Swiss target Spanish tourists
Spanish interest in Switzerland is booming, and as a result the national tourism office has identified Spain as its first European priority market.
Switzerland Tourism is opening an office in Barcelona to turn this surge in interest – the biggest shown by any European country – into trips and overnight stays.
At present the tourist office has four priority markets: China, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
"In the first semester of 2005 our call centre received 3,500 calls from Spain – this is the country with the greatest increase in interest," Oliver Kerstholt, from Switzerland Tourism, told swissinfo.
But it's not just interest that is going in the right direction. "In 2005 there were 348,245 overnight stays from Spanish tourists – this was up 19.1 per cent on 2003," he said.
Kerstholt also pointed to Spaniards' general Wanderlust – the number of tourists emanating from Spain, not just to Switzerland, has increased by over 20 per cent since 2001 – and this, combined with a healthy Spanish economy, is why Switzerland Tourism has identified Spain as its first priority target market in Europe.
What's more Spanish visitors, once they arrive, seem to prefer the comforts of hotels rather than holiday apartments.
"The Spanish are an interesting clientele," Kerstholt says. "Seventy-six per cent of Spanish tourists stay in hotels compared with 48 per cent of Germans."
As of July 1, Switzerland Tourism will have an office in Barcelona. Kerstholt is clear on the reasons for the new office.
"To promote tourism to Switzerland! We will work with travel agencies and tour operators, we will work with the media and invite journalists to come to Switzerland, we will do promotional work – brochures and events that go out to the public – and we will do e-marketing."
As for what attracts Spanish people to Switzerland, there isn't one aspect that stands out.
"The mountains, the gastronomy, and also – perhaps more surprising – the cities," Kerstholt said. "Geneva and Zurich are the destinations with the most overnights, followed by Lausanne, Basel, Zermatt, Bern."
He said Switzerland Tourism would focus on its two strongest seasons, summer and winter – something it does for all its main markets. But he added that one product "which might be of interest to the Spanish market" was the theme routes.
"This is travelling according to a theme and we suggest different itineraries, the most recent is art and architecture. We also have wine and gastronomy, and luxury and design."
swissinfo, Thomas Stephens
Switzerland Tourism has named Spain as its first western European priority market.
At present the national tourist office has four priority markets: China, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Switzerland Tourism will open an office in Barcelona on July 1.
In 2005 there were 348,245 overnight stays in Switzerland by Spanish tourists.
This was up 19.1 per cent on 2003.
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