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Officials optimistic ahead of winter season

Enjoying the sun and refreshments in Verbier Keystone

After several difficult years, Swiss tourism officials are confident that the worst of the financial crisis is now behind them. This winter they expect more British, German and French skiers to return to the slopes, alongside the locals.

“After three years of falling figures, we’re seeing the start of a modest upturn,” Switzerland Tourism President Jean-François Roth told reporters in Lausanne on Monday.

Roth and his colleagues are encouraged by a 5.4% rise in overnight stays this summer (June-August) largely driven by foreign visitors. Switzerland’s core market – British (+13%), French (+5%) and Germans (+2%), who together represent 36% of annual overnights – are coming back to the alpine nation, he said.

This has been boosted by a “remarkable” increase in visitors from China, southeast Asia and other emerging countries like Brazil and India, he added.

Their optimism is supported by new research from BAK Basel Economics which predicts a 2.9% overall rise in overnight visits for the 2013/14 winter season essentially due to foreigners (+4.6% in overnights compared with 0.9% for Swiss). Growth is expected to continue over the next three years but to a lesser degree.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) says this positive forecast is largely down to the stable situation in the eurozone, strong growth from emerging markets and the strong Swiss franc being less of a negative influence on the choice of holiday destination.

“One of the main reasons German tourists are coming back is because there is no more uncertainty over the Swiss franc,” explained Davide Codoni, SECO’s deputy head of tourism policy.

But officials underlined that the situation still remained fragile for hard-hit alpine regions that depend on tourism, which will take longer – possibly not before 2016 – to build up demand and properly recover.

Innovation and investment

For this coming winter season, ski resorts and lift operators have invested heavily to improve the tourist offer in the Alps.

Some CHF400 million ($450 million) has been invested in new lifts and connections to extend the ski areas of Arosa-Lenzerheide, Zinal-Grimentz and Cruson-Le Châble, connecting it to the Four Valleys network.

New upmarket alpine escapes are being inaugurated like the W Verbier hotel complex, the Stilli apartment and resort complex in Davos, as well as the Priva Alpine Lodge apartments and chalets in Lenzerheide, and the Hotel Nendaz 4 Valleys.

Switzerland is expensive so the only way to stand out is to provide value for money and be better or different, Roth said.

As part of their CHF17 million budget promotion this winter Switzerland Tourism is getting ski instructors to share local tips and insider knowledge to offer a more “personal touch”. A special page is available on the Switzerland Tourism site that encourages visitors to share their own suggestions.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR