Switzerland's hotel industry remains one of the key barometers the Swiss economy, and its failure to shrug off the impact of September 11 remains cause for concern.This content was published on September 10, 2002 - 12:43
While few industry observers were surprised that hotel bookings collapsed after the attacks, the hangover has persisted.
And recovery seems a long way off. This summer, European visitors to Switzerland booked some 1.38 million nights - almost ten per cent fewer than last year.
But the real pain is being felt by the absence of North American and Asian tourists. The industry reports a massive 28 per cent plunge in visitors from the United States, while the Japanese market has deflated by 23 per cent.
But there are a few bright spots discernable in the gloom.
Holidaymakers from the Middle East - put off by perceived hostility in the US - have been flocking to Switzerland in droves. Visitors from the Gulf States alone have swollen in numbers by some 76 per cent.
Russians are also coming - their numbers are up 21 percent - and eight per cent more Italians are crossing the border for their holidays.
The year's fortunes were damaged from the outset, industry figures say, after a lacklustre winter saw overnight stays decline by six per cent (or around 906,000 visitor nights), bringing five years of growth to an abrupt end.
The reason was a sharp decline in overseas visitors, particularly from North America.
However, industry body, Gastrofacts, says blaming September 11 for the industry's woes is simplistic, citing other factors such as the economic downturn and the inflated Swiss franc.
But the organisation also believes visitors from Europe have been unsettled by price hikes as a result of the introduction of the euro.
Spending figures support that assertion. In 2001, foreign guests in Switzerland shelled out some SFr12.7 billion, down SFr453 million on 2000.
Meanwhile spending by Swiss travellers is believed to have held steady at around SFr10.7 million in 2001.
The figures underscore the vital role tourism - and hotel stays in particular - play in Switzerland's economy.
Even with the high franc, and uncertain economic climate, tourism earns Switzerland around SFr2 billion every year - nearly one per cent of GDP.
This summer, European visitors booked ten per cent fewer hotel nights than last year.
Holidaymakers from the Middle East have been flocking to Switzerland.
Russians have increased bookings by 21 per cent.
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