Iconic canines

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/18 18:13:39

Switzerland’s new envoys to China – two St. Bernard dogs – arrive in Shanghai

Once used for rescue missions to save people caught in avalanches and natural catastrophes in the Swiss Alps mountains, over the decades St. Bernard dogs have become a symbol of spirit, culture and happiness. Most recently the iconic canine has adopted the responsibilities as the Switzerland's envoys to China.

The Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai held a press conference for the Shanghai leg of two St. Bernards' tours through China. The large dogs, Apero and Bricotine, traveled to Beijing and Shanghai to promote Switzerland as a fantastic mountain tourism destination.

According to their owners David and Rachel Luethi, the dogs were raised in the countryside near Lake Geneva and are half-blooded brother and sister. Over the years, Apero and Bricotine have won many canine competitions for their good breeding and training.

The female, Bricotine, just 2 years old, weighs 58 kilograms and was once Miss St. Bernard of Switzerland; 3-year-old Apero weighs 70 kilograms and ranked first among Swiss dogs in a beauty contest for dogs held in France. Luthi said that Apero is very loyal and co-dependent while Bricotine is more independent and free-spirited.

Their journey to the East is the longest trip they have ever taken. They joined the 2017 World Winter Sports Expo held in Beijing recently as part of the official Swiss delegation, as they are said to share the Swiss core values of trustworthiness, reliability, kindness, respect and helpfulness.

Social importance

According to Alexander Hoffet, Consul General of Switzerland in Shanghai, the decision to come to China arose from a January agreement between China and Switzerland to proclaim 2017 as the Sino-Swiss Year of Tourism. St. Bernards and pandas, the most symbolic national animals of the two countries, appear on the Year of Tourism logo.

Hoffet said in a speech that Switzerland's attractiveness as a tourism destination is reflected in the increasing number of visas that the consulate issues to Chinese travelers every year. "The Chinese represents the fourth-biggest national group of tourists; current figures indicate that this trend will likely continue in the future," he said.

The consular contends that Chinese and other visitors are attracted by Switzerland's unspoiled mountains, pristine nature and many great outdoor opportunities.

"In my view, there is no better icon that could present our Alpine world than the St. Bernard dogs," he added.

"I think they are a good icon because they do play a certain role in our history and some of the mountain villages," Hoffet explained to the Global Times.

"We are here with these dogs at the moment when they are gaining certain social importance in China," Hoffet said.

More than mountains

When talking about Switzerland, the Alps tend to come into people's mind. However, as Hoffet mentioned, ­Switzerland also boasts something more than mountains.

"Maybe we are not that well-known as a country of culture, museums, precious art collections and so on. We are also trying to promote Switzerland as a country of innovation, technology, excellent universities and schools," Hoffet said.

But he believes that their mountains, beautiful landscapes and natural resources, as well-known as they already are, deserve to be visited as an alternative getaway for Chinese going on holiday.

The journey of the two dogs was sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, Swiss Tourism Board, as a part of its Summer Campaign "Back to Nature." Batiste Pilet, promotion manager of Switzerland Tourism, explained their intentions.

"We found that travelers now are yearning to go back to nature," he said. "It is simple to go traveling somewhere now, but people are looking for new experiences. Going on vacation is to look for changes and an improvement on our life."

"Living in a metropolis, people are looking forward to a more simple and earnest lifestyle to feel and understand more about nature. Getting rid of the Internet and WeChat during traveling has even become the most luxurious thing to do," Pilet explained.

Bricotine Photo: Courtesy of Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai


Batiste Pilet makes an introduction to visitors Friday. Photo: Chen Shasha/GT

Visitors pose with Apero at the event. Photo: Chen Shasha/GT



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