Tourism still suffering aftershocks of September 11

Tourism worldwide has suffered since September 11 Keystone

A year after the September 11 attacks, the fallout is continuing to buffet the global economy.

This content was published on September 10, 2002 - 12:42

Switzerland's tourism industry has been particularly hard hit, although operators are divided about whether the attacks are the primary cause for the slowdown.

Most tourism operators take the view that aftershocks of September 11 are not the sole reason for the industry's difficult year, but that they have exacerbated the impact of an already slowing economy.

The past year has seen the tourism sector - both at home and abroad - struggling to persuade nervous customers to pile back on to aeroplanes for their annual holiday.

According to Walter Kunz, a spokesman for the Swiss Travel Association, 2002 started positively, with a slight improvement in bookings during January and February.

The upswing was short lived, he says, and June- traditionally one of Switzerland's most important travel months - was "very weak".

Football factor

Kunz says the football world cup in Japan and South Korea contributed to the slowdown because people delayed their annual summer break to watch the contest.

The competition was followed by a retreat in demand for holidays during July and August - Europe's biggest travel months.

Kunz refuses to directly apportion blame for the slump on September 11, pointing instead to the general economic slowdown and collapse in share markets. He believes consumers have chosen to cut back on holidays in order to boost their savings amid the uncertainty.

"War on terror" hurting tourism

Hans Lerch, chief executive officer of Swiss travel firm Kuoni, blames the decline in travel on the rhetoric of the United States' so-called war against terrorism.

Not until security fears slide down people's list of priorities, Lenz believes, will long-distance journeys regain their popularity among holidaymakers.

Hans-Peter Nehmer, a spokesman for Swiss hotel group Hotelplan says September 11 triggered a drastic wind-down in profit projections for 2002.

Nehmer said this year's result was a poor comparison with last year, which was on target for a record result until the attacks.

Nehmer says Hotelplan saw its bookings fall by 15 per cent in winter and ten per cent during the summer.

And while a strong autumn holiday season would be unlikely to make up the difference for a poor year, Nehmer says the industry has been buoyed by last-minute bookings.

Road and rail travel in vogue

Nehmer predicts the attacks have also led to the re-discovery of rail and road travel, something he says is likely to continue for some time.

Although air-travel will again find its feet, consumers have, for the time being at least, shifted their focus to other modes of transport.

Looking ahead, Nehmer remains upbeat in the face of a collapse in US bookings to Europe - something he describes as short-term and likely to improve in the mid-term.

And what about the Swiss travel consumer? "If the price is right, the Swiss travel," says Nehmer.

swissinfo, Etienne Strebel, translated by Jacob Greber

In brief

Switzerland's travel and airline industry has been force do live with lower turnover and tougher competition since September 11.
The consequences of the terror attacks are still to be played out, although industry analysts have written 2002 off as a transition year
The declining popularity of air travel has led to a boom in rail and road transport.

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Key facts

Tourism in June - usually one of Switzerland's most important travel months - was weak.
The attacks have led to a re-discovery of rail and road travel.
Hotelplan saw bookings fall by 15 per cent in winter and 10 per cent in summer.

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