The Swiss hotel industry felt a chill wind this past ski season according to figures released on Thursday. Nine of Switzerland’s 13 tourism regions – in particular the mountain resorts – logged a significant drop in overnight stays.
The numbers published by the Federal Statistics Office showed that from November 2011 to April 2012, 15.2 million overnight stays were recorded, representing a fall of 3.7 per cent (-591,000 overnight stays) in comparison with the same period of the previous year.
Graubünden, which includes resorts such as Davos and St Moritz, was hit hardest, having suffered an 8.6 per cent drop in overnight stays, followed by Valais (among others Zermatt and Verbier) and the Bernese Oberland (Grindelwald and Interlaken), falling 6.8 per cent and 6.2 per cent, respectively.
In fact, this was the second particularly poor winter in a row for these three tourism regions, whose figures had already dropped by roughly four to six per cent between the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 winter seasons.
“It was no surprise for us that the overnights for the winter season had decreased in comparison to the previous winter season. The main reason why is explained by the strength of the Swiss franc,” Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Véronique Kanel told swissinfo.ch, pointing out the significant drop in European visitors.
For example, there were 388,000 fewer hotel nights booked from Germany (-16 per cent), 87,000 fewer from Britain (minus ten per cent) and 80,000 fewer from the Netherlands (-19 per cent).
Kanel also blamed the weather for the figures.
“The season started late – we had to wait until nearly mid-December for the first massive snowfall. There was also a cold snap in February which prevented people from skiing and some of the cable cars had to be stopped,” she said.
However, there were 37 per cent more guests from China (+60,000 overnight stays) and 117,000 more bookings from Asia in general. In addition, there were 20,000 more overnight stays booked by Russian guests, representing an increase of seven per cent.
“We are seeing two trends. We have a decline in the numbers of European overnight guests, and on the other hand, we have a massive increase in guests coming from Asia, the Gulf countries, Russia, southeast Asia and India,” Kanel said.
There were also slightly more (+0.1 per cent) guests from within Switzerland – something Kanel described as “good news” considering the temptation of bargains to be had abroad.