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Ticino tourism in trouble

Ticino, with its palm trees and placid lakefront, is usually a popular tourist destination

(Keystone)

The sunshine capital of Switzerland, canton Ticino, has announced it wants to double its tourism budget to SFr40 million over the next four years.

Monday's announcement comes after repeated warnings from tourism chiefs that the region faces tough times ahead due to the strong franc, last year's fire in the Gotthard tunnel and competition from the national exhibition, Expo.02.

The holiday season in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino, usually a popular destination, has already got off to a bad start. Claude Belloli, the president of "Gastroticino", said at last week's annual meeting of the association that he feared the worst.

Gotthard tunnel

According to Mario Guscio, head of the canton's traffic police, fewer people are choosing to drive through the Gotthard tunnel to reach Ticino because they are afraid of fires.

"The fire in the Gotthard tunnel on October 24 has had an unexpected psychological effect: every day some 200 fewer cars pass through the tunnel - that's a 20 per cent decrease," he said.

Traffic snarl-ups

Frequent reports of traffic jams on either side of the tunnel also discourage tourists from travelling to Ticino, depriving hotels of the short-stay guests who make up the bulk of their business.

This weekend, tailbacks of more than 16 kilometres were reported on what is Europe's main north-south axis.

Tourism woes

Too many restaurants and a shortage of first-class hotels are also adding to Ticino Tourism's woes.

"We have around 400 restaurants too many," said Belloli. "In Ticino, there is one restaurant for every 130 residents, against one for every 240 throughout the rest of Switzerland."

Belloli added that the region also suffered from a lack of qualified service industry personnel and what he called a true "welcoming culture".

To make matters worse, there are only nine five-star hotels, 34 four-star and 107 three-star hotels in Ticino. According to tourism officials, this is not enough to lead the industry out of the doldrums. And in what has become a vicious circle, the slump in the hotel industry is also driving away new investment.

Strong franc

The strong Swiss franc is also hurting business. Ticino is suffering from an unfavourable price comparison with its relatively cheaper neighbour, Italy.

"Since the introduction of the euro, there is a price differential of ten per cent," complained Guiseppe Stinca, director of Ticino Tourism. However, although businesses are hiking their prices in a bid to compensate, it is not working.

Expo.02

Finally, the Swiss national exhibition, Expo.02, has taken away a sizeable amount of Ticino's business. Expo is spread across three lakes and four towns in the west of the country. However, Ticinese officials are not yet able to quantify the loss.

Ticino Tourism is planning several new attractions to draw tourists back to the region. Theme parks such as aquatic and green parks, as well as the region's architecture are to be promoted in a new campaign.

swissinfo with agencies


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