Covid continues to stress Swiss economy

Despite some businesses being opened up again from lockdown, most are still counting the cost of Covid-19. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Overnight hotel stays fell by more than 40% during the summer as Switzerland locked down against coronavirus. The pandemic has also battered the finances of the airline industry, but most smaller companies have retained some optimism for the future.

This content was published on December 7, 2020 - 14:45

Official statistics revealed on Monday that Swiss hotels had 9.3 million fewer overnight stays between May and October than for the same period in 2019. While more people living in Switzerland booked into hotels, the number of foreign guests fell by three quarters. Overnight stays have been put at 10.2 million for the summer months.

Last week Zurich airport said it was losing CHF1 million ($1.1 million) a day as passenger numbers fell to a trickle. Despite the dire situation, the airport last month went ahead with opening its flagship ‘Circle’ conferencing, leisure and retail centre, which had been many years in the planning.

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) says it is losing up to CHF2 million a day as quarantine restrictions throughout the world continue to put people off flying. SWISS CEO Thomas Klühr says future prospects will only look up when vaccines start to roll out among populations.

But not all companies are facing such difficulties. Nearly 60% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Switzerland are holding out hopes for improved conditions, according to a recent survey. This makes Swiss firms among the most positive in Europe, according to the joint study by Facebook, the World Bank and the OECD.

A quarter of Swiss SMEs surveyed said they were able to generate at least half of their income through digital channels. This puts Switzerland in the middle field of digital sales success in Europe. Smaller companies in Ireland and Britain have the most efficient means of raising income through digitisation, the report concludes.

However, 54% of all companies surveyed by the ‘Global State of Small Business ReportExternal link’ worldwide said sales were significantly down so far this year.

The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland is a fifth lower than normal, according to Creditreform, the Swiss association of creditors. But this is only as a result of emergency credit guarantees and deferrals on companies’ social security payments that has helped them through the early stages of the pandemic.

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