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Swiss cableways launch summer offensive

Pilatus cablecar in Lucerne

(Schweiz Tourismus)

The Swiss Cableways Association has launched a campaign to get more tourists to take their vacation in the Alps - and keep operators in business.

This week, they unveiled their "Peak Collector" programme with an accompanying guide, called "Thirty Mountain Adventures". The campaign offers tourists a reduction on their lift passes if they use a cableway more than five times.

The accompanying guide frames Switzerland as a high-altitude centre of fun with an emphasis on extreme sports such as rock climbing, downhill mountain biking and para gliding.

Commercial reason

But the reason behind the campaign, which coincides with the United Nations Year of Mountains, is a commercial one: if some of the cableways do not perform well over the summer months they will no longer be financially viable come the winter

"We are not strong enough on business during the summer time," Felix Maurhofer, spokesman for the Swiss Cableways Association told swissinfo. "The winter accounts for 84 per cent of our revenue."

With the remaining 16 per cent of turnover made during the summer months, Maurhofer points out that operators need to tout for business in June, July, August and September.

During these months, 250 of Switzerland's 550 cableways will be running in resorts like Verbier, Saanenmöser and Bosco Gurin.

Vulnerable position

The heavy dependence on winter trade and the possible threat of shorter winters as the climate changes has put the association's members in a vulnerable position.

"Thirty per cent of the operating companies have an insufficient cash flow," Maurhofer says. "Thirty per cent have a cash flow which is quite good, but if they have a bad season in summer or winter then they get in economic trouble."

However, it's not all doom and gloom. Despite poor snow conditions during the 2001-2002 winter season, Swiss cableway operators recorded a four per cent increase in turnover, with tourists spending SFr709 million ($453 million) on lift passes and tickets.

Beach lovers

Maurhofer is upbeat about enticing beach lovers to swap their flip-flops for mountain bikes. He believes the goal can be achieved by attracting more tourists from countries like Germany, Japan and Russia.

He says that Germans make up the biggest group of summer alpine tourists and since the events of September 11 last year they have chosen to holiday nearer to home.

"We also have strong rising markets in Asia and Russia and that makes us positive about the summer prospects," he adds.

by Sally Mules

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