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Strong franc A stagnant winter season for Swiss tourism

Due in part to a loss of price competitiveness, some of the main winter sports destinations in Switzerland have seen fewer tourists over the past few years. 

(Keystone)

Switzerland is still feeling the effects of the strong franc, with declines in the number of overnight stays anticipated – particularly in alpine resort areas.

According to the Swiss Economic Instituteexternal link (KOF) at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich, a 1.4% drop is expected in holiday visitors to alpine regions this winter season.

The KOF estimates that over the last few years, Swiss winter sport destinations have lost market share compared with France and Austria, because they were no longer price competitive. Of the main Swiss winter sport destinations of Valais, Graubünden, the Bernese Oberland and central Switzerland, only the latter is reported to have maintained stable numbers of tourists.

In a surveyexternal link conducted in September by the Swiss Hotel Association, 53% of hoteliers in rural alpine regions reported fewer reservations compared with the previous year. Twenty percent of respondents, notably in rural or alpine regions, said they may lower their prices in light of falling demand.

The big picture

The KOF estimates that the shock of the strong franc – brought about by the Swiss National Bank’s (SNB) abandoning of the franc-euro exchange rate peg in January – hasn’t harmed Swiss tourism as much as it might have.

Nevertheless, overall projections for Swiss tourism’s winter 2015-2016 season are weaker compared with last year: tourism demand is expected to drop by 1.5% overall due to decreased foreign demand.

The number of overnight guests from eurozone areas is expected to decline in particular. Visitors from the United States and the United Kingdom may offset that decline to some degree, but the overall effect is expected to be a net decrease in overnight stays from foreigners.

However, the KOF reports that thanks to a “slightly more positive outlook for the Swiss economy”, domestic tourism demand is expected to rise somewhat.

Future projections suggest recovery: for 2016, the KOF predicts a 1.6% increase in total overnight stays, rising to 2% in 2017.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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