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Covid-19    Coronavirus expected to hit Swiss tourism industry

Passengers at Beijing airport on January 16, 2020

Passengers at Beijing airport on January 26, 2020. 

(Keystone / Wu Hong)

Swiss officials say the coronavirus outbreak could result in a 30-50% reduction in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Alpine country in the coming weeks. 

The coronavirus outbreak that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, has killed 106 people in China so far. Among measures to contain the virus, China is halting all group holiday tours, affecting tourism both at home and to other countries, from January 27. 

Winter is not peak season for Chinese visitors coming to Switzerland but tourism officials nonetheless expect the virus outbreak to have an impact. 

“In the coming weeks, Switzerland Tourism expects a 30-50% reduction in the number of Chinese visitors to Switzerland,” spokesperson Véronique Kanel told Keystone-SDA on Monday. Based on 2018 figures, this could represent 70,000-100,000 overnight stays per month. 

Chinese visitors are among the biggest spenders when holidaying in Switzerland: paying out on average CHF380 per person per day. 

As group tours are mainly affected by the freeze on reservations and travel, popular Swiss destinations such as Geneva, Zermatt, Interlaken, Lucerne and Zurich will feel the effects, Kanel said. 

Mixed reactions

Reactions were mixed among other tourism officials. Michael Maeder, director general of Switzerland Travel Centre, said the busy Chinese holiday period in Switzerland only really starts in April, so the recent freeze on group tours had not been felt. Chinese groups represent 3-4% of their annual turnover and two groups had already cancelled for this week, he said. 

“Depending on the length of the ban, it may have an influence on our business, as clients may make other plans when the ban is lifted,” he said. 

Nicolas Meylan, director general of Mövenpick Hotel and Casino Genève, also felt it was too early to weigh up any impact. Chinese visitors represent 5-6% of the Swiss hotel group’s clients. 

Meanwhile, Swiss International Airlines (SWISS) said it had registered an increased number of cancellations due to the virus outbreak, without giving any details. 

According to Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office, over two-thirds of the 1.73 million overnight hotel stays recorded in 2018 by visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, were made during the May-October period.

Keystone-SDA/sb

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