It's true that people like film-stars and multi-millionaires for whom money is no object choose to live here at least part of the time, and some of the world's most prestigious and priciest hotels are on Swiss soil. Luckily, you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy what this country has to offer. Swiss Budget Hotels has been offering good quality, inexpensive accommodation all over the country for the last 15 years, and it now cooperates with the Reka-check organisation, which was founded to enable families who can't afford it to go on holiday.
Swiss Budget Hotels
This is a non-profit organisation with about 150 hotels, offering anything between 6 and 60 rooms each. They are essentially independent and not subject to a rating system; the standard is up to a three-star equivalent, comfortable, and many of them are family-run. They obviously appeal to families, but there are also lots of older people who use these hotels, especially for mountain holidays, or younger people looking for cheap accommodation after a concert, and even business people who just want an uncomplicated hotel to overnight.
"About 40% of our guests are Swiss, but the rest come from all over the world," says Peter Escher, managing director of the Swiss Budget Hotels, which recently came under new management. The website (www.rooms.ch, also in English) has been revamped and you can make a direct booking with any hotel in the organisation. It's also developing an iPhone App to be available by the time you read these lines, and there's an attractive new hotel guide.
"We also have a new Budget Stars programme, where clients can collect stars," adds Peter Escher. He explains that when clients book through www.rooms.ch they are awarded double stars, so that after around 10 overnights the tenth one is offered free in any of the 150 participating hotels. This equates to a discount of about 10%. As part of his effort to create the best possible deal for both guests and the hotels taking part (which includes pooling arrangements for purchasing supplies and equipment, advertising and so on), he's also forging cooperation arrangements with partners like Reka.
Reka-Card / Reka-Check / Reka-Checks
Though well known to Swiss people, Reka checks are a closed book to most foreign visitors. Reka is short for Reisekasse (travel fund). The organisation was founded over 70 years ago as a non-profit making cooperative society (Genossenschaft) issuing its own checks. Over 4,000 companies in Switzerland now take part in the scheme, offering Reka checks as a fringe benefit to their employees, who can buy a yearly quota at a hefty discount typically amounting to 20%. Seven of the ten largest firms in the country take part, including UBS, CS, Novartis and Coop for example. If you have a Coop Supercard you can also buy them through the Coop at 3% discount. Reka's website (www.Reka.ch) is also in English, and there's an iPhone App as well.
The checks can be used to pay for a wide variety of leisure facilities (look out for the Reka sign): public transport, ski-lifts, mountain railways, petrol (AVIA and BP), hotels, restaurants, camping sites, travel agents and even football matches and air fares. Reka offers a growing number of holiday activities including accommodation, which now of course includes Swiss Budget Hotels. It also runs its own holiday villages with organised programmes for children, which is a real boon for budget-conscious families.
Or you can use a Reka card, which is even more convenient than the checks. Reka is currently developing a system for customers to use its Reka card to pay for hotel accommodation direct on the Swiss Budget Hotels website, and it has other ideas for special offers in the pipeline.
A full list is available on www.Reka-guide.ch