A prince from Japan on the Gornergrat

Story 69

International tourism to Zermatt grew more and more in the 1950s. Japan became increasingly interesting as a source market. Constant Cachin, the spa director at the time, realised this. One visitor raised the profile of Zermatt in Japan overnight.

Multi-day flight from Japan

The first Swissair plane took off from Zurich to Tokyo on 1 April 1957. The flight went via Geneva, Athens, Beirut, Karachi, Mumbai, Bangkok and Manila to Tokyo, where the plane landed four days later on 5 April. Even though the journey took a long time, Switzerland became an increasingly popular destination for Japanese tourists from the mid-1960s onwards. At first, however, the number of guests only increased slowly, even in Zermatt.

Japanese prince on the Gornergrat

The brother of the Japanese emperor, Prince Takamatsu, travelled to Switzerland with his wife in 1969 and travelled by train from Zurich to Zermatt on 31 August. There the Matterhorn village gave him and his entourage a warm welcome. The streets of the village were richly decorated with flags.

For the spa director Constant Cachin, it was a special honour to look after the royal delegation. On 1 September, he took them up to the Gornergrat. As a result, people in Japan suddenly became aware of Zermatt and the Gornergrat.

First direct flight from Tokyo

In 1974, Swissair introduced the first “direct flight” from Tokyo to Zurich (with a stopover for refuelling in Mumbai). This reduced the flight time to around 20 hours.

Shortly afterwards, the then Swiss Transport Centre (now Switzerland Tourism) opened an agency in Tokyo. Marketing for Switzerland was intensified.

Increasing numbers

Visitor numbers increased continuously. Zermatt, the Matterhorn, the Glacier Express and the Gornergrat Railway became increasingly popular and are still fixed components of Japan’s travel programmes to this day. In the record year of 2006, Zermatt welcomed more than 60,000 Japanese guests.

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