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Summer in Switzerland: Where will the Swiss be able to go on holiday?

This summer, border closures mean many Swiss will spend their summer holidays in their own backyard, perhaps for the first time ever.

Summer in Switzerland: Where will the Swiss be able to go on holiday?
Image: Pexels
With the coronavirus closing international borders the world over, taking summer holidays abroad in 2020 will be more difficult than ever.
 
This has forced many to consider spending their summer holidays in their own backyard, perhaps for the first time ever. 

Although the closed borders might have changed plans for plenty of Swiss, they have forced local tourist operators to work harder than ever to attract Swiss tourists. 

More than half of the overnight stays in Switzerland each year are due to foreign tourists, leaving a large hole that travel operators are seeking to fill with local vacationers. 

Experts warn of second coronavirus wave in Switzerland

Switzerland Tourism says this gives locals an opportunity to travel closer to home at a comparatively cut price rate. 

Fly local, stay local

The closure of neighbouring borders and the cutting of flights has meant leaving the country – something that more than 12 million Swiss residents did in 2019 – will be more difficult than ever. 

Karin Keller-Sutter, Head of the Swiss Justice Department, said that the government would not stop residents of Switzerland from leaving in the summer and would not prevent them returning. 

She did however indicate that anyone intending to do so may encounter difficulties getting out of Switzerland, as many neighbouring countries are set to keep their borders closed for the foreseeable future. 

Keller-Sutter said that for holiday makers unsure of where to go this summer, vacations in Switzerland should be preferred. 

“The good thing is: Holidays in Switzerland are possible at any time. We would like to call on the population to spend their holidays in Switzerland. 

“This also helps us to stimulate the economy again.”

Camping will be the hot ticket this summer. Image: Pexels

Where will be open and when? 

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga has encouraged Swiss residents to holiday locally. 

“There should be a lot possible in Switzerland in summer,” said Sommaruga in late April. 

As reported in the Tagblatt, Sommaruga is likely to reopen domestic tourism in Switzerland from June onwards. 

While hotels in Switzerland were allowed to remain open throughout the crisis, camping sites have been closed. 

Camping and caravanning association TCS has been forced to close its 24 sites across the country due to the virus, although they may be allowed to reopen in the next wave of lockdown relaxations from June 8th. 

The decision on camping sites will be made on May 27th. 

The top destinations for summer

Although Switzerland’s major cities like Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Basel are tourist attractions in their own right, they mainly attract tourists from abroad. 

Swiss tourist authorities predict that non-urban destinations will be a hit this summer, with the country’s largely urban-dwelling population looking to socially distance themselves from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

As a result, regional areas of Switzerland have already been inundated by requests for the summer. 

Ticino’s Campofelice, Bergün in Graübunden, Wildhaus in St Gallen and Urnäsch in Appenzell Ausserrhoden have all received more calls than usual, reports Swiss daily Watson

Beach areas along Switzerland’s lakes are also growing in popularity, as the Swiss swap Spain for the Strandbad and chose the Bains des Paquis over the Ballerman.  

Enquiries have been made for the entire summer but the venues are set to be particularly busy around school holiday periods. 

Gabriella Rolfo, from Campofelice, told Watson that the uptick in requests and bookings was due to forced changes in plan thanks to the coronavirus, with guests particularly keen on cabins and bungalows. 

“We have a lot of inquiries from people who would otherwise have gone abroad,” Rolfo said. 

“We find that because of Corona, people are particularly keen to spend their holidays outdoors this year.” 

 

Member comments

  1. Consider the exquisitely-located village of Beatenberg, high on a sun terrace above Interlaken, with views of the turquoise colored Lake Thun and 25 snow-capped alps.
    Fifteen minutes from Interlaken West train station by bus or car, with many beautiful excursions available.
    There are several hotels and restaurants in Beatenberg as well as hundreds of flats and chalets. It’s dramatically quiet up there, and the air is sweet. I am not a representative of the tourist industry, just a US citizen who has spent a dozen happy summers in the village. Check out Beatenberg.ch and beatenbergbilder.ch. You’ll fall in love like I did.

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CANNABIS

UPDATE: What are Switzerland’s rules for cannabis consumption?

Switzerland has a complicated set of rules for both medical and recreational cannabis consumption. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are Switzerland's rules for cannabis consumption?

Long prohibited and seen as a gateway drug with potentially dangerous impacts, countries across the globe have begun legalising cannabis in recent years. 

