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Tourism Facing Empty Hotel Beds

Switzerland is suffering from euro crisis

Elisabeth Lang, eTN  Jul 27, 2011

(eTN) - Due to the high Swiss franc, tourists are staying away from the Swiss Alps this summer and the entire Swiss tourism industry is facing a novum.

According to NZZ am Sonntag (Neue Zuricher Zeitung), the Swiss mountain regions are suffering under of the big loss of German tourists with a minus of 8.6% (2,461; 272 nights). This is followed by The Netherlands with a minus of 8.5% (from January-May: +361; 897 nights), Belgium with a minus of 8% (311; 390 nights); Great Britain with a minus of 6% (760; 246 nights); Italians are staying away and Switzerland has become a "drive-through" country.

With the high Swiss franc, tourists are paying 25% more this summer. Bookings ahead of time – like group travel - are having a hard time due higher prices.

Increasing is the Russian market with 11.7% (258, 842 nights) but cannot replace the gap left behind.

Swiss people, who usually love to spend their holidays in Switzerland, are now rushing across the border to the neighbor country of Austria where the grass is green, the mountains high, and the costs are low.

Also, Germany has become a favorite destination and so has the Mediterranean.

“Now Swiss people are going abroad in order to save money and become big spenders in buying clothing, shoes, food, and cars on the other side of the border,” wrote NZZ.

But apart from a high Swiss franc, the weather is simply lousy. With temperatures as low as 7° Celsius in the mountain area and heavy rainfall, faithful and repeating guests are simply staying away.

As many regions in Switzerland depend entirely on German and Swiss guests, the Swiss tourism industry is thinking long and hard on cutting personnel and hotel staff.

For Jürg Schmid, Head of Switzerland Tourism, it is important to have an
international clientele, but the actual situation will not change rapidly he admitted.

Switzerland is one of the most popular destinations for Chinese, with a proud increase of 35% this year. But Chinese prefer to shop in Zurich and Lucerne. They certainly do not replace the important summer tourism delivered by Germans and Brits for long stays.

But which areas are affected?

Especially the locations of Ticino and Grisons, Wallis and Bern are being affected. Already there is talk of severe cuttings of personnel and the closure of 1,000 hotels. In speaking with the Head Office of Hotellerie SUISSE in Bern, this number was partly confirmed.

One-third of the 5,000 hotels in Switzerland urgently need fresh makeovers and renovations. With over 1.3 billion in Swiss francs needed the total investment volume hits 40% percent, which is pretty high. While infrastructure changes are needed, there is a lot of room for improvement, said the Secretary General of the Swiss Hotellerie, Ms. Daxlhoffer.

Five-star hotels invested the most, while 2- to 3-star hotels in the Alpine regions still have severe problems to deal with.

A big exception is Zermatt, with its famous Matterhorn and Interlaken, along with its Jungfrau & Eigner, and a strong Asiatic market. For many years, Japan was one of the most important markets in Zermatt during the summer months. This has changed.

“We [are] getting strong incoming business now from India and China,” confirmed Andre Pellet, CEO of Zermatt Rail Travel (ZRT). He is thinking of expanding by offering more trips on the most spectacular train journeys, such as travel on board the legendary Glacier Express from Visp (Valais) over the 2,033-meter high (6,670 feet) Oberalp Pass to St. Moritz and with the Bernina Express in a breathtaking journey that goes down to Lake Como, on the Palm Express, ending in Lugano.

While Geneva is the Swiss Mecca for the Arab countries staying for long periods - as long as 6 to 8 weeks each year - the most popular event is the "Fêtes de Genève" in first week of August. That is the time when Arabs fly in from all over Europe and enjoy seeing friends and families on the shore of Lake Geneva. But with the early beginning of Ramadan on August 1 this year, it will be different.


Many Arabs prefer to fly home before August 1 due to early sunset, as the fast will break 3 hours earlier in the Gulf. A run for flights out of Geneve to the Gulf regions has long begun, and Geneve hoteliers and shopkeepers are hoping for their return in mid-September.

Geneve gained strong market shares, especially in the Gulf States, with a high increase of 36.4% from January to May 2011. According to the Geneve Tourism Office, the presence of guests from the Gulf states rose up to 36.7% in the month of May, producing 42,458 room nights.

Accustomed to being fully booked for the month of August, Geneve’s hotels are facing a completely new situation this year, with many empty beds.

Switzerland is suffering from euro crisis
Inside the grounds of the United Nations in Geneve / Photo © E. Lang

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