by Malcolm Curtis
Swisster.ch | June 30, 2009 | 08:33
Bed and breakfasts have been slow to catch on in Switzerland, although hundreds of new such establishments have sprung up in the past few years. Up to now there has been no national guide available, but a Geneva-based publisher is meeting that need with a book in English and French that highlights more than 100 Swiss B&Bs from across the country that are as varied as the personalities of their owners.
Bed and breakfast establishments, a commonplace feature of the tourism industry in countries such as Britain and France, are less common in Switzerland – but that situation is changing fast. The number of listed B&Bs in this country has more than doubled in the past four years, Isabelle Ferrari, of publishing house Gîtes de Suisse, told Swisster.
The Geneva-based company has 2,000 listings in its database, compared to 880 addresses in a guide it produced for 2004-05, Ferrari said. Now, for the first time, the publisher has released an illustrated guide of the most charming B&B’s in Switzerland, with information in English and French.
“There are B&B guides for other countries but none has come out before in Switzerland,” said Ferrari, 42. Traditionally, hotels have been the mainstay of Swiss hospitality but something has changed to spur more individuals across the country to offer chambres d’hôtes, as bed and breakfasts are known in French, of a unique nature that cannot be found elsewhere.
“A lot of new people have started this activity,” said Ferrari. “And it’s no longer a case of renting out the room of a son who has left the house to bring in a little money.” Charming Bed and Breakfasts in Switzerland identifies 113 places that welcome guests in environments that range from sumptuous quarters in châteaux to a cosy berth aboard a sailboat moored on Lake Geneva.
Ferrari, working with her sister Christine and partner Valerie Solano, has selected a variety of historic houses, mountain chalets, apartments, villas and even a few small hotels that operate like B&B’s. The selection ranges from places that rent rooms for as little as 55 francs per person to the luxurious Le Rosey château in Bursins, Vaud, where visitors can arrive by helicopter, and the four rooms rent from 420 to 540 francs a night.
Owned by architect Pierre Bouvier, the château features furniture designed by Bouvier and an “extremely luxurious” atmosphere, reflected by the opulent bathrooms, a gold covered swimming pool and gourmet meals served by famous chefs. Wine is produced from grapes grown in the château’s vineyard.
While Le Rosey charges premium rates, there is excellent value for money when you compare the experience with luxury hotels, Ferrari said. Generally, B&Bs offer lower prices than for the equivalent experience in Swiss hotels, she added. The guide is not classified according to budgets. Rather, it is organized around five themes: luxury, charm, character, comfort and uniqueness or the unusual.
In the two years it took the authors to research the 167-page book, Ferrari said they were struck by the distinctiveness of the B&B’s they selected from 13 regions across the country. “The addresses are really a reflection of the people who own them and their different personalities,” she said. Among the owners are artists “who are completely mad.”
As well as the splendid châteaux, the selection includes offerings as varied as an old-fashioned caravan and a log cabin. Fabienne and Didier Liautaud rent out the cabins of two sailboats moored at Le Bouveret, at the eastern end of Lake Geneva.
“Here the charm is the early morning mist hovering above the waters of Lake Geneva, the mineral smells, the lapping of the waves and the smooth rocking of your floating home,” the guide says. Bunks rent for 50 to 70 francs per person, on-board breakfast included.
The guide includes pictograms identifying such features as non-smoking rooms, available meals in addition to breakfast, family rates, and accessibility for the disabled, acceptability of pets and whether credit cards are taken. Founded in 2001, Gîtes de Suisse plans to launch similar guidebooks such as Bed and Breakfasts in the Swiss Mountains and Bed and Breakfasts for Families, both of which are being prepared for publication.
Charming Bed and Breakfasts in Switzerland sells for 32 francs or 23 euros and is available at many book shops across Switzerland. It can also be ordered online through the www.gitesdesuisse.ch website.