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Q&A: Tour Guiding in Switzerland with Urs Hofer An interview with a Swiss slow travel pioneer

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UnTours is the first B-Corp certified tour company and is paving the way for slow travel and responsible tourism experiences in Europe. UnTours began in Switzerland and expanded to over 25 destinations over the decades.

We chat with one of the UnTours first travel guides — Urs Hofer, Tour Coordinator for UnTours Switzerland, Heartland and Oberland UnTours regions, to learn how slow travel looks in Switzerland.

How did you get into travel guiding?

I was an exchange student in the US long ago and I like the American language and culture, so I love to welcome American guests and show them our beautiful country of Switzerland. A colleague of mine had worked for UnTours and asked me to join about 15 years ago and that's how it all started.

I am a retired teacher and I work more for UnTours now than ever before. UnTours guests, or as I like to call them: “untourists”, are very independent travelers, so we see them only about once a week.

Why show Switzerland to travellers?

I realized over the years that our guests make me look at my country “through the eyes of the visitors”. That really helps me to appreciate the beauties of my country - and our region of the Bernese Oberland - even more.

I knew from the start that we have always had very interested - and interesting - guests coming who like to know more about Switzerland. They come from all states of the US which I find fascinating — I can show them my country and exchange thoughts comparing the US with Switzerland.

🧀 Discover a traditional Cheese Festival in Switzerland with Urs:

How does an “untour” look like in Switzerland?

Our very independent guests receive a Swiss Travel Pass and travel around individually. We offer them a day trip that we call “Orientation and Lunch Trip” at the beginning of their stay. We give them advice in all aspects of traveling around, making travel suggestions, helping them to plan their trips and answer their questions. We are also available throughout their stay to help.

The apartments we provide for our guests are often in Swiss Chalets and have a caring host / landlord / landlady, often living in the same house. I am also the coordinator for the hosts and I am always in contact with them. The key to a satisfying UnTours experience is really that our guests feel well in their apartment.

What sustainability principles do you follow on your tours?

All traveling is with public transportation. Trains, buses, boats, gondolas are all included in the Swiss Travel Pass. They run with locally produced hydroelectric power - we have a lot of that in the steep hills and mountains of the Alps. In the apartment, the guests are instructed how to separate the garbage so plastics, paper and so on can be recycled. We make sure to inform the guests about the fact that in a mountain area like the Alps, global warming is twice as high as the world average. That makes us act even more to do something about global warming.

What’s a place in Switzerland most travelers don’t know about?

In my UnTours area, the Oberland, we have what I call the pearl of the Alps, the Oeschinensee above Kandersteg, an absolute must. But below Kandersteg, there is a hidden gem, another one of our many lakes: The Blue Lake, Blausee, with sunken dead trees and trouts swimming in it.


Powered by its unique style of offering all the fun of independent travel in places like Tuscany, Provence, Ireland, Spain and across Europe, with the planning, service, and on-site support of a tour, UnTours pioneered slow travel and focuses on supporting local communities.

👉 Learn more about UnTours at www.untours.com
📸 Photo credits: www.hassensalum.com

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Content & Community Manager, Travel Massive

It was really interesting talking to Urs and learning more about Switzerland. Never been there but the stories Urs shared were really captivating.

1 year ago
Owner, Cultural Perspectives Limited

I particularly like the ‘Orientation and Lunch’ day trip idea. As an independent traveller you're not looking to be guided throughout your entire holiday stay, but the likelihood is that the advanced planning for your trip has been done purely through online research, guidebooks etc. Being welcomed by a local and perhaps offered the very latest news, views and advice (what’s on, personal recommendations etc) would surely be time well spent. How often do we spend (and sometimes partially waste) the first day of any holiday ‘finding our feet’ in self-orientation mode?

1 year ago
Speech language pathologist

Switzerland is very near and dear to my heart, as I lived there for 20 years. I love the idea of sustainable travel, and totally agree that there are many hidden gems that should be discovered. This article makes me want to go back to Switzerland to visit the places Urs speaks about!

1 year ago
CMO, UnTours & UnTours Foundation

One very important point to add here is that Urs is an amazing yodeler. With a little prompting (ok, without any prompting at all) there will be a yodel or three during that stroll around the gorgeous Swiss towns with him. Priceless.

1 year ago
Owner YSH Travel, Registered Tour Guide, Your Second Homeland Travel

This is awesome! I can feel the pride and passion in your tours - I do the same in South Africa, Cape Town. I incorporate my tours into Hidden Gems and Food Tasting Tours where i introduce our beautiful Mother City, Cape Town! Well done!

1 year ago
Travel Consultant, Kilimanjaro Tanzanite Safaris

Tour to show you natural beauty of Swiss, and also get a delicious chocolate

10 months ago
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Q&A: Tour Guiding in Switzerland with Urs Hofer

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Q&A: Tour Guiding in Switzerland with Urs Hofer was posted by Maria Stoyanova in Article , Switzerland , UnTours , Slow Travel , Responsible Travel , Tour . Featured on Feb 16, 2023 (1 year ago). Q&A: Tour Guiding in Switzerland with Urs Hofer is rated 5/5 ★ by 2 members.
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