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For sale: Swiss Mountains. (News Flash).

In an effort to take advantage of the UN's Year of the Mountain, Switzerland Tourism has recruited the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to sell the Swiss Alps. Annan will be seen enthusing about the Swiss mountains in a documentary to be screened on British television. The 52-minute "Mountain Spirit," which will premiere in Cannes in the spring, is one of a number of projects undertaken by Switzerland Tourism during the Year of the Mountain.

"It would have been unforgivable to miss such an opportunity," says Michel Ferla, deputy head of Swiss Tourism. The aim of the campaign, which will be launched amid much fanfare at the international Tourism Exchange in Berlin on March 17, is unashamedly to use the Tear of the Mountain to promote Switzerland as the definitive mountain land.

The connection between the UN event and Switzerland's greatest natural asset is obvious. But there are many who believe that an aggressive marketing campaign is incompatible with the environmental aims of the International Year of the Mountain. Increased tourism, it is feared, will inevitably damage the fragile alpine ecosystem, a fear Ferla says is unfounded as the Swiss have put in place enough checks and balances to prevent ecological degradation: "We are keen to preserve our environment. We have imposed plenty of limits to prevent us destroying what the mountains have given us" said Ferla, who conducted the ten-minute interview with Annan.

The interview with Annan was set up thanks to the personal intervention of Adolf Ogi, the former Swiss cabinet minister and current UN special representative for sport. In 2000, Ogi took the UN chief on a well-publicised hike through the mountains around his hometown of Kandersteg.

In the interview, Annan, by his own admission a poor skier, declares his passion for walking in the mountains in summer: music to the ears of Swiss Tourism, which would like to stress the attractions of the Alps outside the peak winter period.

Switzerland Tourism is encouraging the idea of using cities like Lausanne, Bern or Montreux as bases to visit the mountains in summertime. Annan notes during the interview that when Geneva is cloaked in fog, the mountains barely half an hour away are often clear.

As well as the television documentary, Switzerland Tourism has in store to attract foreigners to the Alps.

In July, around 250 foreign journalists will be invited to the Aletsch Glacier in the Bernese Oberland, which has just been named a World Heritage site. The organisation's website, MySwitzerland.com, will also be given greater prominence and will offer 1,000 tips on how best to enjoy the Alps, albeit in an environmentally sound manner.
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Title Annotation:International Pages; UN's Year of the Mountain
Comment:For sale: Swiss Mountains. (News Flash).(UN's Year of the Mountain)(International Pages)
Publication:Swiss News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2002
Words:440
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