While the legalisation for medical use has been widespread, there have also been successful legalisation campaigns in several countries. 

The situation in Switzerland is also in flux and has been complicated by a range of recent changes.

Whether referred to as cannabis, marijuana or hemp, Switzerland’s Narcotics Act qualifies it as “a psychoactive substance”, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being its most intoxicating ingredient.

The law specifies that “only THC is controlled under the Narcotics Act. Other active substances like cannabidiol (CBD) are not subject to the Narcotics Act as they do not have comparable psychoactive effects”.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Switzerland has legalised medical marijuana 

As of August 1st, the use of cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed in Switzerland

Patients who are medically prescribed the drug will no longer need to seek exceptional permission from the health ministry, as was the case prior to August 1st. 

Demand for cannabis-based treatments has risen sharply, with the health ministry issuing 3,000 exceptional authorisations in 2019.

The government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients” and was therefore lifting the ban on its use for that purpose, it said in a statement.

The previous procedure involved “tedious administrative procedures”, said the ministry. “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”

As of August 1st, “the decision as to whether a cannabis medicinal product is to be used therapeutically will be made by the doctor together with the patient” the government wrote

The sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes will remain prohibited.

READ MORE: Switzerland to lift ban on medical use cannabis

The new regulations could benefit thousands of people suffering from severe chronic pain, it added, including those with cancer and multiple sclerosis.

READ ALSO: Why Basel is about to become Switzerland’s marijuana capital

The law change will also mean that the cultivation, processing, manufacture and trade of cannabis for medical use will be subject to the Swissmedic regulatory authority, just as with other narcotics for medical use such as cocaine, methadone and morphine.

Legality of recreational cannabis is determined by the THC

THC of at least 1 percent is generally prohibited in Switzerland and use of products with this (or higher) content may be punishable by a 100-franc fine.

Of course, if someone is determined to smoke it, 100 francs may not be much a deterrent — but that’s a subject for another article.

“By contrast, possession of up to 10g of cannabis for personal use is not considered a criminal offence”, the law states, as long as it is not used by or sold to minors.

Italy's constitutional court has blocked the latest efforts to legalise cannabis.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

And, as with nearly everything else in decentralised Switzerland, “there are still considerable differences between cantons regarding implementation of the fixed penalty procedure”.

However, “cannabis flowers intended for smoking with a high proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 1 percent THC can be sold and purchased legally”, according to the legislation. 

That’s because, unlike the THC, cannabidiol “does not have a psychoactive effect”.

In other words, low-content THC and CBD will not give the “high” that recreational users seek.

When will Switzerland legalise recreational cannabis?

Currently, small amounts of recreational cannabis are tolerated in Switzerland.

“The decisive factor for classification as a banned drug is how much THC is contained in a cannabis product. If the THC content exceeds one per cent, the product is prohibited. Hashish is prohibited regardless of its THC content.”

As noted by the Swiss government, “If you are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis (no more than 10 grams) for your own consumption, you will not be fined. In addition, if you supply (but do not sell) up to 10 grams to an adult, e.g. when sharing joints, you will not be fined.”

“If you are caught using cannabis, you may be given a fixed penalty fine of 100 francs.”

In June 2020, the National Council approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use.

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study seeks to find out how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation will also be examined. 

At this point, no decisions have been made. However, Swiss authorities have set certain conditions in case recreational use is approved.

The National Council said if cannabis were to be legalised, it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and it must be organic. 

Health Minister Alain Berset noted that legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”.

READ MORE: Switzerland backs recreational cannabis trials – with one condition

Can you grow your own cannabis?

In truth, a number of people cultivate marijuana plants on their balconies or in their (secluded) gardens for their own personal use.

As it turns out, the law allows it, as long as it is a variety of the plant that does not have a narcotic effect — that is, the THC content must be less than 1 percent. 

By the same token, cannabis-based products with THC content of below 1 percent can be brought into Switzerland from abroad.

However, the import rules differ depending on the type of product  it is — flowers, seeds, extracts, oils, or other goods.

How much cannabis is consumed in Switzerland each year?

Precise numbers are hard to come by, but according to an article in Le Temps, which based its information on a medical study, about 100 tonnes are consumed in the country annually.

Cannabis remains the largest market in terms of volume: it represents 85 percent of drugs consumed in Switzerland, netting between 340, 000 and 500,000 francs per year.

READ MORE: Drugs and alcohol: Just how much do the Swiss consume?

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