This past winter’s avalanches severely affected the economies of Switzerland’s alpine regions, cutting some industry profits by 25 percent and causing a shortage in investments for the region.This content was published on June 24, 1999 - 13:55
This past winter’s avalanches severely affected the economies of Switzerland’s alpine regions, cutting some industry profits by 25 percent and causing a shortage in investments for the region.
The Swiss Working Group for alpine regions – an organisation focusing on the economic development of Switzerland’s mountain regions – said that 350 avalanches not only killed 32 people but also caused damages totalling SFr1billion ($600 million).
Deputy Director Heinz Aebersold said 10,000 hectares of arable land were either covered by debris or were effectively destroyed. He added that the clearing of debris and the reconstruction process were unlikely to be completed by the end of this summer.
Aebersold was speaking in the village of Gluringen, located in Canton Valais, which was one of the regions hit hardest by the severe snowfalls and avalanches.
Tourism is a key industry in that region and Bernhard Imobersdorf, a local business coordinator, said that this industrial sector suffered most as annual profits in many hotels dropped by 25 percent. Other businesses – such as electricity plants and private railways -- lost as much as ten percent, he said.
The avalanches prompted many tourists to cancel their winter vacations in the region’s major tourist resorts. And those tourists who still would have liked to travel to the region were often prevented from doing so because of heavy snowfalls blocking road and rail access.
The negative economic impact would likely still be felt next year, Imobersdorf said, as the drop in tourism and other revenues had led to a shortage of investment funds.
Also, protection installations against avalanches would have to be rebuilt in many areas, while new ones would have to be added elsewhere. Construction of these barriers would further deplete valuable resources, Imobersdorf said.
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