Wishful Thinking – Why the World Prefers Zurich
With a population of less than half a million, Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland. Not much of a boast – you’d be forgiven in thinking – for a municipality that has one twenty-sixth the population of Tokyo.
How exciting can a town really be, New Yorkers may ask, with just a third of the intensity of Big Apple by population density? Or which could nestle happily inside London’s sprawling, striving and strident shadow 18 times. But does biggest always equate with better?
Magazine publisher Tyler Brulé, one of the most influential voices in matters of global current affairs, is confident he has the answer. As one of Zurich’s most vocal protagonists, his love affair with the city began as a schoolboy while on a whistle stop tour of Europe with his grandmother.
Writing in the American Express affiliated magazine Travel + Leisure he says, “Stepping off the train, I was smitten. Zurich was the capital of my faultless model-train world, an instant infatuation, and the start of an urban obsession. The city that greeted us was a deeply civilized, compact, safe, easy to navigate, and a pleasant mix of quaint and unswervingly modern.”
Brule and his grandmother embarked on a 48-hour orgy of “dainty cakes and freshly pressed blood-orange juice,” along the Bahnhofstrasse – Europe’s third most expensive street for retail property.
The most mind-blowing experience of it all, he says, was witnessing the launch of a global phenomenon – the Swatch watch. This was 1983, Brule explains, and a watershed moment for Switzerland whose watch industry had been under fire from stiff competition from Japan since the advent of fashionable digital timepieces.
You may remember that this iconic plastic timepiece grabbed the world’s attention, selling a million units in its first year and many more in successive years. Undoubtedly facilitated by the trend for wearing twin swatches on your wrist. No matter how hoary that particular fashion statement might look today, Swatch was a global advertisement for the Swiss talent for effortless style, creativity, and savoir faire.
It was one in the eye for Orson Welles’ character Harry Lime who famously derided Switzerland for ‘brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace’ which inspired nothing more exciting than “the cuckoo clock”. And Brule was taking notes…
His prominent current affairs/lifestyle title Monocle recently joined the Mercer Quality of Living Survey and The Economist's World's Most Liveable Cities surveys in tipping their hats to Zurich’s superiority in the lifestyle stakes.
While Mercer’s list helps multi-national companies decide where to open offices or plants and how much to pay employees, Monocle’s Most Liveable Cities Index is aimed squarely at wising-up its already achingly hip readership.
“Everyone expects the world's most liveable cities to have a good airport, low crime rates, and a strong education system. Not necessarily factored in are cultural diversity, outstanding food stores, proximity to nature, a dynamic modern art scene, and a lake with drinkable water,” Brule explains.
Monocle thinks the sun shines out of Zurich’s backside – quite literally, in fact. One recent segment in the magazine eulogised the city’s Uraniastrasse car park. “A shining example,” it gushes of the way Zürich is renowned for providing its commuters with efficient transport solutions. Red and green lights at each bay allow drivers to see exactly which spaces are free, taking the pain out of parking.”
The blend of old and new with the Swiss aptitude for making things work properly is the secret to Zurich’s appeal. The popular image of Switzerland is the three Ps: purity, punctuality, precision. And for the most part it’s a pretty accurate view – the country operates with the exactitude of a Patek Philippe watch.
Retaining much of its 19th-century charm, Zurich is situated on the northern shore of Lake Zurich in the heart of the country. The city is both large enough to offer all the amenities you’d expect from a metropolis, but small enough to explore in a weekend.
Away from the haughty shops and banks, Zürich’s startlingly hip side starts to emerge.
The area is known as Zurich West. It doesn’t have the same ring as Rippongi, or the sizzle of Soho, but nobody could accuse it of being geographically incorrect.
This former industrial area north of Zurich’s railway station (and yes, west of the Centre) has become a chic hangout for artists, students and intellectuals in much the same was as London’s East End or Williamsburg in New York. The factories and warehouses along Langstrasse have been reinvented as trendy bars and art house cinemas in the wake of the city’s planning authority.
Zurich West is a complete contrast to the city’s image of old – straight laced, buttoned down, and affluent (a characterisation which is still largely intact in Aldstadt). In fact, there are those who reckon Zurich’s in another league entirely from the old chestnuts of Western Europe, like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, Paris or London.
And if it’s good enough for an inveterate (but vindicated) snob like Tyler Brule, it’s most certainly good enough for you!
