Swiss know their country – in theory

The Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen are a popular attraction for the Swiss Keystone

The Swiss know what's worth visiting at home, but they rarely actually take in the sights on their doorstep, according to a survey.

This content was published on January 5, 2007 - 22:01

Almost all of those polled agree that a "real" Swiss person should know their country properly, but results showed that most of this knowledge tends to be hearsay.

"This is the first time people have been questioned about whether they know a place and if they have actually visited it," said Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Véronique Kanel. More than 1,500 people took part in the survey commissioned by the Swiss Federal Railways and Switzerland Tourism.

"What was interesting is that there was a big difference between having heard of a place and actually going there," added Kanel.

Presented with a list of 12 sights, respondents knew on average just over half of them (56 per cent), but most people had not visited them.

Nine out ten people had heard of the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen and most had travelled to see them.

The Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Oberland is also recognised by most people, but almost half the respondents had never been there and only a quarter had visited it in the past five years.

The Pilatus mountain that towers above Lucerne in central Switzerland also has a high recognition factor, but less than half of those polled had actually reached its easily accessible summit.

Other spectacular sights aren't as well known by the Swiss. Less than half the respondents recognised the Creux du Van, a natural amphitheatre in the Jura mountains, and only a quarter had been there.

Worst off were the Travers asphalt mines, a network of galleries and tunnels running for more than 100 kilometres in canton Neuchâtel.

"People know of interesting places because in a small country, there are a limited number to actually visit," Kanel told swissinfo. "Education and the media probably also played a role in informing people."

Emotional elements

Why the Swiss are less enthusiastic about visiting their homeland despite so many sights being in close proximity is somewhat unclear. Cost could be a factor, although Switzerland Tourism says that Swiss destinations are attractive compared to others in the neighbouring euro zone especially for families.

"Travel always involves both rational elements, such as cost, and emotional ones," said Kanel. "For some people, the grass is always greener elsewhere."

Regular day-trippers were the most successful at identifying the 12 sights. Their favoured destination was central Switzerland, ahead of regions such as canton Valais in the west, Zurich and the eastern part of the country.

These people are also more likely to remember landscapes, historical places and sights from central Switzerland than from the Basel area up in the northeast.

Most of these excursions involve a car, especially for families, although German-speaking Swiss tend to use public transport more often than French or Italian speakers.

The respondents said the cantons they would most want to visit are Graubünden and Ticino, followed by Valais, Bern and Lucerne.

The results of the survey are going to be used by Switzerland Tourism this year to encourage the Swiss to visit places near home they have never travelled to until now.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland is one of the world's oldest tourist destinations. Twenty years ago, it was still among the top ten. Since then, tourism has stagnated, having been overtaken by the boom in large parts of Asia and the Gulf States.

Half of Swiss revenues from the tourist industry come from foreigners.

Winter tourism generates the most income in mountain regions. Cities like Zurich, Geneva and Basel have become popular as short-stay destinations.

However, the number of hotels is declining even if Swiss hospitality schools have retained their excellent international reputations.

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Key facts

1,509 people from all three of Switzerland's main language regions took part in the survey, carrined out by the Link institute.
Besides sites such as the Rhine Falls and the Jungfraujoch, respondents were also quizzed about places such as the Gornergrat above Zermatt, Monte Tamaro in canton Ticino, the Aletsch glacier and Bern's old city.

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