Swiss hoteliers out in the cold as Omicron hits winter bookings

Swiss hoteliers voiced fears for the crucial winter season on Tuesday following a wave of booking cancellations linked to the Omicron variant.

A wooden cross outside a Swiss hotel and restaurant in the canton of Vaud
A wooden cross outside a hotel and restaurant in Vaud in a protest against Covid measures in January 2021. Switzerland's December 2021 border rules are again making things difficult. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The HotellerieSuisse industry body said the quarantine restrictions imposed on tourists from countries where the new Covid-19 variant of concern has been detected — particularly visitors from Britain — had led to reservations being scrapped.

“In recent days, the accommodation sector has witnessed a collapse in bookings due to the deteriorating virus situation,” the federation said, stressing the importance of the winter season for the Alpine nation and its hotel sector.

Swiss hotels make a big chunk of their annual turnover from foreigners visiting for the ski season.

And as Christmas approaches, hoteliers have been confronted with “massive cancellations of corporate events and Christmas parties” in recent days said HotellerieSuisse.

Winter sports: Which Swiss ski resorts are already open?

The federation urged politicians not to go for lockdowns and instead maintain support for a sector that has been “hammered” since the start of the pandemic.

It called for uniform measures across the country rather than a patchwork of different decisions by the regional authorities.

The Swiss government is meeting again on Tuesday after tightening travel restrictions over the weekend. As of noon on Tuesday, visitors from 23 countries must go into quarantine on arrival into Switzerland.

UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

The countries include Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Egypt, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria and South Africa, as well as Hong Kong.

HotellerieSuisse warned that hotels that cater mainly for British, Dutch and Belgian nationals could be facing 100-percent booking cancellations.

Switzerland is battling a fifth wave of the pandemic, with the numbers of new Covid cases seven times higher than in mid-October.

READ MORE: Switzerland flags new measures, expansion of Covid certificate

The landlocked European nation, population 8.6 million, recorded its one millionth Covid case on Monday.

And Swiss voters turned out in force in Sunday’s referendum to back the law upholding the country’s Covid pass, allowing vaccinated or recovered people entry into restaurants and other indoor spaces.

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US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.