Imagine a place where the cable cars, public transport and museums are free of charge and where the only condition is that you stay overnight.
The alpine resort of Arosa in eastern Switzerland is offering just that with an all-inclusive tourist card, which is proving to be a great success.
“It’s sensational,” said Hans-Kaspar Schwarzenbach, Arosa’s director of tourism, who launched the Arosa-card last year.
“Often a return ticket for a cable car in the Alps cost more than SFr60 ($49), whereas in Arosa you only need to stay in a SFr10 campsite to have everything for free,” he told swissinfo.
Under the deal, tourists can go up the 2,650-metre Weisshorn mountain or the 2,500-metre Hörnli without paying a penny. They can also enjoy museums and boating on the nearby lakes for free.
The only condition is that visitors stay in Arosa overnight, in hotels, rented apartments or campsites.
“It’s as if a tourist entered an alpine park, got a type of entry ticket and then everything is free,” enthuses Schwarzenbach. “This is all, of course, without any increase in hotel prices.”
The offer, which is only applicable during the summer season, is the only one of its kind in Switzerland and the alpine region.
“Many villages have adopted an all-inclusive approach,” said Schwarzenbach. “But, in other places, the facilities are reserved for the hotel clientele or are only available if you pay a flat rate.”
“There are various solutions - we opted for the maximum,” he added.
The idea was first mooted in 2000 but it took a long time to convince local businesses to back the scheme.
But Switzerland Tourism, which represents the Swiss tourism industry, says that it has been worth all the hard work.
“We certainly welcome innovative initiatives of this kind,” said the organisation’s Silvia De Vito.
“The Arosa-card seems to be an ideal solution: it not only benefits the guests whose holidays are made much simpler, but also the tourist area which is made more attractive,” she told swissinfo.
This is confirmed by the figures for last year’s scorching summer, which show that while overnight stays rose by 3.3 per cent on a national scale, they soared by 14.9 per cent in Arosa.
“We did a survey of the tourists, and their comments were enthusiastic,” said Schwarzenbach.
This led to many expressions of interest from other alpine villages, looking to introduce their own Arosa-style all-inclusive scheme.
“After seeing last year’s figures, many other [tourist] centre directors contacted me to ask me to explain how the Arosa-card works,” said Schwarzenbach.
However, no one else has introduced the idea for this season.
The Arosa tourism director is now hoping to build on last summer’s success.
“Let’s wait and see,” he told swissinfo. “We’re not making any predictions right now – but we are confident.”
swissinfo, Marzio Pescia (translation: Isobel Leybold-Johnson)
In 2003, there were 250,000 overnight stays in Arosa – up by 14.9%.
Switzerland-wide the number was up just 3.3%.
In summer, the Arosa-card is given out free to those staying overnight.
People visiting for the day must pay SFr8 ($6.5).
The card came second in this year’s “Milestone” prize for tourism.