With summer officially under way, the Swiss are turning their thoughts to holidays. But they are not rushing to book their places in the sun - yet.
According to travel agents, bookings are down 20 per cent on last year. The September 11 terror attacks, the national exhibition Expo.02 and football's World Cup are considered the main reasons for the Swiss opting to stay at home.
Another factor could be the unseasonably warm weather Switzerland has been enjoying, with temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius for several days running.
"This drop in sales by a fifth compared to last year is largely due to the collapse of air travel since September 11," said Walter Kunz, the head of the Swiss travel agents' federation.
However, he said travel agents were hopeful the situation would pick up after the World Cup, with a rash of last-minute bookings. "There is a growing trend towards booking holidays later and that could mean a jump in last-minute sales."
United States the big loser
Travel agents reported that the biggest drop in bookings was in holidays to the US. "Holiday bookings to the United States are down by 40 to 50 per cent," said a spokesman for Kuoni, the country's biggest agency.
Its rival TUI Switzerland reported a similar downturn, with bookings to the US down by 30 to 40 per cent.
The industry said fear of terrorist attacks was not the only reason why the Swiss were turning their backs on overseas travel this year. Expo.02 and good weather in Switzerland were also providing ample incentive to the stay at home.
"Bookings from the three lakes region [the site of Expo.02] are well down," Hotelplan reported. "Many families are taking advantage of the sunny and warm weather to visit the arteplages, and are reserving their foreign holidays for the grey autumn days," a spokesman for TUI added.
Other agencies said the cost of visiting the national exhibition was also affecting holiday bookings.
In the wake of September 11, more and more people were choosing to travel by train and car rather than by air, said agents. Consequently people were travelling shorter distances and European countries, particularly Italy and Spain, were proving popular with motorists.
In compliance with the JTI standards