English Corner

The two castles of Valère and Tourbillon tower above the Valais cantonal capital of Sion. Picture: ST

Unterwallis is setting the scene for German-speaking Switzerland

The tourism industry wants to attract more people from German-speaking Switzerland to Valais. Among other things, new attractions should help to achieve this. Tourism experts from Lower Valais presented their innovations at a traditional raclette party in Zurich.

The figures speak for themselves: 45 peaks over 4000 metres, 300 days of sunshine, 51 mountain lakes and over 100 mountain railways - the tourist attractions in Valais are impressive. And what is equally important in today's digital age is the landscape, which provides an almost limitless array of perfect photo opportunities for social media influencers.

Last year, Valais recorded almost four and a half million overnight stays, which were nicely distributed throughout the year: 51 per cent of overnight stays were in the winter half-year and 49 per cent in the summer half-year.

The Swiss market is already very important for the Valais tourism region - and is set to grow further – especially in in Lower Valais. For many people in German-speaking Switzerland, however, the French-speaking part of the holiday canton seems very far away. The language barrier can also act as a deterrent. Potential guests don't want to embarrass themselves in their own country with their rudimentary school French.

At a raclette party in  Zurich's Seefeld district on Thursday evening (23 May), tourism professionals from the Lower Valais put these concerns to one side. They drummed up publicity for Sion, Nendaz, Ovronnaz and the Dents du Midi region - three of them in German and two in English. The saying goes: if you can thrive anywhere else in the world, you can thrive in Valais too.

The presentations centred on various new features that await guests. The cantonal capital of  Sion - with around 40,000 inhabitants also the largest town in the canton - is now offering a guided tour of the Valeria hill. The Basilique de Valère Valère is enthroned there. Among other things, it is home to the oldest functioning organ in the world.

In July, a new, attractive accommodation opens in  Nendaz: the MAD Retreat Hotel. With chalets, an exclusive spa, vegetarian meals and a wide range of wellness facilities, it is positioning itself as a place of retreat and relaxation.

Cheese fans get their money's worth everywhere in Valais. But from this year, especially in Ovronnaz. The Odonn cheese dairy is opening its doors for the first time this summer - with guided tours every Friday afternoon. Booking is required.

Bike trails are one of the highlights in the Dents du Midi region. They will soon be in the international spotlight. This August, Champéry will host the European Downhill Mountain Bike Championships, and in September 2025, Champéry will also host the downhill competitions of the Mountain Bike World Championships.

In the Région Dents du Midi, it's not just fast down the mountain, but also faster up the mountain from this summer. The new gondola lift from Morgins will start operating on 1 July 2024.