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Winter sports Swiss hope expats and Chinese will hit slopes

Chinese skiers pose for a photo in the Titlis region in 2014

(Keystone)

After a mixed summer with fewer Chinese tourists, Switzerland’s tourism office predicts a 'stable' winter season for 2016-2017. It hopes to attract expatriates and Chinese visitors to the slopes.

These are difficult times for the tourism business in the small alpine nation. The number of overnight stays by Chinese tourists fell by 19.7% in summer, Switzerland Tourism external linkreported on Tuesday.

This is a worrying trend for tourism officials, as Chinese visitors were leading recent growth in Switzerland up until recently. The lower numbers are partly due to the terrorist threats in Europe as Switzerland is closely associated with France, according to the tourism office.

Earlier this year Switzerland Tourism reported that the drop-off in numbers was also partly linked to the new requirement for biometric fingerprint data for visas. Since last November, this has been mandatory for anyone applying for a visa to Europe’s Schengen zone of countries, including Switzerland. This means all Chinese tourists must travel to a Swiss consulate in person to apply.

In general the drop in foreign visitors is striking. They represented half of all overnight stays in 2008 but now account for one-third. However, Swiss holidaymakers taking time out in the Swiss mountains, cities or lakes is constant and partly compensated, said Switzerland Tourism.

Winter offers

The office said the tourism sector had managed to ‘stabilise’ the negative impact of the strong Swiss franc. It says that after a fall in overnight stays from Europe these past few years, reservations are stable and could take off next summer.

Despite a potential of 30 million skiers between Germany, Austria and Switzerland, in general fewer people are taking to the slopes. To counter this trend, tourism officials have increased the number of special offers for the coming winter season.

Switzerland Tourism is organising a nationwide special for beginners – in particular, foreign visitors and expatriates. The offer includes a half-day ski pass and equipment hire in 19 resorts. This season it also has campaigns targeting skiers in Germany, North America, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium, China, France, Italy, Britain and Russia.

In addition, the Alpine World Ski Championships in St Moritzexternal link next February should provide an excellent opportunity for winter sports and tourism officials to sell Switzerland as a destination to the 70 countries participating, said Franco Giovanoli, director of the organising committee.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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