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Strong franc sends Swiss tourism downhill

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Strong franc sends Swiss tourism downhill
14:42 CET+01:00

The strength of the franc and the unsettled global economy have seen economists predict a bleak 2012 for Switzerland's tourism industry.

 

Hoteliers can expect to see a 2.6-percent drop in overnight stays this winter, according to economic research institute BakBasel.

The prognosis stems mainly from a reduction in foreign demand, as the strong franc makes Switzerland a pricier alternative than other ski holiday destinations. The institute expects a 4.2 percent reduction in the number of nights spent by foreign tourists in Switzerland from November 2011 to April 2012 compared to the same period last year.

BakBasel sees the industry returning to growth in 2013, when overnight stays are forecast to rise by 2.3 percent.

The bad omens come on the heels of a poor 2011 so far. Between January and August, hotels suffered a dip in reservations of 1.7 percent compared to the year before, Switzerland Tourism reports.

Mountain resort hotels, so dependent on holidaymakers, witnessed the largest drop with an average decline of 5.1 percent. By comparison, city hotels with a greater emphasis on business travellers showed some growth, especially in Zurich (+4.1 percent), Berne (+2.9 percent) and Geneva (+1.2 percent).

The summer months were particularly bad, coinciding as they did with the franc reaching parity with the euro for the first time in its history. In June, July and August, there was a reduction of 2.7 percent in overnight stays compared to 2010. The drop was especially steep among visitors from the eurozone (-9.1 percent) and Great Britain (-10.3 percent).

“The results from [studies of] hotel nights during the first eight months of 2011, in which we can measure the impact of the strength of the franc, clearly show how urgent it is to diversify our foreign clientèle even more,” said Switzerland Tourism director, Jürg Schmid, in a statement. 

The situation was alleviated somewhat by the growth in the number of tourists coming from Brazil, Russia, India and China, a trend that has escalated in recent years this past summer. Taking all four countries into account, there was an increase of 27.2 percent in the number of hotel nights spent in Switzerland. The rise in the number of overnight stays by Chinese visitors was particularly striking in the summer months: up 52.7 percent on the same period in 2010.

With this new visitor profile in mind, Schmid said Switzerland Tourism would reinforce its marketing activities in Brazil, China, Russia and India. It also planned to intensify its efforts to target visitors from Poland, Australia, South Korea and south Asian countries including Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

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