Swiss city gears up to combat ‘latent resentment’ towards tourists

Swiss city gears up to combat 'latent resentment' towards tourists
A train taking tourists to the bottom of the Eiger in the Bernese Alps. Photo: OLIVIER MORIN / AFP
Interlaken Tourism has taken steps to raise awareness about the benefits of visitors to the city.

Interlaken, in the Bernese Alps, is one of Switzerland’s most visited cities. It offers tourists a range of activities from skiing and hiking to paragliding and rock climbing, and is the gateway to famous mountains such as the Eiger and Jungfraujoch.

But according to Daniel Sulzer, the director of Interlaken Tourism, there is “latent resentment” among the local population because of the number of tourists.

There are currently 137 overnight stays for every resident per year and, according to Sulzer, the situation is not yet precarious – the critical limit would be 200.

However, Interlaken Tourism wanted to react before that point is reached. That’s why they commissioned a study carried out by the University of Bern on tourism in the region.

The results largely give a scientific basis for already held assumptions. Tourism is important for the region, and generates income and jobs.

The local population benefits from improved infrastructure and better transport connections. Shops are open longer, there are more activities and events and the overall attractiveness of the region improves because of money spent on its upkeep.

On the other hand, it creates everyday inconveniences such as increased traffic and queues in supermarkets. There is the potential for conflict between cultures, disagreements over how land is used and resentment over perceived foreign influence in certain decisions.

In response, Interlaken Tourism has created strategies to reduce the potential for tension, with increased communication being a central pillar. That includes launching activities to raise awareness of the benefits of tourism.

On Thursday evening, Interlaken Tourism will hold a podium discussion on the study at the Interlaken Trade Fair. It has also released a video highlighting the benefits of tourism featured in the study. You can watch the video below (only available in Swiss German).