Martin, as CEO of Zurich Tourism, do you have to be Zurich’s biggest fan?
Ha, I don’t know if I have to be the biggest one, but yes, I am definitely a huge fan of Zurich. I was born here, I live in the district of Wipkingen and I really think I ‘live’ Zurich. Honestly, I could not imagine being the CEO of a tourism organisation for any other destination. Zurich is my city, I can market it with all my heart.
How did you become CEO of Zurich Tourism and what does a CEO of a tourism organisation actually do?
How to become a CEO? With a lot of luck. And what do I do? A lot of apéros. Joking aside, when Zurich Tourism began looking for a new CEO, I honestly applied without knowing exactly what my job would be. During the long and tough assessment process I learned what it means exactly. And the more I got to know, the more I wanted the job.
So what is it that you actually do?
Basically I manage a private SME with roughly 100 employees that markets Zurich as a destination. The company has divisions that are completely different from one another. On the one hand we have area managers who travel the world promoting Zurich, while on the other there’s the tourist information unit here in Zurich that advises visitors. There is also a marketing unit and a strategic line of work.
How do you convince someone to visit Zurich?
This totally depends on where someone comes from. That is one reason why we target our stories and messages to each respective market. I’ll give you an example. In Asia we position Zurich as a hub for all Switzerland - mountains like Rigi, Pilatus, the Rheinfall waterfalls are all Zurich attractions because you can easily reach them on a day trip. For someone from Germany, we need to tell another story, positioning Zurich, for example, as a food destination.
Is that what has changed the most in recent years?
Probably yes. We don’t have this one big campaign with one message anymore, but we tell lots of different stories for different audiences. But, of course, it’s very important that Zurich can live up to the needs we create.
What is Zurich’s biggest asset?
With the lake, the river and the Uetliberg mountain, Zurich manages to create a sort of holiday feeling, even for residents. Leisure and recreation activities are always only a few steps away. Nevertheless it’s a metropolis, which we call a mini-metropolis. It has all the advantages of a big city like a well-connected airport, top restaurants, nightlife and so on, but everything is easy to reach. No endless taxi rides like in Berlin or New York are necessary.
So where do you take people when guests visit?
Defintiely to the classic, traditional Zurich, the picturesque old town, the churches, the lake, the river... But then there is the modern, urban Zurich, which also shouldn’t be missed. Just walk down the river a few minutes, and you can dive into the urban districts of 5 and 4 with their nightlife and modern restaurants and the Viadukt shopping street. I always make sure my guests get to see both sides of Zurich.
What’s the first thing you miss when you’re not in Zurich?
It’s that holiday feeling that I mentioned earlier. That’s something I miss when I’m in really big cities. I like the urban canyons of New York or Hong Kong, but when there I also miss having the chance to hop on my mountain bike.
And is there anything that annoys you about Zurich?
Yes, the situation with cycling. For decades it’s been really tough for cyclists for example to ride by Bellevue, one of the city’s main traffic junctions. But nothing has happened and progress is way too slow. The other annoying thing is that residents have apparently become less tolerant towards urban life. It has, for example, become more difficult for restaurateurs because residents are less tolerant of noise.
What are your favourite restaurants?
Well, there are so many. In my district, I love The Artisan with its modern approach. And I love burgers. One of the best is Burgermeister, a small fast food joint that serves excellent burgers. I often go to the Vietnamese Co Chin Chin with a cool urban atmosphere and great, fresh food. In the centre I like Rooftop, on the top floor of the Modissa fashion house – an unexpected location with a special flair. I also like down-to-earth places. My favourite is Köchlistube, perfect for cordon bleu and really affordable. And my alltime favourite is Café Boy. For many years they’ve offered sensational cuisine with a great wine list.
Finally, do you have any recommendations for an apéro? Sure, in the city centre I like the classy Widder and Kronenhalle bars, which are top quality. But honestly I almost prefer just having a beer in a dive bar, where all kinds of people meet. My favourite is El Lokal. In my district Nordbrücke is my favourite.