History and development of the Reka Cooperative Society

A sustainable enterprise on course for success

Founded on June 22, 1939, with the aim of promoting holidays and leisure, in particular for families, the non-profit organization’s focus is more relevant than ever before in today’s fiercely competitive economic environment.

Reka was founded in June 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. The generation at the time was hit by economic depression, mass unemployment, political confrontation in Europe and Switzerland, class conflict and social unrest. The threat from National Socialist Germany was growing by the day.

Seeing their very existence at risk, the people of Switzerland closed ranks, while socially aware politicians, industrialists and trade union leaders began to overcome their differences, seeking common ground and cooperation rather than confrontation. This new mindset resulted in the social partners drawing up a peace agreement for the Swiss machinery and metal industry in 1937, followed in the years to come by collective employment agreements in other industrial sectors.

For the first time, the collective employment agreements also contained provisions governing annual leave, based solely on civil law. This had practical significance at the time to the extent that annual leave systems had been set up in Italy and Germany (for example, under the motto "Kraft durch Freude" :"strength through joy") to serve the interests of a state party and for political propaganda purposes.

That the state should regulate people's leisure time was certainly not what Switzerland wanted. However, there was a desire to enable the less well-off sectors of the population to afford to take holidays at all and at a price that was within their means. The Chairman and Director of the Swiss Tourism Federation, Dr Fritz Ehrensperger and Dr Walter Hunziker, came up with the notion together with the Chairman of the Swiss Trade Union Federation, Robert Bratschi, of creating a travel savings fund. The underlying idea was – and remains today – that people should save for their holidays. The reduction in the cost of holiday arrangements would come from interest income, surplus funds from special agreements with tourist organisations and transport companies and contributions from participating companies, employee organisations and public authorities.

This was the basic philosophy then, and which still applies today, that led to the creation in Berne on 22 June 1939 of the Swiss Travel Fund, a cooperative with 21 founder members and a modest start-up capital of CHF 26,000.-.

This was how Reka came into being– in a way that was special, pragmatic and "typically Swiss". Afterwards came World War II, the post-war period, economic prosperity, recession, the development and growth of social/welfare institutions based on the constitution and the law, as well as other social benefits regulated by contract, deregulation and globalisation – nothing stood in the way of Reka's continuing development, success and, indeed, triumph.

Milestones in a short overview