swiss WorldCargo and Switzerland Tourism see great potential in Toronto, travelers to Toronto can also expect many attractive options. Of course, Toronto is not a cheap destination, as the 48-hour stay shows, but the Canadian metropolis can easily keep up with Swiss prices - the exquisite lamb burger and a large beer in the Mill Street Brewpub in the Distillery District (make sure you go there!) cost the equivalent of 27 francs.

What I truly appreciated about my visit was the friendliness and helpfulness of the people. On the streets, I heard snippets of languages from all over the world, and the culinary variety was immense, ranging from Indian to Korean to Italian. The quality of food at the three restaurant stops I tried was particularly impressive.

Visitors to Toronto should also not miss out on a boat trip to the Toronto Islands, where they can pass by hundreds of nesting Canada geese and enjoy a stunning view of the city's skyline and the 553-meter-high CN Tower, along with countless other must-see attractions.