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Hotels call for action to stay competitive

Rates for three-star hotels in Switzerland are up to 40 per cent more expensive than elsewhere

(Keystone)

The Swiss Hotel Association (SHA) says politicians and hoteliers must fight costs that affect Switzerland's competitiveness as a tourist destination.

At a news conference in Bern on Monday, the association admitted that prices were higher than in neighbouring countries and put forward a number of measures to maintain the country's attractiveness.

As an example, a study from the BAK Basel Economics research group showed that prices on average in the hotel trade were 12 per cent higher than in Austria, Germany, Italy and France.

"The costs for goods are about 16 per cent higher in Switzerland and labour costs, including wages and productivity, are 26 per cent higher," the BAK project leader Christian Hunziker explained to swissinfo.

The BAK study showed that wage costs and those for goods in Austrian hotels were on average 34 per cent less than in Switzerland.

It should not come as any surprise therefore that BAK recommends better framework conditions from the politicians and structural reforms among members of the hotel association.

A second study presented in Bern on Monday from the BHP consultancy group revealed that while there was not such a big difference in general between prices in the four- and five-star hotels in Switzerland and its neighbours, they were up to 40 per cent higher when it came to three stars.

Too expensive?


There have for years been moans that hotel prices in Switzerland are not competitive and too expensive.

But Swiss Hotel president Guglielmo Brentel tried to put it into perspective.

"That's an image we have. Maybe it's true but it's not true all over. If you look in the deluxe range – four or five star – we are not expensive," he said.

"You cannot be cheap in Switzerland because of the high costs. In the three-star range we are a little more expensive but Switzerland is worth it," he said.

The SHA is also calling for more productivity from both the hotels and their staff.

Increase productivity


"[The hotels] have to become larger than now. They have an average at the moment of 48 beds, which is rather small to be productive and then we have to see that the people can work when the work is here," Brentel said.

"[They have to be] more flexible in their working conditions, [which we have to work out] together with our social partners. And I think that if we do both – if we have products that are competitive and people who are flexible – we can increase productivity."

The message from Brentel to the politicians was clear: liberate the markets. That means, for example, working out a free-trade agreement with the European Union on agriculture and reducing a plethora of import barriers.

For BAK's Hunziker as well as the SHA there also has to be more cooperation among hotels, a factor that could also reduce costs.

Emotions

"They could, for example, buy goods together and get a discount," he pointed out.

Whatever the studies say, the hotel branch also has to appeal to their clients' emotions.

"There's a saying in English which goes: You may have forgotten how it looked, you may have forgotten how it tasted, but you never forget the way they made you feel, and that's what I mean by emotions. We have to give those emotions to our guests," Brentel said.

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

Key facts

Swiss tourism enjoyed a record year in 2008, with more than 37 million overnight stays.
The Swiss Hotel Association says that contributing factors were continuing investment, marketing and innovation.
The economy, favourable exchange rates and good weather conditions were also positive factors.

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Swiss Hotel Association

The Swiss Hotel Association (hotelleriesuisse) has about 3,200 members.

2,300 hotels classified by the association generate about 76% of all overnight stays.

According to estimates, hotels generate annual turnover of SFr9 billion ($7.81 billion).

The association has its headquarters in Bern, with branches in Lausanne and Bellinzona. It has 108 members of staff.

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