Natalie Rickli of the far-right Swiss People’s Party sparked a furore last week by stating on live television that she believes there are too many Germans in Switzerland.
Referring to new restrictions on the number of work permits available to people from eight Eastern European EU member states, Rickli expressed regret that the safeguard clause Switzerland invoked in its bilateral agreement with the EU did not also include Germany, newspaper Tribune de Genève reported.
The German press has reacted with indignation to the comments, prompting many Germans to rethink their travel plans.
“We have recorded the first cancellations at our branches in Germany,” Jürg Schmid, the head of Switzerland Tourism, told online news site Der Sonntag.
Urs Zenhäusern, head of tourism in Canton Valais, said he had already received ten emails from German customers cancelling holidays.
A poll in newspaper SonntagsBlick showed that around 36 percent of the Swiss population agreed with Rickli.
“Lots of people share my view,” Rickli said in an interview with news website Blick, adding: “We have a foreigner problem in Switzerland, not a German problem.”
“Hostility against Germany has increased to a significant extent,” Christian Democrat MP Barbara Schmid-Federer told Der Sonntag.
Analysts fear that the comments may have created an impression of widespread anti-German feeling in Switzerland.
“For our country and the economy, the Germans are only a benefit,” Schmid-Federer said.
Rickli has been asked to appear on a number of German talk shows to explain herself, but she has turned down all offers.
“The media have immediately pushed me into the extremist Nazi corner,” Rickli complained.