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Tourist industry braces for a difficult winter

snowboarder and skier on lift
Some early-season snow enthusiasts, central Switzerland, November 2020. Keystone / Alexandra Wey

Bookings for the winter tourism season in Switzerland are down by almost 30% compared with last year, the Swiss tourism board said on Monday.

Restrictions and insecurity around the Covid-19 pandemic paint a bleak picture for the upcoming winter season. Despite contingency plans and high flexibility among all involved, bookings remain at a very low level, said Switzerland Tourism boss Martin Nydegger.

According to a survey by the body, bookings for the Christmas period are down 19% compared with last year, while reservations for the winter sport season starting in the new year are down 28%. The KOF institute in Zurich estimates that overnight stays in Swiss hotels this winter will be down around 31% in total.

Travel restrictions and quarantine rules mean that many European visitors will be absent this year (down 49%), with overseas visitors almost completely gone (down 86%), KOF says. These absences will only be partially offset by a boost in domestic tourism – overnight stays are set to go up by around 9% – which was also seen this summer.


Nydegger said planning remained flexible and that his organisation would be ready to react to any loosening of travel and quarantining restrictions.

As things stand, he said, the big challenge for the winter season would be regulating the flows of visitors that do come in order to stick to social distancing and health rules. Ski stations and destinations have been experimenting with new ways of reserving places in cable cars and with ideas for “drive-in ski restaurants” and alternative après-ski options, he said.

The winter season is typically a bumper time for the Alpine nation, bringing in around CHF2 billion ($2.2 billion) a year for the tourism industry.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR