Pandemic could cost Swiss tourism sector CHF6 billion

The Hotel Loewen in Zug in central Switzerland is one of many hotels forced to close owing to the coronavirus pandemic. (KEYSTONE/Urs Flueeler) Keystone / Urs Flueeler

The coronavirus pandemic means Swiss ski resorts, hotels and restaurants are closed or at a standstill and jobs are at risk. This may cause a CHF6 billion ($6.2 billion) loss to the tourism industry this year, a study has revealed. 

This content was published on March 31, 2020 - 11:34
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The survey by the Valais University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HES-SO) found that tourism industry revenue could shrink by 18% in 2020. 

The hotel sector alone could lose CHF2 billion between March and May. During a typical year it generates CHF10.2 billion in revenue. This loss is almost double an initial prediction by the head of the country’s tourism body, Switzerland Tourism, earlier this month

On March 17, the Swiss government announced that all non-essential activities and businesses should close owing to the spread of the virus. Hotels are allowed to remain open, alongside grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, banks and post offices. But with the virus spreading worldwide and international travel impossible, tourism has come to a standstill.

Canton Ticino in southern Switzerland and the cities of Zurich, Basel and Geneva will be the worst hit, the report predicts, owing to a dramatic fall in business travel, conferences and other international meetings. Turnover in this area is expected to plunge by 90% in April.

Forced to close

The current crisis is different from previous events such as 9/11, the SARS epidemic or the crash of the euro, which had more regional impacts, the authors said.

Some companies may be forced to close, especially in the Swiss hotel and restaurant sectors, which employ 250,000 people and generate annual turnover of CHF28.4 billion.

In canton Graubünden in eastern Switzerland only 8% of hotels remain open, for example. A local hotel official says the virus could cause a CHF200 million loss in the southeastern region.

HotellerieSuisse, which represents the hotel industry, said earlier this month that member companies expected revenues to drop by at least 45% for March and April. 

The authors of the Valais university survey interviewed 2,000 people active in the Swiss tourism sector, including those working in hotels, restaurants, lift companies and other hotel-related services.

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