Business Class – Swiss Airs and Graces
Switzerland’s geographical dimensions maybe small, but it’s perfectly formed. Its natural beauty and location rival that of any country anywhere in the world. The nation has never seen a need to join a bloc or union, since it constitutes a clear brand in the eyes of the entire world. Even though its local market is limited, Switzerland has produced world-beating corporate giants in advanced industries.
It should come as no surprise then that Switzerland should lead the World Economic Forum’s rankings for Global Competitiveness. In fact, the Swiss economy has responded to the encouragement with accelerating GDP growth during the second quarter of 2010 and scoring its highest growth rate in 2½ years. The nation is currently enjoying the strongest level of growth since the fourth quarter of 2007, when the yearly rate stood at 3.9%. Economists are expecting solid growth figures for the remainder of 2010 and beyond.
Little wonder then that companies are falling over themselves to get a piece of the Swiss action. There are many official and private companies who provide assistance for entrepreneurs to set up shop in Switzerland – among the best are Osec, who have offices in Zurich, Lausanne, and Lugano, and Barzilay Services who operate out of Geneva.
These companies are adept at selecting the appropriate legal forms for your company and can provide advice and support. They are the first port of call for anyone wishing to learn more about establishing companies and corporate governance, visas, residence and work permits, and all legalities regarding infrastructure, labour laws, and real estate.
Geared up as it is for well-heeled travellers, Geneva has no shortage of quality dining, lakefront strolls, stunning architecture, dozens of theatres and an army of galleries, plus streets clean enough to serve dinner from. Oh, yes – and a crime rate that claims just 8 murders a year. Even so, Geneva has been described as ‘the ultimate pass-through’ city…
While Zurich is gaining an international reputation as an arts and culture nerve centre, Geneva remains, well – conventional. Every year, tens of thousands of people arrive without giving it a glance, for their business meetings, conferences, or trips straight out of town to the Alps. But Geneva has one trump card up its sleeve that even the most jaded and systematic voyager can’t fail to find captivating. Even Madonna, the most diva-esque and demanding of clients checks into Le Richemond when she’s in Geneva.
This splendidly stylish establishment is close to the central business district and set back from the lake. The hotel’s restaurant Sapori excels at modern Italian cooking and is one of the most fashionable dining rooms in Geneva, opening onto the city’s most fashionable and sought-after terrace in the warmer months. Most of the hotel’s 109 rooms have balconies and rich, lacquered surfaces and large marble bathrooms and views of the lake.
Apart from the sheer range of pleasure on offer, the attention to business travellers’ needs that really sets Le Richemond apart from the competition. The hotel’s modern meeting and event space occupying its prime lakefront setting is the delineation of the term location, location, location. The only problem is, you and your guests might never want to leave!
Facts and figures
In 2010 (until 20 September), Geneva Tourism & Conventions has secured 24 business events, which represent a total of 35’458 visitors.
Geneva International Airport
Between end of 2009 and now, the Geneva International Airport (AIG) inaugurated its new facilities of the main terminal (total area of AIG has increased by 40%) and a conference centre called “Altitude”. The remodelling work aimed to optimize the service offered to passengers and to the Airport's partners and users. The “Altitude” comprise a restaurant, a bar lounge and seven rooms. It is located on the top floor of Geneva International Airport and offers a refined selection of dishes, a superb view of the tarmac and the Jura Mountains, and an ideal setting for holding seminars and private receptions.
In 2009, Geneva Palexpo – Switzerland’s largest, fully-integrated, international exhibition and conference centre – has been entirely refurbished.
It offers flexibility and versatility under one roof. Located 4km from the city centre, it is 500m from Geneva International Airport. With direct links from the railway station, Geneva Palexpo is the ideal location for a conference or seminar.
Exhibition space: up to 100,000 sqm
7 modular exhibition halls
13 multi-purpose and modular meeting rooms of varying capacities accommodating up to 4800 delegates
The biggest multi-purpose venue in Switzerland, Arena Hall is linked to Hall 7 of the Geneva Palexpo and can be leased in combination with it.
Congress capacity is 6500 of which 3564 is in fixed seats.
After an entire refurbishment, the CICG offers:
4 main rooms, which can be combined from 130 to 2,200 seats
23 committee rooms from 16 to 270 seats
4,000 sqm of exhibition space on various levels for commercial exhibitions
All these rooms and areas are modular and flexible, in line with the concept of polyvalence – CICG’s key competence today.