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Matterhorn Swiss resort village Zermatt resists daytime tourism


At an elevation of about 1,600 metres, Zermatt sits in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn Mountain.


Mass daytime tourism is a growing concern in Switzerland’s Alpine Zermatt village, the NZZ am Sonntag reports.

Large groups that want to soak in the charms of this village at the foot of the emblematic Matterhorn within a few hours – without even stopping to eat – are the problem.

Local authorities downplay these concerns but are already taking steps to avoid bottlenecks in traffic.

“The most popular vantage point for photography was rebuilt as the infrastructure reached its limits," Simona Altwegg of Zermatt Tourism told NZZ am Sonntag.

Zermatt Tourism, she explains, relies on communication and uses dynamic pricing to control the flow of visitors.

"Our task is, for example, to advise hikers in various ways so that they can spread themselves over the 400-kilometer network and not all of them always use the same five routes," she adds.

Limiting daytime visitors

Zermatt hoteliers, meanwhile, have developed their own formulas to limit daytime tourism.

“We aim to design our offer so that all spend at least two nights in Zermatt," says Mario Noti, board member of the local hotelier association. 

He notes that Asian groups tend to spend a night or two in Zermatt, unlike in other destinations in Switzerland.

The Matterhorn village, he believes, should not be experienced in a few hours. So, he markets stays including sunrise and sunset activities, sports and shopping.

One problem, notes Noti, is that the strategy of hoteliers and railway operators collides because transport companies stand to benefit more from day tourists.


The Matterhorn is among Switzerland’s most famous landmarks.


When interests collide

"The interests of the railways are not always congruent with ours." In the first half of 2019 alone, the Matterhorn-Gotthard Railway brought almost 1.3 million passengers to the car-free location,” he says.

The local hotel association is worried that the village could experience tourism over development of the kind experienced in the Italian city of Venice.

“Zermatt must be careful that it will not be overrun at once,” warns Corinne Julen in the "Hotel Revue". 

The president of the local hotel association expects global demand to increase steadily. She says marketing efforts and special offers can help spread out tourist visits over the whole year.

Learning from experience

Swiss and European tourists remain the most important customers.

"Day-trippers are of little interest to Zermatt hotels," stresses Julen.

The scenarios that Zermatt wants to avert are already the reality in other parts of Switzerland , notes the German-language newspaper.

For example, Chinese tour groups repeatedly pose problems to the authorities in Lucerne because they can hardly cope with the onslaught. Likewise, the Top of Europe (Jungfraujoch) in the Bernese Oberland is temporarily overrun by tourist crowds.

In central Switzerland, worried locals are currently resisting the construction of a gondola lift on Mount Rigi. With the increase in capacity, the protected landscape would be ruthlessly destroyed, according to critics.


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