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Covid-19: Switzerland sees record drop in overnight hotel stays

Clouds or sun ahead for the Swiss tourism industry? A lone tourist this summer Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

The Swiss hotel sector registered a 40% drop in overnight stays in 2020 compared with 2019. Foreign demand fell by 66% as tourists stayed away due to the pandemic, latest statistics show.

This content was published on February 19, 2021 - 12:21
Switzerland Tourism/Federal Statistical Office/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

“The exceptional context of Covid–19 explains this unprecedented fall at a level not seen since the end of the 1950s,” said the Swiss Federal Statistical Office in a statement on FridayExternal link.

Swiss demand fell less drastically (–8.6%) to 16.4 million overnight stays. Overall, the sector recorded 23.7 million overnight stays for 2020.

Switzerland Tourism, the country’s national tourism organisation, called 2020 its “Annus Horribilis”.  “The year will stay in the tourism sector’s mind as the biggest challenge since the Second World War,” it said in a statementExternal link to accompany its media conference on the situation on Friday.

It said the industry had endured months-long closures of businesses, very few European guests (6 million/-51%), and hardly any overseas tourists. The number of Swiss residents on staycation – the summer months were particularly popular in the mountains - was not able to counter this, it added.

Swiss cities suffered in particular, with popular destinations Zurich and Geneva recording two-thirds drops in overnight stays during summer.

Switzerland went into lockdown over spring 2020 and eased restrictions over the summer, before tightening them in late autumn as a second coronavirus wave rolled over the country. It is currently in a semi-shutdown with restaurants likely closed until April. Shops and museums could open March 1 under national plans. Ski resorts are open.

Outlook

In terms of outlook, Switzerland Tourism said that 2021 would be strengthened by parliament’s financial boost for the sector, agreed last spring. But it warned that the pandemic “was not over yet”.

It said its new sustainability strategy – baptised “Swisstainable”- was of “especial importance” as sustainability was a good Swiss selling point. All sustainably-oriented tourism providers could take part in the new Swisstainable programme from May onwards and would get a special logo (under three different categories), Switzerland Tourism director Martin Nydegger said.

“If we have learned anything, it’s that we should in future be even more confident about playing to our strengths. Sustainable tourism is undoubtedly one of these. Swisstainable will start a great sustainable movement which our guests will help move along,” said Nydegger.

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