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Fewer overnight stays Struggling hotel industry calls for political action

The Swiss hotel industry will have to adapt more and more in the future to changes in technology, climate, and client demographics.

(Keystone)

After the strong franc and poor snowfall together resulted in a 1.8% drop in overnight stays this past winter, the Swiss hotel industry has announced its plan to get back on track.

The hotel industry association Hotelleriesuisseexternal link said at a news conference on Tuesday that it expected client demographics to change “profoundly” in the coming years, with an increasing average age of guests, as well as visitors coming from countries further and further abroad.

Hotelleriesuisse cited high costs, the lingering effects of the strong franc, climate change, and increasing digitisation all as factors that played a role in the difficult 2015/2016 winter tourist season (November through April), which saw overnight stays by foreign guests drop 3.8% compared to the previous season, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

The industry association called for a series of measures from the political sphere to help improve the situation, including reduced administrative barriers and “equal competitive conditions with new tourism providers from the sharing economy, such as Airbnb”.

They also requested that the special value-added tax (VAT) rate of 3.8% for accommodation be definitively written into the country’s law on VAT (a rate of 8% applies to most goods and services in Switzerland).

Maintaining free movement of people between Switzerland and the European Union was another of Hotelleriesuisse’s requests, to ensure “free access to foreign workers at all levels of qualification”.

Difficult winter

The hotel industry’s statements came the same day as a report from the Federal Statistics Office, which said that visitors from Europe – usually primary contributors to Swiss tourism – spent 354,000 fewer nights in Switzerland compared to the 2014/2015 winter season, representing a drop of 6% in one year.

Nine of 14 main tourist regions in Switzerland saw overnight stays decrease compared to last year, with canton Graubünden taking the biggest hit of -6.6%. Valais saw a decrease of 4.2% in overnight stays, and the Bernese Oberland -3.8%. On the other hand, Vaud and Zurich saw respective increases of 4.2 and 1.6%.

On the brighter side, demand from Swiss guests increased slightly by 0.5%. Stays by visitors from the United States progressed 5.3%, and from Asia by 2.1%, thanks mostly to the business of the Gulf states and India. However, nights spent by Chinese visitors decreased by 6.8%.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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