The Secrets of Interlaken’s Success as the SEF’s Host Destination

6th September 2023

Interlaken, a picturesque destination nestled between two lakes and surrounded by the majestic Swiss Alps, has proven to be the perfect host for the prestigious Swiss Economic Forum (SEF) for some years now. But what makes it so special? Why would high-profile delegates convene to the region every year to network, collaborate and discuss current trends and challenges facing the economy and society?

Words Remi Deve

Since its relocation from Thun due to the increasing number of participants, Interlaken, Switzerland’s breathtaking location has been home to the Swiss Economic Forum (SEF). The largest economic and tourism event in Switzerland, it brought this year over 1,500 participants from various industries and offered a platform for established companies, start-ups, and political leaders to exchange ideas and create meaningful business connections.

Compelling reasons

One compelling reason for Interlaken’s selection as the SEF host is the economic and tourism benefits it brings to the local community. A study conducted by the Institute for Tourism and Mobility in collaboration with the Institute for Business and Regional Economics of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts revealed that the SEF 2022 generated a total turnover of CHF 10.36 million, resulting in a value added of CHF 4.98 million. This economic impact created around 34 full-time positions, contributing to the growth of the local economy. Additionally, the 1,760 participants of the SEF incurred approximately CHF 479,000 in additional expenditures during their visit, providing a boost to the tourism industry. The study also highlighted that the tourism value added amounted to around CHF 600,000, equivalent to 8.4 full-time positions.

Interlaken’s strategic location, just 45 minutes away from Bern by direct train, has also played a crucial role in attracting the SEF. As the event outgrew its previous location, Interlaken stepped in to provide the necessary infrastructure and hotel capacity to accommodate the growing number of participants. Interlaken’s accessibility, combined with its awe-inspiring scenery and reputation as a business and holiday region, made it an ideal choice. 

In an interview with Boardroom, Martina Röhrig, MICE Coordinator at Congress Kursaal Interlaken, emphasized that “Interlaken offers a unique combination of business and holiday feeling in a very small area. Whether it’s the meeting location, hotels, railway station, or supporting programs, everything is within a few minutes’ walking distance and can be easily reached with the new direct connection from Zurich airport.”

In terms of meeting infrastructure, Congress Kursaal Interlaken stands as one of the largest congress centres in the canton of Bern, and has provided the SEF with state-of-the-art technology, catering services, and versatile event spaces. With its historic building, modern Auditorium, and magnificent park, the venue offers a captivating setting, with no less than 5000 m2 capable of accommodating over 1500 people. Martina Röhrig highlighted the appeal of the Kursaal Interlaken, stating, “The stylish ambience in the historic halls of the Kursaal, combined with the modern auditorium, makes this a uniquely attractive venue for events.”

Alignment in sustainability

But beyond this, Interlaken’s selection as the host city for the SEF also aligns with Switzerland’s spirit of innovation and forward-thinkingness. The country’s commitment to sustainability and its well-developed public transport network perfectly complements the objectives of the SEF. Interlaken itself has been recognized for its sustainability efforts, with the municipality awarded the Energy City label and Interlaken Tourism bearing the Swisstainable “engaged” label. The Kursaal Interlaken, in line with the sustainability ethos, even utilizes the water of the flowing Aare River to cool its 1,900 mauditorium, exemplifying a commitment to environmentally friendly practices.

This year’s SEF also marked a significant milestone as it celebrated its 25th anniversary. To commemorate this occasion, participants were treated to an extraordinary drone show, leaving them with a lasting memory of the event. Other highlights included notable speakers and the presence of distinguished guests such as Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, and Katalin Novák, President of Hungary.

The support provided by the Congress Kursaal Interlaken AG to the SEF organizers is instrumental in ensuring the success of the event. The professional team collaborates closely with clients to offer comprehensive solutions, addressing any logistical challenges that may arise. “From planning and organizing the event to providing on-site support, the Congress Kursaal Interlaken AG offers a comprehensive service from a single source. The catering services provided are tailored to meet the specific culinary needs of the SEF, ensuring high-quality food and attentive service,” explained Martina.

But the impact of hosting the SEF in Interlaken goes far beyond the event itself. The region gains significant exposure through continuous live broadcasting by Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) from the auditorium foyer. Moreover, many participants usually opt to stay overnight in Interlaken and its surrounding areas, providing a boost to the local economy and leaving satisfied visitors who may return for future leisure or business activities. As a result, the success of the SEF has opened doors for other conferences in Switzerland, such as the Swiss Innovation Forum or Switzerland Sustainable Forum, reaffirming Switzerland’s reputation as a centre for economic growth and innovation.

Additionally, the SEF has a lasting legacy in nurturing young entrepreneurs through initiatives like the SEF.Growth support program and the annual Swiss Economic Award. These efforts further strengthen Interlaken’s status as a beacon of innovation and economic progress in Switzerland.

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