British skiers warned off Switzerland
Swiss tourist authorities have reacted with anger to a British report highlighting the increasingly pricey nature of winter holidays in the Swiss Alps.
Based on findings at 10 ski destinations, the UK post office's annual Ski Resort Report advises travellers to go east to find the least expensive lift passes, equipment hire, ski lessons and food and drink.
The report shows prices in Switzerland to have risen sharply for UK skiers hit by a weak pound and pricier resort charges. By contrast, prices in Bansko (Bulgaria) and Arinsal (Andorra) have dropped by 5 percent, making them the most wallet-friendly resorts.
According to the report, a week at Adelboden in Switzerland comes in at £654.54 ($1,046), more than double the cost of a week in Bansko. Adelboden emerges as the most expensive of the eight European resorts survey, thought it is slightly less costly than Killington (USA) and Banff (Canada).
Such bad publicity has upset the Swiss tourism industry.
“These kinds of communications are shameful and false,” said Urz Zenhäusern, director of the tourism department in canton Valais, to newspaper Le Matin.
According to Zenhäusern, it is unfair to generalise since regions like the Valais offer different resorts to suit all kinds of budgets. He said that comparisons should not only be based on prices but also on the quality of infrastructure and services, as well as the amount and quality of the snow.
The news sparked a similar reaction at ski resorts in Verbier, in southeast Switzerland.
“There are different reports, and some of them make us the top spot for snowboarders and freeriders,” Isabelle Hefti, spokesperson for the resort’s tourism industry, told Le Matin.
But despite these reassurances, the anxiety is tangible at Swiss winter resorts a few weeks before the beginning of the season. The number of British tourists, the second most important nationality for Swiss tourism after Germans, has diminished in recent months due to the strength of the franc and the ongoing financial crisis.
“In the first eight months of 2011, there was a 7.8 percent reduction in the number of hotel nights booked by British tourists compared to the same period in 2010,” a spokesperson for Suisse Tourisme, Véronique Kanel, told Le Matin.