Swiss tourism rises but Alps go downhill
The mountainous canton of Valais recorded a 2.5 percent decrease in tourists in 2013 despite an overall rise in tourist figures nationwide.
The Valais, which counts some of Switzerland's best-known ski resorts including Zermatt, Verbier and Crans-Montana, was one of only two regions in the country suffering a decrease in visitors last year, according to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office on Monday.
Zurich, the Lake Geneva region and the Bernese Oberland were among the regions benefiting from an increase in tourists. Eastern Switzerland saw a small decrease of 0.3 percent.
Overall, the FSO figures will come as a relief for the Swiss tourism industry which, after two years of decline, finally saw a 2.5 percent overall increase in tourists in 2013, compared with the previous year.
While 15.9 million of Switzerland's total 35.6 million overnight stays were by domestic tourists, the number of foreign tourists rose 3.5 percent to 19.7 million.
After decreasing for the past four years, the number of European visitors rose 1.8 percent, with tourists from the UK, France and Belgium leading the way.
But visitors from Germany, Switzerland's principal foreign tourism market, decreased considerably, with 52,000 fewer Germans holidaying in the country compared with 2012, the largest decline of any country. Since 2010 the number of German tourists in Switzerland has decreased by a massive 21.4 percent.
As a result, Swiss Tourism has announced its intention to launch a two-year marketing initiative aimed at luring Germans back to Switzerland.
In a statement, the national tourism agency said the overall figures marked a "turning point" after years of decline, and that "all signals are green for a recovery".
Swiss newspaper Blick is less optimistic. Despite the overall increase in tourists in 2013, the Swiss tourism industry has by no means recovered from the decline in bookings caused by the strength of the Swiss franc since 2010, it writes.
Switzerland's recent anti-immigration referendum vote is unlikely to help matters, Blick reports, quoting the President of the Swiss Hotel Association as saying: "After the vote there were critical remarks from guests."