Tourism needs continuous innovation. This was something Zermatt-based Dr Alexander Seiler, who laid the foundation stone for today’s marketing organisation Switzerland Tourism in 1911, already knew.
After being taken over by Alexander Seiler in 1853, the Hotel Monte Rosa in Zermatt – at the time a modest wooden chalet – quickly became the base for mountaineers setting out from here for the Matterhorn. His experience of tourism was therefore the best prerequisite for him to be elected to the Board of Directors of the Gornergrat Railway in 1900.
A heart for tourism and transport
However, Alexander Seiler was not only committed to the further development of the Gornergrat Railway. His innovative ideas included the international marketing of Zermatt, the expansion of hiking trails and the electrification of the region.
Seiler was also politically active. From 1905 to 1920 he represented the canton of Valais as a National Councillor in the Swiss Parliament. As Zermatt Tourism writes in the Matterhorn Blog, “tourism was at the heart of his political activities”. He realised that tourism could only survive with great innovative strength. However, this power should not be curbed by outdated laws and restrictive regulations, but should be allowed to unfold freely. As a National Councillor, he also campaigned for better transport links and supported railway projects such as the expansion of the Simplon and Lötschberg line and the construction of the Grimsel Pass road.
The birth of Switzerland Tourism
In 1911, Seiler launched a political initiative or motion to establish a central sales and marketing organisation for tourism. As you can read in the Matterhorn Blog, the National Association for the Promotion of Travel, which later became the Swiss Transport Centre (SVZ), was founded on 28 November 1917 in the National Council Hall in the Federal Palace in Bern. Its task was to promote travel (to Switzerland).
After its founding, Seiler was the first president of the organisation. In 1996, the company was renamed Switzerland Tourism. To this day, Switzerland Tourism is still fulfilling the mission that Alexander Seiler intended for it in his visionary motion 106 years ago. As a tourist attraction in the region, the Gornergrat Railway works closely with the national sales and marketing organisation.