One of Europe’s first Virtuoso travel advisors, Guido Graf – Travel Designer – DeluxeTargets – Switzerland – reports for us in this issue on the current state of play when it comes to shopping tourism, as well as a couple of interesting trends and ideas set to spur the imagination of his peers.

There are a number of major trends affecting shopping tourism at the moment. Of course, Asian tourists travelling to Europe continue to shop for the big luxury brands. But the Europeans, when they travel to New York or Singapore, are tending to look for the hidden things – not the big brands. They want the small designers, for unique items they can’t find in their home country. Another new idea has come from Galéries Lafayette in Paris, who have a special arrangement for Virtuoso clients, partnering with all the Virtuoso hotels in Paris, picking clients up in a BMW, taking them to a private lounge near the store, where they are offered a glass of Champagne, and then a “personal shopper” brings a selection of items to the client, even occasionally doing a private fashion show. It’s a personalised “away from the crowds” experience. Some people do want to look around the store, in which case the personal shopper can accompany them and help them find what they want. Barney’s in New York is also doing this, as is KeDeWe in Berlin, so exclusive, personalised shopping is a real trend with the “top” shopping crowd. For the general public, discount coupon systems are becoming more and more popular, even with high end brands and shopping malls.


Another interesting new trend is what we might term “watch tourism” in Switzerland. Here, tourists looking for a very specific kind of watch take appointments with the watchmakers to ensure the watches are already there, and can thus be sure they have priority for these pieces when they are there. A second kind of watch tourism, which is growing more and more, is where people are travelling to Switzerland, going to a watch factory for a whole day, and building their own watch. It takes about six or seven hours to actually make your own watch. You can put your own name on it and customise the colours. The fact of being able to show people the watch you made yourself is priceless!

Obviously, people are probably not travelling to Switzerland just to make a watch. They will include this as part of a visit to the country for skiing and sight-seeing and so-on. Prices will vary quite a lot depending whether you are assisted by a senior or junior watchmaker, and it must be stressed this this is an activity that has to be planned well in advance – a couple of months ahead. You can’t simply book for the next day.