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Tourism sector upbeat despite slowing economic growth

Switzerland Tourism is focusing on nature in its autumn campaign. Pictured is the Aletsch glacier in canton Valais.

(Keystone)

Switzerland Tourism is confident the country will see an increase in visitors this year, despite the slowing world economy and signs that a weaker dollar may discourage Americans from crossing the Atlantic.

Speaking at the launch of the tourist board's autumn campaign, Jürg Schmid, the head of Switzerland Tourism, told swissinfo that last year would be hard to match. The tourist industry recorded its best year yet in 2000, thanks to the "Millennium effect", which pushed US visitors numbers up by 14 per cent.

"The very strong [global] economy of last year helped the figures," explained Schmid. "Although we may not see growth equivalent to last year, we're should still see an improvement."

The number of Americans visiting Switzerland this year has so far remained constant, dropping by just 0.4 per cent. But there are fears that the weakening US economy and the recently fall in the value of the dollar may keep some Americans at home.

"The reality is that the dollar rate does have a direct impact on the numbers of tourists coming to Switzerland," added Schmid. "But we are in a very good position in the US - Switzerland is in demand there and people love to travel here - I see this as a temporary weakness."

As part of its effort to boost visitor numbers, Switzerland Tourism is to launch another autumn campaign, following the successful one last year. Schmid is confident this will help boost the number of overnight stays by up to one-and-half per cent over last year.

"We were successful last year in positioning the Swiss autumn as the perfect season to travel through Switzerland, so we decided to do it again," said Schmid.

Autumn is traditionally a slow season for the Alpine regions because tourists generally wait until winter to take advantage of the snow.

"We are focusing on the nature experience in autumn from hiking to biking. And we're pushing the wine and dine experience, as well as the culture and customs experience, where we promote all wine and alpine festivals that are going on during that season," explained Schmid.

As always though success for autumn will depend on the weather. Last year saw an increase in overnight stays during a sunny September but visitor numbers fell in October when the weather turned bad.

by Tom O'Brien


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