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Fribourg booming despite Swiss franc woes

Meritxell Mir · 14 Oct 2011, 10:29

Published: 14 Oct 2011 11:41 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Oct 2011 10:29 GMT+02:00

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Fribourg, a canton in central Switzerland, is continuing to thrive in spite of the ongoing currency troubles that have afflicted much of the Swiss economy.

Figures show that Fribourg has the lowest unemployment rate in the French-speaking part of the country, and it is the only region seeing a rise in the number of overnight hotel stays.

There are several key reasons for Fribourg’s success, as some of its representatives explained to newspaper Le Matin.

According to the head of the canton's economy and employment department, Beat Vonlanthen, Fribourg has the highest level of population growth in Switzerland and the youngest citizens.

“This makes us more enthusiastic and dynamic,” he told the newspaper, calling the canton a “hotbed of innovation and new ideas that attracts and motivates companies.”

Vonlanthen also stressed the canton's strong emphasis on new technologies and sustainable development, claiming it will become the first region in Europe with “zero carbon emissions.”

This focus on innovation means Fribourg is “increasing its attractiveness and competitiveness,” Vonlanthen added. The canton also benefits from its geographical location, straddling as it does the French- and German-speaking parts of the country.

The canton's favourable economic landscape also boosts job creation: unemployment is the lowest in the French-speaking cantons, running at a rate of 2.4 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in the country as a whole.

The strong Swiss franc, which is hitting businesses hard across the country, appears to be having less of an impact in Fribourg.

“Companies learned how to adapt to a strong currency by reducing their profit margins,” Paul Coudret, from the canton’s chamber of commerce, told Le Matin.

Despite major growth in the industrial and service sectors, Fribourg has managed to preserve its stunning landscape. This helps the canton maintain a solid tourism industry that remains largely immune to the ill effects of the strong franc since 70 percent of visitors come from other parts of the country.

Strong domestic visitor figures have also enabled Fribourg to increase the number of overnight stays by 4.4 percent compared to 2010. Other parts of Switzerland have seen hotel occupancy decrease over the same period. 

Meritxell Mir (news@thelocal.ch)

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