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Swiss head for sun, sea and sand

Greece is very popular with Swiss holidaymakers Michael Anhaeuser

Swiss tourists are heading for the beach this year, with the Mediterranean a favourite destination. Making a strong reappearance is Egypt, particularly the Red Sea.

This content was published on July 3, 2008 - 21:27

The weak dollar and less fear of terrorism means that trips to the United States are also undergoing a boom, report travel agencies.

Summer is here and the Euro 2008 football championships are over. The Swiss are in the holiday mood, and for many of them this means heading off to the sun.

Switzerland's main agencies say that the Mediterranean remains the destination of choice.

Top places are Spain, particularly the Balearics and the Canary Islands, and the Greek Islands, such as Crete and Kos.

"You don't have to fly that long, it only takes two to three hours to get there," Peter Brun, spokesman for Kuoni, the country's largest operator, told swissinfo.

Egypt is this year emerging as a winner. At Hotelplan it is currently the second most popular trend destination.

Red Sea

"The Red Sea is the most popular area rather than travelling around because it's so hot in Egypt. You can snorkel and go scuba diving at the Red Sea," spokeswoman Sandra Stampfli told swissinfo.

The country has not always enjoyed such popularity. In 1997, 36 Swiss tourists were shot dead alongside 26 others by militants in Luxor, leading to a decline in tourism to the country.

"The region is very calm, especially in the last three years, and Egypt is also outside the euro area and is good value for money," said Kuoni's Brun. New resorts have also sprung up.

The euro currency does not seem to be influencing bookings as much as last year, says Brun. However, it may be a factor in putting people off visiting Swiss neighbour Italy, some agencies say. Pictures of piles of rubbish in Naples may also not have helped.

At TUI Suisse, Croatia is emerging as an alternative to Italy, spokesman Roland Schmid told the Swiss news agency.

American way

There is also a big move towards the US this year. Kuoni reports that bookings are up almost 20 per cent in comparison with 2007, and at Hotelplan it is the number one trend destination.

The weak dollar is one reason, say travel agencies. But the Swiss also seem to simply like the US – especially touring around the Rockies or California in a camper van. New York, for shopping, and Miami are also popular later in the year.

"Many people didn't go to the US in the past few years, or it's the first time that they are going, because of September 11. Now it's a trend destination," explained Brun.

TUI Suisse has also seen interest in the US rise, with Canada being popular too.

The weak dollar helps Swiss tourists when it comes to meals and entry tickets, said spokesman Schmid.

Different cultures

Overall there seem to be two factors that are not affecting the Swiss and their holidays: the weather and the economy. People simply want to go away during July and August.

"People want to leave their everyday lives. You can have beautiful holidays in Switzerland but the Swiss like to go abroad for different cultures and they like the beaches and the sea, because they don't have it in Switzerland," said Kuoni's Brun.

At TUI Suisse bookings are up by ten to 20 per cent on last year, especially in family and club holidays. Higher airline fuel prices do not appear to have affected bookings, says spokesman Schmid.

Brun says that in any case most people booked their time off earlier in the year before any fuel surcharges were imposed.

Even worries about the economy are not affecting people's holiday mood.

"People are still treating themselves to holidays," says Hotelplan's Stampfli. "Perhaps they simply forgo something else instead."

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson

Tourism on the up

According to figures published by the Federal Statistics Office on Thursday, the Swiss spent SFr12.3 billion ($12.1 billion) in 2007 on tourism abroad (up 6.4% on 2006).

Trips with overnight stays were worth SFr9.9 billion (up 9.9%), which the
Statistics Office says is in part due to the weakness of the franc against the euro. Europe remains the preferred destination for the Swiss, it adds.

The Swiss spent SFr2.4 billion in 2007 (down by SFr154 million on 2006) on trips abroad without overnight stays. This can be explained by the fact that there is less "shopping tourism" – going to the shops or supermarket over the border. This can be attributed to the weak franc and higher oil prices, say experts.

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