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Strong franc Swiss tourism must focus on quality to survive

Swiss tourism officials are hoping the fall in European clients will be covered by a rise in visitors from Asia and the United States


Suffering under the strong franc, the Swiss tourism sector must focus more on quality and innovation to survive, says the boss of Switzerland Tourism. The share of European tourists to the alpine nation may fall to one-third of the overall total in the next five years.

“There is no alternative,” according to Jürg Schmid, director of Switzerland Tourism. The tourist sector, reeling from the impact of the strong Swiss franc, must concentrate its efforts on improving quality and innovation to survive, he told the 24Heures newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

“Owing to high prices in Switzerland, we cannot target mass tourism,” he declared. “Our future is quality individual tourism.”

After three years with the safety of a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 francs to the euro, the peg was suddenly taken away by the Swiss National Bank on January 15. Overnight already-expensive Swiss holiday destinations became 15% dearer for guests from European countries.

On top of this, over the previous four years the tourist sector’s costs had risen 40%, leaving little room for additional profit, he told the paper.

Some hotels try to offer discounts but they remain more expensive than comparable alpine destinations, he added.

If the Swiss franc remains at the current level - CHF1.05 to the euro - Schmid believes the share of European clients will fall from 37% to 30% of the overall figure in the next five to eight years.

Despite this gloomy picture, the director remains optimistic about growth from American and Asian visitors, which currently represent 13% of overnight stays and could grow to 18% in the next five years.

The exchange rate crisis is so acute that last month the tourist industry requested an additional CHF270 million ($278 million) for new marketing campaigns, and urged the government to invest more in innovation and to reduce the high costs of imported goods. The government is proposing slightly less money: CHF220.5 million.

“There is no other sector that is as important for the image of our country abroad,” declared Schmid. with agencies

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