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Tourist industry needs more passion

Swiss star chef Anton Mosimann (right) took part in the panel discussion

(swissinfo.ch)

Experts say more friendliness and emotion are needed for the Swiss tourist industry to remain among the top players in the sector.

They also pleaded for more quality and authenticity in a series of discussions during the annual Congress of the Swiss Abroad in the mountain resort of Interlaken on Friday.

Former cabinet minister and currently the United Nations special advisor on sport for development and peace, Adolf Ogi, was not the only guest at the meeting to point out a lack of emotion and competitive spirit.

"We have to learn again to focus on quality and reconsider our activities. We are a small country, but it is one of the most beautiful," Ogi told the nearly 400 people in a passionate speech.

"We used to laugh about the Austrians, but they are ahead of us. We have become a country without emotion. It's noticeable in the way we welcome our guests. We need more commitment and emotion," he added.

Kurt Illi, former tourist director in the city of Lucerne, said holidaymakers expected to be given a warm welcome when they arrived at their destination. "Sometimes, it is a small gesture that makes all the difference."

Quality, friendliness

The renowned Swiss chef, Anton Mosimann, appealed for more confidence and quality products.

"We have to show more appreciation for visitors to the country."

Other speakers at the panel discussion called for increased cooperation among the various players in tourism.

They also said more needed to be done to raise awareness among young people of the importance of the sector for the country.

In a bid to sum up a day of discussions, Jacques-Simon Eggly, a vice-president of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), said many of the values were typical for women: "Passion, generosity and pride."

Jürg Schmid, head of the national tourist office, Switzerland Tourism, said in his presentation that high prices made it difficult to market the country.

"There are too many small hotels. Some 1,000 hotels had to close down over the past decade, but the number of beds remained almost unchanged at about 260,000," said Schmid.

But Schmid is confident that Switzerland has a number of trump cards and will continue to be among the leading tourist destinations.

"Switzerland is like a unique theme park," he said, "with its beautiful environment and spectacular railway journeys."

In a separate speech, Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said the Swiss tourist industry performed at a high level, and that there was growing awareness of the difficulties.

He said there was a need for creative, clever and flexible solutions if the country was to remain near the top.

He also campaigned for his plan to introduce a flat-rate Value Added Tax. He said this would help reduce the bureaucratic burden for the sector, even though the industry would no longer benefit from a reduced tax of 3.6 per cent – less than half the normal rate.

swissinfo, Urs Geiser in Interlaken

Key facts

The number of nights tourists spent in accommodation in Switzerland has dropped since the early 1990s from 77 million to 65 million.
The Swiss tourist industry reported that foreign tourists spent SFr12.6 billion ($9.8 billion) in 2003, putting the tourism sector in third place as far as export earnings are concerned, behind the engineering sector and chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

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In brief

The Organisation of the Swiss Abroad was founded in 1916. It is the umbrella organisation of more than 750 Swiss clubs and institutions around the world. There are also 16 Swiss schools with more than 6,500 pupils and students.

The organisation's congress will take place next year in Basel from August 18 to 20.

623,000 Swiss citizens officially live abroad, about 60% of them in European Union countries. Two thirds of the Swiss Abroad have dual nationality. The biggest Swiss expatriate communities are based in France, the United States and Germany.

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