Two Chinese students have been hired by the Lake Lucerne ship company to help with the booming number of Chinese tourists to the scenic region, in another example of growing Swiss efforts to pivot towards the increasingly important Asian economy.
The two men in their early twenties started their training on April 4, the company said in a statement on Monday. They had both lived in China until 18 months ago, when they came to Switzerland to study. Neither had any previous experience in tourism.
However, with international tourism growing among the Chinese in the past decade, in part owing to their increasing prosperity and fewer Communist government travel restrictions, Swiss businesses are reaching out to accommodate these travellers.
The company added that last year several thousand Chinese tourists boarded its ships – with the majority preferring the panoramic yacht Saphir to the traditional steamers – and it became increasingly clear that there was a language barrier between the tourists and the ship’s crew.
Management therefore decided to employ a sailor with a Chinese background and a good command of German for the 2016 season.
The job was advertised in various media and 29 replies were received. Of these, 12 led to interviews. At the end of March, two applicants were given unlimited contracts.
The area around Lake Lucerne, including the Rigi, Titlis and Pilatus mountains, is a favourite stop for Chinese tourists in Switzerland.
Last year the Rigi railway added special trains to its regular service to transport larger groups of tourists, mostly from China. Railway representatives said it was a way to accommodate an influx of visitors, due in part to a successful marketing campaign.
In 2015, the total number of overnight stays in Swiss hotels for visitors from China (including Hong Kong) rose by 33% to 1,519,100, the first time the figure exceeded 1.5 million.
However, the figure for January and February 2016 was down 9.3% on the same period for 2015. Switzerland Tourism told swissinfo.ch this was because of the weaker economic situation in China, the terror attacks in Europe and the fact that since October 12, Chinese who apply for a visa to the EU have had to submit biometric data.
Nevertheless, the tourism office is expecting overnights hotel stays to grow among Chinese guests by 6-10%.
swissinfo.ch and agencies