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Big spenders Slowdown in Middle Eastern tourists to Switzerland

Middle Eastern men in sunglasses

Emirates airline is an important cog in the wheel of tourism from the Gulf states.


After almost tripling in the last decade, the number of tourists to Switzerland from the Middle East is slowing down, with the slowdown expected to be particularly marked this summer.  

The growth rate of tourists from the Gulf will be zero this summer, according to forecasts by Oxford Economicsexternal link and the Swiss tourist boardexternal link.

Summer reservations were already slowing down last year. Visits by people from Saudi Arabia fell by more than 10% compared with the same period in 2016.

This slowdown contrasts with a rapid increase in the previous years.

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of tourists from Gulf states grew by 150%. The steady increase was mainly driven by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Both countries sent about 47,000 tourists to Switzerland in 2011, compared with 130,000 in 2016.

+ Read more about tourism in Switzerland

Swiss tourist board spokesperson Véronique Kanel told Swiss national broadcaster RTS the main reason for the slowdown is the “blockade against Qatar and its effects, notably sanctions against its national airline Qatar Airways”. She said some flights to Europe from Saudi Arabia have been cancelled.

Another reason is that some rich Saudi families are currently under house arrest for suspected corruption, she told RTS. A further factor is the introduction of 5% VAT in several Gulf states, notably the Emirates.

Tourists from the Middle East are generally wealthy and spend a lot when in Switzerland   -- CHF420 ($425) per day on average compared with CHF200 ($202) for other tourists.


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