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Tourism stays rise amid strong franc uncertainty

A busy day on the slopes in Davos in February 2015

The number of overnight stays in Swiss hotels rose by 6% in February, the key month for the winter season, according to the Federal Statistical Office. It is uncertain whether the strong Swiss franc is having an influence on bookings, however. 

This content was published on April 7, 2015 - 11:57 with agencies

There were a total of 3.1 million overnight stays in February, a rise of 6% on the same month last year. Locals accounted for 1.5 million of these – a rise of 8.4% – while those coming from abroad rose to 1.6 million overnight stays (+3.8%). The combined figures for January and February were up 2.6% on 2014. 

Visitors from Asia, in particular China, provided the lion’s share of the increase of foreign visitors, +54.7% (+27,000 extra overnight stays), while those from Belgium (+24,000), Germany (+14,000), the United States (+9,400), Brazil (+6,400), Netherlands (+5,500) and South Korea (+4,000) were also up.

There were significant drops in the numbers of visitors from Russia (-15,000 overnight stays), Britain (-6,200) and Italy (-3,100), compared with last year.

Yves Strauss from the Federal Statistical Office said the 6% increase in February was partly due to the good weather, but the overall figure had to be put in context.

“It comes after a particularly bad month in 2014 when there was a -3.9% decrease on the previous year,” he noted.

Strauss said he was unable to comment on the effects of the strong Swiss franc but said most bookings had probably been made before the Swiss National Bank (SNB’s) decision to scrap a minimum exchange rate with the euro on January 15, 2014.

This move sent shockwaves through the tourism industry with the Swiss Tourism Federation warning of fewer bookings and more cancellations in late January, and Switzerland Tourism’s director Jürg Schmid saying the sector faced ‘crucial days’ ahead.

The franc was already over-valued at CHF1.20 against the euro just before the SNB stopped defending the exchange rate ceiling, which had been in place for three years. Overnight, Swiss holiday destinations became 15% dearer for guests from European countries. 

According to the Swiss Tourism Federation, tourism accounted for CHF35 billion gross value ($40 billion) added in 2013, of which around CHF16 billion came from foreign tourists.

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