The Visitors’ Service at UN Geneva is gradually opening up!
Like all other entities at UN Geneva, the Visitors’ Service faced many challenges in this time of sanitary crisis, starting with our sudden closing in March 2020. Until then, the Visitors’ Service had been welcoming an average of 110,000 visitors per year to the Palais des Nations, for guided tours in some 12 languages.
We belong to the UN Department of Global Communications (DGC). Other UN Visitor Centers are located in Nairobi, New York, and Vienna, and together we look after around 500,000 visitors a year.
In the wider context of DGC’s communication strategy which focuses on “What?”, “Why Care?” and “What Now?” in all its communication activities, our aim is to provide a solid introduction to the UN and the UN system, before looking at the UN family in Geneva. By giving specific examples and sharing stories, we want our visitors to understand how relevant the UN’s activities are in their daily lives and how they can commit themselves to be part of the action. At the same time, we also show off the magnificence of our buildings and explore the amazing richness of our history, particularly with regard to the League of Nations.
Youth is an important target audience for our guided tour operations. At UN Geneva, over 80% of our groups come from schools and universities. This pool of young people coming through our doors has the opportunity to understand why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important to them and why they should commit to them. In this regard, the UN Geneva brochure “170 Daily Actions to Transform our World” (bit.ly/3sXFGlR) is a very useful tool to engage young people, as it provides inspiration on what all of us can do to achieve the Goals. A new and related publication, “170 Actions to Combat Climate Change” (bit.ly/3BsAZDT) is equally rich in facts, figures, and proposes actions in the most topical field of climate change.
Throughout the sanitary crisis, the Visitors’ Service continued to work on various projects. Together with the UN Geneva Strategic Heritage Plan (SHP) team, we prepared and conducted tours of the Palais des Nations’ new “Building H” for colleagues working there, both in temporary or permanent capacities. We truly enjoyed coming together after a long period of separation and helping staff get acquainted with their new environment.
And now, three big announcements:
Firstly, guided tours will continue throughout the renovations of the Palais des Nations, for which we have developed interesting alternative tour routes and audio-visual material. I am particularly thrilled about a new special stop in the UN Library and Archives, developed thanks to our colleagues there, which enables our visitors to discover the UNOG Library and Archives and its activities. Our visitors can also visit the UN Museum Geneva, where they can watch a short film about the League of Nations together with four carefully selected items – including a letter by Alfred Nobel to the Austrian pacifist Bertha von Suttner, in which ideas for a peace prize are mentioned.
Secondly, the Visitors’ Service also offers online tours of the Palais des Nations, with a special version adapted to middle and high school in English, French and Spanish, developed by our tour guides during the closing. The online tours will continue to be offered in parallel to our onsite tours. An online tour on “Art and Architecture” in the Palais des Nations is in the making.
Thirdly, we have changed our booking system and the entire operation is now carried out online at ungeneva.org/en/practical-information/visitors. Visitors may now both purchase their tickets directly on our website and register with UN Security’s Indico system. As visitors benefit from pre-booked tickets and early security registration, access to the Palais des Nations is facilitated. I look forward to a great 2022, with more exciting projects, and hope to be able to write about the future “Portail des Nations” project soon, which should propel our visitor experience into an entirely new dimension!