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Swiss holidaymakers shy of the skies

The Swiss are opting for home-baked holidays such as wellness resorts


Swiss holidaymakers are shying away from flying and are opting to travel by rail or car, amid ongoing uncertainties following the September 11 attacks.

Tour operators gathered in Montreux for Switzerland's largest trade travel fair said the industry had also taken a battering because of the sluggish economic climate.

"There's a lot of uncertainty in the market," says Stephan Wehrle, spokesman for the Swiss tour operator, Kuoni. "People are sitting tight."

"Everything's become much more short term," adds Hanspeter Nehmer, a spokesman for rival travel operator, Hotelplan. Bookings were being made one month in advance, rather than the usual three, and there was less demand for long-haul destinations, he said.

Another tour operator, TUI, said bookings for rail and car journeys had risen by five per cent this year, with more people choosing their holiday destination with security in mind.

Security measures

"People want security, but they don't want to hang around for hours for complicated security measures," says TUI spokesman, Roland Schmidt.

Travel operators said another noticeable trend was the growing popularity of so-called wellness holidays - packages that promote health and fitness.

"Wellness is no longer a trend, but a product," says Nehmer. "People want to pamper themselves when times are bad."

Despite travellers' reluctance to fly, the Swiss remain keen on holidays abroad. Figures from the Federal Statistics Office show the Swiss spend about SFr11 billion a year abroad, putting them in 14th place in the world in terms of spending on foreign travel.

The favourite destinations for the Swiss are the Mediterranean countries, particularly France, Spain and Italy.

The United States and Canada top the list of long-haul destinations, although increasing numbers of Swiss are choosing the holiday in the Far East.

Cruises are also increasingly popular, as are city weekend breaks.

Over 100 exhibitors are attending the Travel Trade Workshop in Montreux, which runs until Friday.

swissinfo with agencies