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Tourism tries the hard sell

Switzerland Tourism has been promoting walking Keystone

Switzerland Tourism has been holding its annual conference for professionals with the focus on a new marketing concept known as “smart selling”.

This content was published on April 20, 2004 - 13:32

But there are tensions between the national tourist office and its members about how to promote Switzerland abroad.

Some 1,150 representatives from the industry - from tourism managers to hoteliers - have been taking part in the conference which opened on Monday in Bern.

The main theme of this year’s event is how to sell Switzerland and its products successfully.

But Switzerland Tourism’s policy of unifying its marketing strategy has come under fire from some quarters, with some arguing that a global campaign would not work because different countries appreciate different aspects of Switzerland.

For example in Italy, according to one observer at the fair, Switzerland is regarded as a relaxed holiday destination, appreciated for its clichés of mountains, cheese and chocolate.

Therefore a campaign showing Switzerland as an exciting place to spend a holiday would not work.

But Jürg Schmid, the head of Switzerland Tourism, which is responsible for marketing the country, denies that the strategy doesn’t work.

“We are not boring at all,” he said. “It has been statistically demonstrated that the range of experiences on offer in Switzerland is higher than in other countries.”

Agreement

But despite tensions over the strategy, delegates said they were satisfied with the professionalism of the organisation’s marketing campaigns.

For the first time in the body’s 90-year history it had launched an international advertising campaign on television focusing on walking holidays in Switzerland.

Other plus points were Switzerland Tourism’s office in Germany and its relations with Swiss Federal Railways and Zurich airport.

But the high prices in Switzerland, which have been shown to deter tourists, came under criticism.

Lack of support

Another bone of contention among delegates is the perceived lack of political support for the tourism industry.

The sector generates over SFr12 billion ($9.22 billion) and employs 240,000 people directly or indirectly.

But statistics show that two-thirds of the income generated by tourists actually goes into other sectors of the economy such as the retail business and banking.

The tourism industry has therefore been calling for extra financial support.

Every five years parliament decides how much credit to give the sector and is due to decide this year. Switzerland Tourism has asked for SFr277 million, but the government only envisages giving SFr200 million.

There is still chance of a compromise, but tourism professionals remain dissatisfied.

Criticism

“As soon as the tourism sector announces negative results, commentators have a go at our industry’s structures and strategy,” said Dick Marty, president of Switzerland Tourism and Radical parliamentarian for Ticino.

“On the other hand stagnation in the chemical sector, the decline of the mechanical industry or the fall in watch exports are all blamed on the framework conditions or the international [economic] situation,” he added.

Switzerland Tourism says that the extra money it is requesting will go towards publicising Switzerland in Asia and Eastern Europe.

Experts say that the new wave of tourists from Asia and Eastern Europe should go some way towards offsetting the fall in visitors from Germany.

swissinfo, Alexander Künzle

In brief

The number of tourists staying overnight in hotels has been falling in the last ten years.

The tourism industry is the third largest Swiss export industry and is worth SFr12 billion.

It employs 240,000 people directly or indirectly and is one of the biggest employers in the country. But wages remain low.

Two-thirds of money generated by tourists goes into other sectors of the economy such as retail and banking.

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