Swiss tourism numbers crash as jobless figures rise

Many Swiss hotels fear they will go bankrupt as a result of coronavirus. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The number of overnight stays in Swiss hotels fell by nearly two-thirds in March as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country. Hotels recorded just 1.26 million overnight stays compared to 3.4 million in the same month last year.

This content was published on May 7, 2020 minutes

The dramatic downturn was expected due to the government-imposed lockdown and border restrictions. The figures, released on Thursday, show that Swiss residents had also shunned hotels in their own country, having been urged to stay at home during the usually busy Easter weekend.

The number of foreign tourists staying at Swiss hotels during March plummeted 68% while domestic trade fell 56%, according to official statistics. Hotels have been open but have had to apply social distancing measures and close restaurant facilities to non-guests.

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The situation is set to improve for the hospitality industry with the lockdown being gradually eased throughout May and June. But officials have warned the tourism industry to expect tough conditions to continue for the much of the year.

According to a survey of hotel owners by the Haute Ecole du Valais, 57% of establishments in the country have since closed and 21% have partially closed. The survey also found bookings fell by 69% in March, 90% in April and 73% in May.

Hotel owners surveyed estimate their risk of bankruptcy to be about 23%.

Also as expected, the number people registered as unemployed has been rising. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said on Thursday that April jobless figures had risen nearly 18,000 from the previous month.

There were 43% more people registered as jobless last month compared to April last year. The overall rate of unemployment rose to 3.3% last month, up from 2.9% in March.

The cost in welfare payments and subsidies for employees on shortened working hours is expected to hit CHF20 billion this year, up from the usual CHF6-7 billion unemployment bill in Switzerland.

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