As a rail transport operator, punctuality is, of course, the first priority for Compagnie du Chemin de Fer Montreux Oberland Bernois AG (MOB). However, with tourists making up 70% of its passengers, the train company also works hard to make the entire journey a memorable one.
“We operate trains on seven railway routes through some of the most picturesque countryside that Switzerland has to offer,” says Marketing Manager and Board Member Hans Ruedi Gerber. “The longest route takes passengers from Montreux on the banks of Lake Geneva to Zweisimmen in the heart of the Bernese Alps, on a panoramic journey that lasts roughly two hours.”
Passengers can choose to enjoy the journey in specially designed panoramic carriages with enormous windows that offer the best view possible of the surrounding landscape as it unfolds over the course of the journey. “We also operate traditional, belle epoque-style trains to give passengers a taste of how people travelled at the turn of the last century,” says Mr. Gerber.
These trains hark back to the company’s beginnings in the early years of the 20th century. Switzerland had been discovered by the English, who were keen to escape from the smoke and pollution of England’s industrial cities and breathe in the pure air of the Swiss mountains.
The company was founded by several Montreux hoteliers to ferry the rapidly growing number of English guests from Lake Geneva to the Bernese Alps, where they could take the health-giving air. “The route still takes passengers through untouched regions that cannot be reached by other means, including Unesco world heritage sites of exceptional natural beauty,” says Mr. Gerber.
Another route originating in Montreux takes passengers up to a height of 2,042 m and the summit of the Rochers-de-Naye overlooking Lake Geneva. The journey on the charming old cog railway takes around 55 minutes with trains departing from Montreux every hour. In the lead up to Christmas, the train takes passengers to the House of Santa Claus for a wonderfully festive experience.
As well as linking popular resorts such as Interlaken and Gstaad, MOB also operates funicular railways to popular tourist attractions as well as a cable car above Lake Geneva. It also operates special trains offering particular experiences. For example the Chocolate Train takes passengers to a chocolate factory. In keeping with the theme, passengers are served hot chocolate and chocolate pastries on board.
Another special train takes passengers on a visit to a cheese factory where they can sample some of Switzerland’s famous cheeses. “We cater predominantly to tourists and tailor our service to their needs,” says Mr. Gerber, who joined MOB in 2015. “My job is to increase passenger numbers. We are continuing to target the tourist sector with most of our marketing aimed at this group which makes up 84% of passenger numbers.”
Increasingly, Switzerland has become popular with visitors from Asia and India. “We have sales representatives all over the world and work closely with the Swiss Travel System to raise awareness,” explains Mr. Gerber. “We will shortly open an office in North America and have five agents in the Asian market.”
In addition to the fantastic views, passengers can enjoy a snack and beverage on board while looking forward to the culinary specialties on offer at their destination. “We cooperate with the local hoteliers and restaurateurs to offer all-inclusive packages that make booking an excursion much easier for customers,” says Mr. Gerber. “I can see the tourist sector splitting in two. On the one hand, you have the low-cost sector epitomized by no-frills airlines, while on the other you have the all-inclusive sector which focuses on taking the stress out of holidays. We see ourselves in the latter camp and the response from our customers shows that this is increasingly their preference. They want to be looked after and left free to focus on enjoying the experience. That is the direction in which we find ourselves moving for the future.”