Around nine million tourists visit the picturesque Swiss city of Lucerne every year. It's estimated that, when it comes to the number of day trippers per inhabitant, Lucerne has more than Venice. It's great for the economy, but a nuisance for local people, disturbed by coaches and people clogging the streets.
Swiss newspaper, the NZZ, found that, with 9.4 million visitors compared to 81,000 inhabitants, the city has 116 day trippers per inhabitant. In Venice, with its 260,000 inhabitants and 25 million visitors per year, the figure is 96. It's hard to compare, considering the small area that tourists are most likely to visit. Looking at just the historic centre of Venice, with its 62,000 residents, the numbers look quite different again.
Swiss Public Television, RTS, carried out a similar survey and also found that Lucerne topped the 'tourist intensity' league compared with Rome, Barcelona, Paris and Venice. However, Vatican City, with a resident population of just 842, was not included in the survey. The Sistine Chapel alone attracts 5 million day trippers per year.
Mass tourism is growing
Tourism researcher, Jürg Stettlerexternal link, from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts predicts that in 2030, the number of day trippers in Lucerne will have reached 12-14 million per year. Paris currently has about 15 million per year.
That's good news for shopkeepers such as Robert Casagrande, who sells chocolate, Swiss knives and cuckoo clocks, and he's not the only one cashing in. The watch and jewellery companies Bucherer, Gübelin and Embassy together with Casagrande recently commissioned a studyexternal link on the added value of group tourism. Result: around 'Schwanenplatz', a square in the city centre, the value added last year amounted to CHF224 million ($231 million). The survey says more than 1,000 jobs in the city are connected with group tourism.
Mass tourism may have its upsides, but the locals frequently complain about traffic snarls on the road stretch between the railway station and Schwanenplatz a few hundred metres away, where most cars and buses cutting through the city have to pass. The city council commissioned a study to come up with alternative parking solutions. One option is to relocate most of the coach parking slightly out of town, and to transport tourists to the centre by public transport. Some political parties want to impose an extra charge on coaches parking in the centre.
The transport infrastructure is also feeling the strain around the Rigi mountain, another magnet for visitors. Karl Bucher, head of the mountain railways group, plans to expand services so that even more people can go up and enjoy the panorama. But local resident René Stettler has started a petition to prevent the expansion. He believes mass tourism is ruining the view.